The howling wind wakes me before my alarm goes off. It has been at it the entire night with no sign of abating. This morning is the El Paso Marathon which I will only be running half of due to injuries last year. Hopefully it won’t be as blustery downtown, but I better dress for the worst.
When I arrive, the sun is just barely rising. I look around for the starting line, but only see a large US flag flapping from the ladder of a fire truck. That must be the way. Today is a special day for Run El Paso Club member, Sal Almeida. He is running his 100th full marathon!
After the proverbial standing around while shivering, the participants finally start to move. It is impossible to start running yet because we are shoulder to shoulder like a herd of cows in a chute. We finally make our way across the starting line and chaos begins.
I try to work my way around some slow people and curse myself for sitting in the warm car until the last possible minute. I could be in the front of the pack had I arrived at the cattle chute earlier, but then again, speedsters would be cursing me for slowing them down.
Soon things calm down and I settle into a groove, although a much too fast one. I reach a fork in the course: 5K left, 13.1 right. Hmmmm....., if I go left I could be done in 10 more minutes and be back in my toasty bed in 20. Surprisingly, the wind doesn’t feel too bad so I take the right fork and continue on my way.
I reach a water station that is sponsored by the Lion’s Club and a friendly lion takes care of all my hydration needs. I keep running and take a look at my heart rate monitor, which is screaming for me to slow down. I back off my pace for a bit when I hear a greeting from behind. Our friend, Joy, has caught up to me and then, after a few friendly words, promptly leaves me in the dust.
Speaking of dust, I am now passing the Concordia Cemetery where some famous old west gunslingers, outlaws, and otherwise law abiding citizens have been laid to rest. When I reach the next water stop, John Wesley Hardin (who purportedly shot a man for snoring) along with his cohorts are passing out shots of tequila and red eye. “Hurry on up there, pardner. Am I gonna have to pace you?”
Well, I finally reach the half way point where GU gels are being offered, and then I see the leaders coming down the hill that I’m slowly plodding up. I walk part of the hill while squeezing the gooey energy booster into my mouth. Mmmmmmmm....disgusting!
Rock music in the distance coaxes me along and I finally make it to the top of the incline. It should be all downhill from here. I turn the corner and “A” mountain comes into view. I pick up the pace and start making my way back to the finish.
I try to run as fast as I can downhill to make up for lost time. Too much picture taking and socializing with lions and fugitives has put me behind schedule. Coming the other direction is a man with a solid physique running in a pink lacey tutu. How can I pass up taking a picture of that?
When I reach mile 10, I’m breathing hard and my legs start to rebel, so I concentrate on taking short quick strides. I can sense that I’m slowing, but know I’ll be done soon. I’m on pace for a sub-two hour half marathon, but can I hold on to it?
in another 25 minutes I’m nearing the end and give it all I’ve got. I round the corner to the finish line and feel grateful that I’m able to run races again. I cross the finish, get my medal and press stop on my watch. It reads 2:00 hours.
Now to go and cheer on Sal in his 100th. After a quick breakfast burrito, I drive to the 20 mile point to take pictures of our club runners. I meet some folks who are diligently trying to break through the dreaded wall. Some look elated while others seem to be in severe pain. I know how they feel; I’ve been there many times myself. Sal and a group of 12 marathoners pass by in good spirits and running strong.
I bid them farewell and drive back to the finish for the big celebration. About 30 more of Sal’s friends and family join the pack to run him home. The Run El Paso Club takes over the finish line where a well deserved celebration kicks off. Congratulations Sal, you are an inspiration to us all!
Other great achievements today include:
Larisa Pitchkolan who won the full marathon! Jim Weddell who placed 2nd in his age division and Jeanette Lawrence and Becky Rash who placed 1st in their age divisions.
Congratulations to all the runners in the 2012 E.P. Marathon.
See you on the trail.
|Sal Almeida sporting his #100 Bib!|