Now while writing about a town as kind and hospitable as Nashville, that sure sounds like a nasty thing to say, until I explain something: From the Thursday before the Big Run until the Monday after the Big Run my stomach was a' turnin.' It started with waves of nausea and then tsunamis of nausea and by Saturday morning (race day) it became all too clear that I had the stomach flu. But there I was, in my $7 disposable rain coat and lucky Pearl Izumi Shines standing in what I imagined to be the population of most towns in Tennessee: 30, 000 people. Even before the time my wave began, my Lamaze breathing and sweating had secured me ample personal space in which to start the journey of 13.1 miles.
Here is the amazing part: there was so much energy and excitement in the air, I made it through the first mile. Then the music really kicked in and I completed the second mile without consciously focusing on keeping my water down. By the third mile, my right leg started cramping because I hadn't exactly stockpiled carbs the last few days...but it was alright because they handed out these little tiny tambourines so people could play along with the music. I grabbed one and tapped it on my side on every step I took up that huge hill*. It became my mantra: "zzring, zzring, zzring, zzring." By then, I noticed - truly noticed - the crowds of people standing in their yards cheering and waving signs.
"Sarah - You Can Eat Fries After the Run"
"My Mom is Faster Than Your Mom"
"This Sign is For You: You're Doing Great!"*
People along the side seemed honest-to-goodness into the whole thing. There were costumes (God Bless Elvis and his too tight white pants at mile 10 or so) and heavy set ladies in rubber gloves handing out Lube on a wooden stick (the thought of that made me chuckle at least a half mile); Mr. Howell's long lost brother was drinking champagne on his lawn and there were girls with the cardboard sign that read "Where does a crazy runner train? -- On a Psycho Path."*
I saw Gretchen Wilson standing by a stage and heard the country version of Rocky's theme song while running up another brutal
I could name a thousand other things that I witnessed on that run. But my point is that despite being weak, the town and the course made me want to keep going. Despite throwing up at mile 8 (special thanks to the redhead who let me cut in line to use the port-a-let), I chugged along to experience what was around the next corner (how huge was that dog? Anyone else see it?!?!?!). But when I could see the Finish line in the distance from the bridge, I was in so much pain I started to walk and weep. A spectator started walking with me and said "Come on, you've come so far, OF COURSE you can finish. You made it to the starting line, didn't you? THAT was the hard part. You can do this." It was enough to help me get there. And although I missed the goal time I trained for, I actually finished in the same time as my January race thanks to a beautiful course, the best organized race I've ever been in, and the downright warmest Southern Hospitality known to woman.
*I train in Florida, were we count jumping onto a curb as going "uphill."
**Okay, maybe these weren't word for word, but I was delirious! I only remember the sentiment!