This marks the second time I willingly paid money to wake up ridiculously early on a weekend (4 a.m.), take a shuttle to some remote location and run 13 miles with several thousand strangers. If you remember, last year I ran the Philadelphia Rock 'N' Roll Half-Marathon -- and bitched about the signs spectators held. The fine folks over at Philly Sports Live were even kind enough to post my musings on their website. In keeping with the tradition of overanalyzing what I witnessed while running a bunch of miles, here are 13 things I noticed at this year's Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon (one for each mile, get it?).
|Four losers who were drunk by 10 a.m.|
There were these things ...
1. A pair of women in giant, neon-yellow tutus. These two gals ran the race together, but it was by choice -- not because they were attached to one another via some strange tether device. The tutus were loud and obnoxious, the type of outfit you'd expect to see a six year old wearing. But these ladies really owned the 80s ballerina look (a look that was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the middle-aged male runners in the Hooters' waitress shorts). Lucky for me, I saw these girls before the race started and again, much later, as they were crossing the finish line. The stark contrast between these two pre- and post-race reminded me of the difference between the festive ladies you see at the start of bar-crawl events like the Erin Express -- and the ones you saw after a full day of drinking. Before the half marathon, these two quirky dames were brimming over with excitement, but by the time they made it to the finish line, they were sweat-covered and disoriented, their tutus were askew, and they were desperately looking for a spot to puke or piss or both.
2. A couple with matching tattoos who were tethered together. The tattoos, which were located on the back left shoulder-blade of both members of this power couple, seemed to be some type of Celtic knotwork. As for the tether, it looked like a two-sided lasso, and it was made of some type of super-strong rubbery material. A lasso loop encircled each person's waist, and there was about four feet of slack between the couple.
Just to clarify, the tethered couple wasn't a blind person and his/her guide. There were a number of people with vision impairments who ran the race connected to a guide. The "disabled" runners started the race several minutes before the rest of pack. This couple, on the other hand, were directly in front of me when the race started. They weren't impaired or disabled, they were simply annoying. Life for these two must be like some type of extended version of a three-legged race. They probably even go to the bathroom in pairs; while one member excretes, the other offers words of encouragement, "You can do it, baby! Keep pushing!" I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn these two winners had their pubic hair shaved into matching designs.
3. A woman in jean shorts and a gypsy-looking shirt. To be fair, I didn't see whether this woman was actually wearing a bib. For all I know, she could've just been somebody under the influence of various mind-altering substances who confused the group of people running an organized road race with a panicked mob running to avoid some unspeakable fate. But chances are, she was just a runner whose only clean clothes come race day were the jean shorts and the gypsy shirt. I also imagine the chafing from running 13 miles in jean shorts must've been quite painful.
4. A grizzled, older man in jean shorts and a plain, worn-in Tee-shirt (the kind with single pocket over the left breast). I wasn't worried about this guy's chafing issues because he looked like the type of guy who doesn't feel pain or, if he does, he doesn't dare show it because that's what men do. This guy looked like he'd been working construction since he was 8 years old, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ran right past the finish line and right to his job site where he proceeded to put in a 10-hour shift.
And these things ...
5. A clever use of trash bags. Because the race started so early (7 a.m. official start time), dressing correctly posed a bit of a problem. If you didn't wear a few layers, you'd spend that interminable period before the race starts freezing your ass off and cursing yourself for wasting a perfectly good Sunday. If, however, you overdressed, you'd be forced to either discard your extra clothing along the streets of Alexandria* or sweat through the multiple layers like a boxer trying to make weight. I did the latter. But a bunch of folks came up with a very effective workaround to the clothing dilema. Instead of piling on extra layers of their own clothing, a number of people wore heavy trash bags (think Hefty industrial strength) to keep warm before the run -- and simply peeled the bags off and tossed them in the street when their blood was pumping and they were warm enough to run in normal running gear. And get this: It wasn't littering. During a race, it's perfectly reasonable for people to throw random shit -- from trash bags to empty water cups to soiled underwear -- right in the middle of the course because there's a whole crop of big-hearted volunteers who clean everything up when the race is over.
6. Annoyed rich people. According to the infallible website Wikipedia, Alexandria is the highest income independent city in Virginia. So it's safe to say there are a lot of rich people in Alexandria. And if there's one thing I know about rich people, it's this: Rich people hate being inconvenienced. When wealthy folks have stuff to do, they better damn well be able to those things exactly how they'd like. So when a major artery (even if it is only a small part of that major artery) of the highest income independent city in Virginia is shut down so people can jog, you're bound to get some pushback from the noble aristocrats who run the place. During the run, I noticed plenty of head shaking from elegantly dressed individuals in luxury automobiles.
At one point, I actually saw a woman in a fur coat gesturing wildly to a policeman. She kept pointing to the other side of the street -- a street she couldn't cross because of the race. Here's what I imagine she was saying: "What's the meaning of all this? A race. Surely, you must be joking. My dear boy, I just haven't the time for this today. I'm to meet Miranda for coffee, and I've only a small window to discuss ... I beg your pardon? Do you realize with whom your are speaking? I pay your salary you insipid little ... Is that so? Perhaps you know Bernard Davenport, a very prominent attorney who just happens to be my husband. You don't? Well, my dear boy, you'll know him soon enough." (A sweat-covered trash bag suddenly lands on top of the woman's head.)
8. A healthy disregard for Porta-potties. Most of the races I've done are littered with Porta-potties along the course route, and there are always deep lines of desperate runners waiting to use these makeshift toilets. But that wasn't the case at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. Throughout the race, there was a steady stream (pun intended) of people ducking off to or returning from some secluded private bathroom. Generally, these people would take cover off in the many patches of woods or bushes along the way. Some, however, simply stepped a few places away from the main path and relieved themselves in plain sight. I blame the race organizers for encouraging public urination. See, at the starting line, there were a total of three Porta-potties set up to accommodate the bathroom needs of the nearly three thousand bladders that were filled with water, Gatorade, Vitamin water, coffee and whatever other fluids people typically consume to hydrate for a 13-mile run.
9. Dogs, lots and lots of dogs. There were shepherds and huskies and poodles and Labs, and lots and lots of mutts. Unfortunately, I didn't spot any Boston Terriers. (My Boston, Judith Weiland Bilski, was in Alexandria, but she had to spend the race in our hotel room.) If I had to guess, I put the human to dog ratio at around five to one. Overall, Alexandria seems like a very dog-friendly city. In fact, it was easier to find a dog accessory store than an authentic Italian restaurant in the Old Town section of Alexandria.
|Just a couple of buds in a hotel room watching dog porn together ...|
And these things
10. A life-size Robert Pattison cutout with a phrase like 'Run Like You Sparkle' printed on it. For those who don't know him, Robert Pattison is an actor best-known for his role in the 2007 TV Movie "The Bad Mother's Handbook," where he plays the "lovable, yet nerdy" teenager Daniel Gale.
|Photo courtesy of Cinemablend|
11. An enormous blow-up of cutout of some dude's head -- a head that bore a striking resemblance to Patton Oswalt's. This horrific thing popped up right around the 8-mile mark. Most of the time, when I see a picture of myself I'm like, "Jesus, is that how I look?" I generally have some type of picture in my mind of how I think I look, and photographic evidence generally does little to support that image. So after running eight miles, the last thing I'd want to see is a giant, magnified image of my stupid face with all my blotches and pores and wrinkles fully exposed. But who knows, maybe the giant head gave the Patton lookalike the boost he needed to win his age group.
12. The return of the fanny pack. Most serious runners don't care much about their appearance. In fact, an alarming number of male runners in this run wore outfits that closely resembled the uniform of a Hooters' waitress. So it's no surprise many runners had no problem donning a fanny pack/utility belt during the race. The simple version of this accessory gives people a main compartment for valuables (IDs, cash and/or credit cards, keys, etc.) and a few holders for water bottles or human growth hormone cocktails. The more elaborate packs, however, seemed to hold enough supplies to sustain a person for several weeks if that person ever found himself lost and alone in the wilderness.
13. A breathtaking sunrise. The start of the race coincided perfectly with the start of the day. The sunrise really was spectacular, and I wasn't the only who felt this way. There were plenty of runners who stopped running and stepped off the course to snap a photo with their phones -- and this sunrise took place at the very start of the race. Rather than trying to use my limited command of the language to describe the mist rising up from the Potomac or the apocalyptic orange sky, here's a picture from a blog about the race.
|Photo courtesy of Chelsea Eats Treats|
*At the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, the discarded clothing is donated to the city's homeless. This doesn't happen at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon because, according to the rich woman in No. 6, there are zero homeless people in Alexandria, VA.