The Place: Nash Farm Civil War Battlefield, McDonough, Georgia, site of the 5K Color & Glow
The Premise: My wife and I running our third 5K together, this time at night………in a cow pasture………wearing little glowing things.
The day started ominously (for those of you educated in Georgia schools, that means a chance for bad stuff). First, it was very, very hot – which probably meant high humidity lasting into the night for the race. Second, the weatherman kept talking about some “super moon” or something, in which the full moon is closest to Earth and is reputed to take up about half the sky. Apparently, if women stare at the super moon for too long, they will go into labor, whether pregnant or not. My wife was not pregnant, but she kept belaboring the point that she didn’t think that I could find the race site. “Now honey, just relax. If the soldiers found the battlefield in 1864 without a GPS, then I can find it easy enough too. And if I don’t find it, then we can surely find a Dunkin Donuts somewhere.”
My wife also kept hoping that the race was on a level road, and not cross country. Alas, those hopes were soon dashed as we surveyed the race course – endless hills, hay bales, and gravel paths as far as the eye could see. Even my wife, whose family motto is “Hope Springs Eternal”, looked wide-eyed and fearful. At the same time, we both looked at each other and said…………..wait for it………wait for it…………”Oh my goodness! What have we gotten ourselves into? My main fear was my recurring shin splints, which, for those of you who have never experienced shin splinterage, is like a toddler sitting on each of your feet and squeezing your lower leg with a pair of pliers. My mind went back to that little twerp, Philippides, the soldier / messenger of ancient Greece who started all this running nonsense in the first place. According to tradition, he ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens just to report a military victory over the Persians, facing a gauntlet of water balloon missiles from the Persians along the way. If only young Philippides had had better cell phone coverage, he could have called Athens instead, and we would have more relaxing past times today.
Today, we have replaced Greeks with geeks, as evidenced by the race participants heading towards the starting line. People wearing tu-tus and moo-moos, styrofoam jetpacks on their back, and long woolen socks up to their knees (which is really pleasant on a humid Georgia night). And, of course, don’t forget the obligatory glow sticks that everyone fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, and belts. To pass the time before the race, the officials threw great gobs of these glow sticks out to the crowd, and we all squealed like 8 year old girls until they threw a few our way. Finally, the race that was supposed to have started at 9:00 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), started at 9:32 pm EST (Estimated Southern Time)……….
I always start a race out too fast; it’s just my way. My wife always wants us to stay together, but I just can’t do it. My theory of running a 5K is very similar to my theory of eating a plate of broccoli – the sooner you get it over with the better off you are. Running slower while talking to someone beside you is pointless:
ME: How (pant, pant) are you doing? (pant, pant)
OTHER PERSON: Not too (pant, pant) good. Is this as bad (pant, wheeze, pant) as you thought?
ME: No, it’s worse (pant, hack, cough, pant).
Who needs small talk? Besides, I was surprised to find out that I was doing better than I thought. I had previously estimated that by hay bale #5 I would be experiencing shin pain and be out of breath. Amazingly, I was pain free and experiencing reasonable breath a full 10 minutes in. This 41 year-old even passed a few teenagers. I was also aided by the super moon when several women stared at it for a moment too long and dropped to the ground in childbirth. I lost track of my wife, but I knew she was gritting it out back there somewhere. I just hoped she didn’t become a victim of the super moon too – we really don’t need a fourth child.
In addition to hay bales, the course was dotted with floodlights and 3 very “psychedelic” tents which made the colored paint that race officials shot at you glow eerily as you ran through them. After the first tent, about halfway through, my little voice in my head suggested that I was due a rest as a reward for doing really well up to that point. (This is the same little voice that suggests that potato chips are a really good midnight snack.) One rest turned into two, and two rests turned into three, and gradually I began to lose my will to finish strong. I was awakened out of my stupor by a large whooshing sound, and as I turned a corner, I saw a man with a machine that looked like a large bunsen burner shooting flames into the sky. Apparently, someone thought it would be clever to substitute this for a floodlight at the end of the race. As we jogged past the man and his machine, someone shouted “the dude’s smoking a cigarette!!”, which gave us all that little extra push to run faster and finish strong. Fear of incineration will do that.
Finally, sweating and panting (but with no shin pain), I crossed the finish line at 32 minutes, which is exactly the same time of the past 5K that I actually trained for. I was worried that I had lost track of my wife, and was sure that she would cross the finish line with our fourth child in her arms, but she came across four minutes later, childless. We, and the other couple we raced with, agreed to never do another summer night race. And, since I had finished with exactly the same time as before, training or no training, I decided to ditch the “Couch to 5K” strategy and officially adopt another strategy – the “Couch to Kitchen to Bed” strategy.
We decided to test the new strategy at the Waffle House after the race, without bothering to change clothes or washing off the glowing paint first. It was just like a movie scene – we walked through the restaurant door, the jukebox stopped, and Bubba and Lurlean looked around to watch the latest batch of freaks walk in. I ordered my hash browns the same way that I felt: covered, splattered, and pooped.
A hard day, all in all, but with several important achievements:
1. I beat my wife by a full four minutes and received a nifty medal.
2. I was the first Allen to run that fast on a battlefield since the third day at Gettysburg.
3. I was the biggest freak in Waffle House that midnight.
4. I got my wife to refrain from any more races in hot weather, which in Georgia should last until, oh, about Christmas.