Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Riding With Courage Marathon Report

Well, after all the stress I decided to put on myself, and the lack of sleep, the event turned out pretty damn good when all was said and done.  The perfectionist that I am, I wanted hundreds of people to attend and 50 or more runners to join along, but really, I couldn't have asked for a better turnout. The Thursday and Friday leading up to this thing was filled with ups and downs that I expected (like my volunteers, all of them, bailing on me) and that I didn't expect (like my musician bailing). But in the end, the whole thing went off smoothly and, while I always expect great things from myself, realistically it was a "huge" success given what I had to work with.

The days leading up were occupied by contacting potential runners and attendees, contacting about 20 people to try to replace my musician, picking up wonderful desert plates, getting to Costco to pick up all the other food. Contacting lululemon and the Running Company about securing the aid stations, getting turn by turn directions for the course, stuffing the gift bags, finding a couple new volunteers and briefing them on what to do, designing all the auction and raffle sheets, the layout of the space, printing all necessary papers, picking up the shirts and banner, and making sure all other needs were listed off and scheduled into the final hours. Whew!

At 1:30am I crawled into bed, under fueled and under hydrated for someone about to run 26.2 miles. But all the prep was done. All I had to do now was wake up, get the last bit of equipment to the gym (Balance Gym Thomas Circle, what a perfect location for the event), map out how everything would be set up while I was on the road and wait, very impatiently at that point, to see if anyone would actually show. I assumed my nerves were only natural, the fact was, I had never organized anything more then a small get to together for burgers and such at my house let alone charity event with a full marathon involved. I just wanted people to be there and really had no clue at all what to expect. But I had a select few supporters close to me telling me it would be great and the fact is, I really did believe them deep down. I had never really expected this event, of the three, to be a huge one, but when people began to respond so positively, I started to raise my expectations for bow it would be. And now, 15 minutes to the start of the run, and nobody there but me and the best volunteer/help I could have ever hoped for (Thanks Lindsey!!!!!!!!), I was starting to get that empty feeling deep in my gut that people would just roll over in their beds and decide that getting up super early on a Saturday to run in the cool, light drizzle was just not the most exciting idea.

But then they started to show up. one by one really. And at 7:28, we had 10 total runners, all in their Riding With Courage Marathon shirts ready to go. We huddled together just outside the back entrance to the studio, I thanked them all for coming, we took a couple pictures, and we took off, 7:31, just one minute behind schedule.  The course that my good friend James designed led us down 14th street towards the mall.  Around the Capital, back through the mall, up passed the White House and onto Dupont Circle for the first 10 miles.  We were all having a blast, talking, taking pictures, enjoying the perfect running weather and each other.  The couple road bumps were hardly noticeable.  First, we missed our first aid station.  The guys I was able to round up last minute came in a little late and when I left the intersection for the first spot, I left it in the wrong region (as in, North East when it was really South East).  It wasn't that big of a deal really, but it caused a little confusion.  I knew the second aid station would be impossible to confuse.  The next was our run up the long steps at the Lincoln Memorial.  We were already starting to get a little distracted by our many photo op stops and I could definitely hear some grumblings as we trudged up the steps about 7 miles into the run.  When we got to the top I started to give James a hard time for adding all the steps, but he said he had nothing to do with this decision.  Turned out, one of the runners thought it would be a perfect photo to add to our collection.  Well, it actually was a great photo, but I knew that I would be feeling those steps come mile 20.  Little did I know that I had much worse in terms of challenges coming my way.

The big pick-me-up came in form a my Dad though.  Just a few blocks from the start, he came screeching up in his car, yelling his support to all of us (scaring the crap out of a few of the runners) while snapping off pictures.  The best part, he drove the entire course, the entire time, supporting us all.  What a damn cool guy he is.

At Dupont, mile 10, all the runners broke off to go their seperate directions while James, my friend Amy and myself kept on.  We grabbed a couple extra waters from the guys at the aid station, and headed up the long hill of Mass Ave.  From there, we cut down Wisconson and headed through Georgetown until we got to our first fully organized aid station at lululemon, just about mile 13.  They had a table set up with water and Gatorade, they were flashing off pics and giving us some great words of encouragement.  A couple friends were there as well and they agreed to meet up at the next aid station to join in for the run.  James and I set off to what would end up being the most "interesting" portion of the journey.

At this point we were actually about 10 minutes ahead of schedule, but once we hit Rock Creek Park things changed fast.  We broke off the paved trail and hit the woods, the dirt path turned to rock and at one point, we actually had to scale a full 15-20 feet of sheer rock.  This crazy path lead us for a little over a mile or so and when we broke out of the woods onto Connecticut Ave I realized we were south of Van Ness, meaning, about 3 miles from our next aid station.  At this point we were already about 20 minutes behind schedule somehow and I started to freak out.  I felt a ton of responsibility to be back on time as I was the organizer and host of this event.  But James reminded me that I was out on the road now, and all I could do was enjoy the run.  He was totally right,  I needed to chill out, enjoy my time, and know that everything would be all good.

We got to the next aid station at The Running Company about 30 minutes behind schedule but we were greeted by a energetic crowd and some great refreshments.  The two other runners joined in and we headed back on the 7-mile, mostly downhill journey to the finish line.  I was tired.  My head was bobbing, my sight was a little fuzzy, but luckily, my muscles were ok.  So we kept on moving through the final miles until we found ourselves on the home stretch.  As we approched Balance Gym Thomas Circle, we could see the crowd of people standing there waiting.  It was a rush, and an absolute blessing to have that many people come out to show their support, not only to me, but to all the runners and of course, the great cause as well.

The next couple hours were great, people hung out and chatted, snacked on the great food, and I housed around 5 Honest Teas.  All in all, I am so happy that people came out and people ran and that we were able to have a good response like that.  It makes me really excited for the next event because I know, with the time I have to prepare, this next one will be much, much bigger.

Today, I am walking normally, my hamstrings are a little tight but I feel recovered enough to get back on schedule.  Yesterday I was hoping to get to the pool for a light recovery swim, but instead I went down with client to the Exorcist Steps and ran them 13 times...probably not the wisest decision, but it went ok.  I will be posting up a few more pics as the next post, along with a couple videos (I hope!) of the event this past weekend.  Thanks again for everyone who came out!  And keep checking the RWC site (and your email) for new info.

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

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