February 25, 2006
I decided I wanted to run the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas. By this time, my sister was a two-time (female) winner of the race, so if she had success at it, maybe I would have some measure of success as well. The weather in the Dallas/Fort Worth area had been exceptionally dry for the past 6 months, so there was little reason to believe that the weather would change all that much.
Chuck Sohaskey, an AREC member who grew up in nearby Plano, Texas, was running the race as well, and we planned to meet up afterwards.
On Saturday afternoon, when I flew in, there was a major downpour in progress… the first rain in 6 momths! There were a slew of accidents on the freeway and a lot of major traffic. There was even talk of having to re-route the marathon course if the rain continued.
On race morning, the rain continued fairly strongly. I still had to pick up my race number at the Expo tent, which was reinforced with cardboard boxes on the ground to counteract the wet and the mud. I was still stepping in puddles to get my number.
The number was unusual, not in how it looked, but how it would be used. There were no timing chips to put on my shoes (and nothing to worry about losing or returning, or bending down after a race to retrieve); the bib WAS the timing chip. Attached to the number was an RFID tag (Radio Frequency IDentification), which could be read by transmitters at certain points and at the finish line. This was certainly a boon, because it made everything so much easier for everyone.
By the time we lined up for the start (there was also a half marathon, 10K, and 5K all starting simultaneously, some in different directions). I ran into a friend who used to run with the Long Beach Hash (I think his name was “Rhesus Pieces.”) and we were both commenting on how happy we were that it was not currently raining… but we were hearing thunder and seeing lightning. A number of people were nervous, but I assuaged them by saying that I would be struck FIRST, so no problem for them! No sign of Chuck, though. He must be up in front.
There was an announcement made that the race WOULD be re-routed to avoid a major flooding on one of the streets, and that that would make the course longer by about a half mile (Is this an ultra then?).
The course was not particularly scenic, but at least the ground was not too slippery. I had a pretty good start, reaching the halfway point in 1:48:50 (technically on pace for a 3:37), but the excessive rain really slowed me down.
Around Mile 18, Chuck came running by. We ran together for a bit. He said that he had gotten caught in traffic (maybe overslept or started late for Fort Worth). I was excited, because I had never been ahead of Chuck for 18 miles in any race!
Around Mile 20 or 21, I saw a lone Hasher with a tray of beer. This was almost laughable, because it was sheeting down rain at this point. I grabbed a couple of Dixie Cups, but mostly got a mouthful of water. I was probably one of only a few people who went for a cup – but I appreciated him being out there in that horrific weather.
At times in the last 2-3 miles, there were potholes full of water, streets full of water, unavoidable puddles, and continuing cold rain. As mentioned before, my second half was considerably slower than my first (about 2:21 versus 1:48), but I finished just under my pre-race goal of 4:10 (4:09:22). Chuck finished in 3:34 (he probably never saw anyone who was running the same pace, starting so late).
We both found my parents fairly quickly, and they helped us out by providing us with chemical handwarmers. It was REALLY REALLY cold out there.
Neither of us waited around for the results – I thought maybe I could have finished Top 10 in the BIG category (200+ pounds), but didn’t figure to finish in the Top 3 (which got money!). When I got back to my folks’ house, the online results said that I was 2nd in the BIG category, but that all results were under review, because the rain had shorted out the RFID tag reading system; they would have to look at the finish line video and compare with the manual timing strip (after all those improvements in a timing system!).
For weeks afterwards, I kept hounding the race director about whether I would receive any monetary prize or additional medal… but they kept saying that they were STILL reviewing the results! Still?
Finally, after a month had passed, I received a package in the mail – a Finisher’s T-shirt (in addition to the participant’s shirt) – I had finished 4th in the BIG category. (NOTE: Third place in the division was 10 minutes faster, so it wasn’t like it was close, but it was still pretty exciting for a month to think that I might get a 3rd-place (or better) division medal in a medium-sized marathon.)