I Specialize in Misery

Four days after the Rock ‘n Roll DC marathon and I’m still feeling snarky. Por ejemplo, actual mean thoughts of mine from race day that are still rattling around in my head:

“Whenever I see someone in a pair of Altras, I have to look up to make sure it’s not Tony Hawk. Those things couldn’t look any more like skate shoes. I don’t care if the model is bounding four feet off the ground in the ads, you can’t convince me that it’s possible to run fast in Altras.”

“Guys, if you’re going to run a race shirtless and you’ve got monochrome black tattoos in all the different quadrants of your chest and back, I’m going to have a really hard time not asking you how your time in Russian prison was.”

The Rock ‘n Roll DC marathon did nothing to dispel my opinion of the Rock ‘n Roll series as the grimiest, most corporate, worst run race series around. Far be it from anyone on the Internet to have an opinion unmolested! But I do so dare. I figure the Rock ‘n Roll DC planning went something like this:

“Hey, DC is a really pretty city. Instead of creating a course that passes by most of the major monuments, let’s run everybody through some ugly parts of Anacostia.”
“Sounds good, but we need to be sure to include lots of pointless out-and-backs and clover loops, people love those. And let’s make it a point-to-point; transportation convenience, especially for out of towners, is overrated.”
“Does five volunteers seem like enough?”
“Ah, four is more like it. You only need four people to pass out water to a crowd of 10,000.”
“Ten thousand? Ha! We’re going to secure a permit for 1,000,000 people so we can be sure to not sell out and make the field as crowded as possible!”
“Muahahaha more money for us!”
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Suffice it to say, I’m not running this race again. I mean it this time.

A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead saying what I’m about to say: maybe the tutu wearers have got it right. They’re out there racing for the sheer fun of it. Maybe they put in serious training hours, maybe they didn’t, but either way, they’re not taking race day too seriously. Why race if not for fun? Don’t be that guy wearing a sub-4:00 goal pace pinned to the back of his singlet making a huge deal out of stopping to stretch frequently when he’s half an hour behind where he wanted to be to show that “SOMETHING WENT HORRIBLY WRONG.” Don’t let the clock make you miserable like that poor guy.

I always set three goals when I run races so I’m guaranteed to feel like a winner no matter what happens. Goal 1: Usually a reach time goal. Goal 2: A more realistic time goal. Goal 3: Have fun. This isn’t always my format. For the JFK 50 Mile Run, my goals were as follows: 1. Finish without crying. 2. Finish. 3. Have fun. Happily, I managed all three!

It’s important to truly enjoy training because you can’t control all of the variables on race day, you’ve just got to roll with the punches. If something doesn’t go according to plan, you can’t let that derail your entire experience. Find fun out there somehow.

Saturday’s race was a case in point: it poured down rain the entire time, and the temperature hovered somewhere in the low 40s. Far from ideal conditions — I actually got colder during Rock ‘n Roll USA than I did during the Hashawha Hills 50k because I got drenched. In a text message after the race, one of my friends commented that I “specialize in misery.” That’s pretty spot-on, but it’s a different kind of misery from the unhappy guy who missed his goal time. Rather than beating myself up for not putting up a certain time, my brand of misery lies in the tough race day conditions that I endure. When I sign up for a race, I’m committed to running it, regardless if the forecast includes rain, sleet, or frigid temperatures. As it happens, the nasty race day conditions that make other runners quit or stay in bed, have popped up a number of times for me so I’ve had the opportunity to prove to myself over and over that I’ve got no quit in me. That’s often a miserable experience, but it’s a life-affirming one, and fun in its own way. However, make no mistake: I do not think I’m a badass for running long distances and running them in lousy weather. I’m just a runner, and these experiences, although they demonstrate the depth of my grit and determination, are more humbling than anything else.

Even though I was not a fan of the race (despite getting the aforementioned satisfaction out of it), I’m not above showing off the finisher medal.



One thought on “I Specialize in Misery

  1. golddh says:

    Love this blog post, very funny and insiteful. I did the RNR in New Orleans this year, went in with horrible expectations (mostly along the lines you’ve laid out) and actually thought they did a pretty good job. Having said that, I’d rather run a non profit marathon any day of the year. JFK 50 is on my radar.

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