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Where I run a half marathon & remember that I like music

by John on September 17th, 2013
End of the Bird-In-Half Half Marathon

Every now & then, I forget my screen name . . . Daddy Runs a Lot because, you see, when left to my own devices, I run. A lot. And I’ve actually been running a fair bit, lately . . . though, to be honest, because my name isn’t “daddy write a lot,” I haven’t been telling you about it. A little while ago, I ran the Bird-In-Hand Fireman’s Challenge, and it was amazing.

Because I can’t ever say no to my sister, I agreed to run a half marathon in a quaint Amish village. However, on the event website, they made it clear that you needed to pick up your packet the day before the event1 — and that event was well over an hour from my house. I wasn’t happy about having to head all that way until I saw that there was an option for a 5k the night before. Now, I haven’t been running quite as much as I once did – but I was still under the impression that I could “pull a half marathon out of my ass,” and a Friday night run, well, if I had to be there, anyway, great.

So I went to the farm that marked the start/end point, grabbed my packet, walked around the village, toured the farmer’s market, met up with a friend, and ran a 5k.

As I said, I haven’t been running as much as I once had – but, I have run both the 5k & half-marathon distance a whole lot. I didn’t expect to break any personal records, especially not knowing the course, but I did have times in mind — 25 minutes for the 5k, 2 hours for the half.

The 5k was beautiful – they started blowing up hot air balloons just before the start (the weekend split booking between a race weekend and a balloon festival weekend), and before I knew it, I was running.

Traditionally, for most any event, I hang around with the slower runners at the start, especially if the event is “chip timed” so that, in the highly unlikely event that I actually would qualify for a prize because of my time, it only would matter how quickly I ran, not necessarily what the clock read as I crossed the finish. However, I’m really starting to second guess this approach when it comes to well-attended 5k races.

Somewhere, a phenomenon has started where “race walkers” work their way to the far-left of the street and start walking as they throw out their elbows. Now, I’m far bigger than most everyone else on the road (I’d guess the average runner weighs between 130 and 160 pounds . . . if I am anywhere close to 200 pounds, I’m “too skinny”), but, when I hang around at the start, I’m also a good bit faster than most of the other runners. So I spend too much energy weaving my way about the crowd, trying to “find my pace.” And, as a non-British driver, I expect the faster lanes to open up to the left . . . but then you run into once of these race walkers, throwing their elbows about, almost daring the crowd to bump them. I take my “bigger than normal” size seriously – I know, if I bump into most anyone on the race, I’m going to win the collision, and someone else is likely going to be hurt . . . but, seriously, there is no reason for a slower runner/walker to set up shop on the far-left of a road, in a crowded race, throwing their elbows about. Most every 5k I run, I find people who do this — it makes me angry.

Anyway, after a mile, I had cleared the pack and was well on my way — I will admit that it was neat running through Amish land & having people in Amish clothing: dress pants, suspenders, and dress shirts for guys, dresses for women – keep up with and/or pass me. I finished just shy of 25 minutes, within the time that I had set for myself . . . but, more importantly, I was really eager for the next day’s run.

I spent the night at my sister’s place that night, as she lived a good bit closer to the event – and we got to the start line by 6am the next day. After walking about, watching the hot air balloons inflate, it was time to run.

As a wannabe musician – music plays a very important part of my life. But the thing is, I seldom listen to music when I’m running (heck, I didn’t bother listening to anything during the 5k because my earbuds wouldn’t stay in my ears). Music can push to run faster like the promise of hot sex at the finishline few other things, but I can grow tired of songs and then everything will just backfire. When I run, I traditionally listen to audiobooks — but, months ago, I created a playlist of two hours of music that I’d use if I ever needed to remind myself to keep calm. “Start slow & taper off” is the mantra of many a distance runner — and, in a crowded field, good advice for myself.


The gun fired at 7:30. Each song was unexpected. The temperatures were cool, the breeze was light, the sun was glaring. It was a beautiful day.

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it

I was light on my feet, despite being bigger than most everyone else on the course.

Ballerina, you must have seen her, dancing in the sand

Speaking to others after the race, they said it looked like I was gliding.

Well I see skies of blue and I see clouds of white, the brightness of day, I like the dark

The first mile was crowded, and I weaved in & out, trying to find a stream where I could run at my own pace.

You must be the mermaid who took Neptune for a ride.

I finished just shy of two hours – but I spent very little time worrying about my pace or my time. Simply, I’d gaze at my phone at each mile marker to wonder, approximately, how long I’d been on the road.

She’s got a smile that it seems to me reminds me of childhood memories

Having made the play list months prior, I had little clue what might be coming next. Each song made me smile.

Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost, he’s found the answer that we lost

I hit “the high” prior to mile three, and it stuck with me until well past the tenth mile.

I wonder what I would find if I met you, let my eyes caress you

If you’re not a distance runner, “the high” is difficult to explain. You see, at the beginning of every run, be it a race or “just a run,” there is a voice in the back of my head that says “stop this, this is stupid.” I need to make myself continue. Every step is purposeful.

Won’t you please take me far, far away

But, at some point, that voice goes away. You’re just going. That’s the runner’s high, and it’s an amazing experience.

I wanna be your friend, I want to guard your dreams and visions

Normally, I “force” myself to run my first 5k, and it’s mile marker 8 or 9 that the voice creeps back in. This race, I shut the voice up sometime between the first & third mile marker, and it stayed silent until past the tenth marker.

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

I was taken out of the high not because my body said so, but because, for a half mile stretch, the road was in poor repair and the path climbed. I run in Vibrams, so I had to be purposeful with every step.

She’s standing in her underwear

The loss of the runner’s high was aided by a cute 20-something running alongside me — She & I had been playing chicken for awhile – she would pass me on every downhill, and I’d then pass on the next uphill. She was jubilant about seeing her kid at the finish line, and that she was convinced that she was going to break two hours for the first time in a half marathon.

Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box

I did have to push myself after the course returned to well-paved streets. But, there’s something about a run as the distance winds down. When you’re running a half marathon – you only really need to hit mile marker 10, because, from there, it’s “just a 5k”.

Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

This run, the weather really felt like it was conspiring to make lifelong runners of the field. When a breeze blew, it seemed to always blow against my back — or into my face as I ran downhill, helping to keep me dry.

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

I spoke to several, at the finish line, who had just completed their first half marathon. I wanted to remind them that not every run is this beautiful – but didn’t want to ruin the moment for them. It’s difficult to hurt too much when you’ve accomplished something you’ve set out to do & the sun is smiling on you.

Rate yourself and rake yourself, take all the courage you have left

Now, the race wasn’t all rainbows & glitter.

You know feeling good was good enough for me

Soon after I lost the high, there was a water station set up. I worked my way to the far left to get a cup of water when someone came across my line of momentum at a perpendicular. Seriously, it was like he was running on the far right, just noticed the water station, and made a right-angle-left-turn to get there in the closest path possible.

Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good.

I easily doubled this man’s weight. I ended up dancing my way around him, and walking for three or four steps to ensure that I didn’t hit the ground. But, no harm, no foul. And I was able to get myself right back up to somewhere between “starting slow” and “tapering off” without having to take a step through the rest of the race.

I’ve seen a million faces an I’ve rocked them all

There were also Amish kids who thought they were helping cool people off by running a light-pressure hose into the race path . . . but, alas, Amish kids don’t necessarily understand that I’m running with electronics, so I can forgive them, and I was always able to make my way out of the water stream.

My car’s broke down and you seem real nice, would ya let me ride?

As we got closer to the end, more & more children were lining the streets – and almost all of them were wearing finishers medals from the kids’ 1 mile race the day before.

I don’t mind stealing bread from the mouth of decadence.

You know you’re nearing the end of a race, when you’re not an elite racer, when you start seeing people wearing bibs either walking or running back toward you. I kind of hate the ones who are running back along the course, as if the finish wasn’t far enough for them.

Wanna fly to a place where it’s just you and me, nobody else so we can be free

Heck, though, I’m sometimes one of those runners — I knew, after mile 10, that I was going to be Done after 13.1 . . . . but, if I had a full marathon on the horizon, I could easily see 13.1 just being the long part of a longer run.

Boy you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down

And there really is nothing like seeing the streets lined with people as you actually start to approach the finish line.

Push me up against the wall, young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra

I, um, may have worked off a fair bit of energy trying to rouse a crowd that had been cheering for half an hour to cheer even louder as I approached the finish.

I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I knew I was maintaining a pretty consistent pace . . . I knew I was running, about, 9 minute miles. I knew at least a minute had passed between when the gun went off and when I stepped over the start line. But, I knew that I was pushing myself at the end. So when you see that the “gun time” is less than the time you were hoping for, well, it’s a pretty cool feeling.

I said, “Can I take you home where we can be alone?”

The clock said 1:58 and change. I ran hard to the finish. I got a very heavy medal . . . I’ll admit I had to step carefully after putting it around my neck to ensure that I wouldn’t topple over. I drank water. I ate Amish baked goods. I waited for my sister. I was happy.

(I’ve peppered random lines from every song of my playlist in here . . . pat yourself on the back if you know all of the songs)

1 I’m pretty sure that any event that says “you have to pick up your packet at such-and-such a time” doesn’t actually mean it . . . it just means “it sure would be a whole lot better for us if you picked up your packet at such-and-such a time” so that most people will pick up their packets at that time, and then the people picking up their packet just before the run would be few in number. And, heck, even if they steadfastly refuse to give you a packet because you “didn’t follow the rules,” if the race is held on public streets, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent you from starting a run with several dozen/hundred/thousand other runners and running a route very similar to the one laid out by the event organizers, and ending the run where several dozen/hundred/thousand other runners finish.
  1. Laura permalink

    Sounds like a glorious day! I, of course, did not recognize any of the lyrics…

    • Laura – I’m absolutely certain that you know Procol Harum and some Lynyrd Skynyrd.

      It was a glorious day 🙂

      • Laura permalink

        Yes, if I heard the songs, I would probably know them. I’m not very good at recognizing lyrics out of context.

  2. I got one of the songs. Sigh. I feel like I lose wife points.

  3. I’m going to ignore the Bon Jovi lyric because running a half marathon amazing. While I paid more attention to writing than running this year, that makes me very envious of your athletic accomplishment..

    Congratulations, John

    • Thanks, Lance – it was a fun half-marathon . . . just signed up for the next year’s run.

  4. A gorgeous post on running, John.

    This is EXACTLY what it’s like for me, too – from the race-walkers in the beginning to the baked goods at the end.

    (When I’m lucky enough to have a race that ends with baked goods!)

    I understood every step.

    You make me remember why I ever loved distance running and miss it now that I’m not currently training.

    Maybe I just need to add Bobby McGee to my playlist…

    • I didn’t know you weren’t training for anything . . . I have plans. At some point, we meet — and there’s a Mad Woman and running and wine & something about a jogging bra that I never really understood, but, well, bras scare and fascinate me, all at once.

      I will never, ever understand the race walkers. Ever.

  5. I can’t run without music ever. Sometimes a song is just what I need to get me motivated to keep going when I just don’t think I can go anymore.

    • I, actually, turn to audiobooks far more than music during most of my running adventures — but for an actual race (where I might need to pay more attention to the other runners than what’s in my headphones), music is the way to go.

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