Even though it's not yet officially Spring, we've been having a de-facto Spring since November. So, you know, it's that time of the year when I start to think about all of those things I should be doing to make myself a Better Person. I should get my big, fat, tired, white, lazy, union ass in shape. I should call my mom more often. I should start working on that cure for cancer. Since you hate cancer, don't call your mom very often, and also have a big, fat ass, I'm assuming you're with me on this.
As it happens, you could be doing all three of those things in one fell swoop, if only you could be persuaded to sign up for Team-in-Training. Team-in-Training is a non-profit organization that trains first time marathon runners to compete in an actual real-life, honest-to-God, sure-as-shit race. And almost all of it's paid for -- travel and everything -- because they do it as a fundraiser for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. Upon signing up, you choose the race you want to run, you call and e-mail all of your family and friends and tell them the inspiring story of how they need to give you money so that you can exercise and cure cancer.
Then, twice-a-week for the next several weeks, you head to Prospect Park, where you meet with coaches and trainers who explain exactly how you're going to be able to run 26 miles without dropping dead. Also, people tell inspiring stories -- maybe about loved ones who survived non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or possibly how they're running for people who had a type of blood cancer but weren't so lucky. And then everyone sings that song from Beaches, and they hug and go for a 17 mile run over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the West Side Highway and into New Jersey or someplace. A few weeks later, they're on a plane with all of their new little cancer friends, flying off to run an actual marathon, where they pin numbers on your shirt, and shit like that.
Okay. Maybe there's no singing. But I can tell you that the training program works. A couple of years ago my spouse, who'd never seriously run in his life, trained with Team-in-Training for his first marathon. He ran a Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, and since I was a "marathon widower" for a few months, I figured I might as well go along with him to, you know, be supportive. Here's where I turn the snark off for a minute. Before the race, I went to their carb-loading dinner (and ate a giant plate of pasta, even though I was going to be standing around doing nothing the next day), and saw a bunch of folks who were about to do something they'd never in a million years thought that they could accomplish. And lots of them were doing it for loved ones who'd been cancer patients. Some of them actually were cancer patients themselves. It was kind of incredible, and it was hard not to get swept into the emotion of it all.
Since then, my spouse has become one of those people who actually runs. Like, in races. He's done a few more marathons and half-marathons since then. And I dutifully stand on the sidelines and cheer him on. The races are, in a word, grueling. The day after a race, my voice is raw from yelling, "RUN, SWEETIE!" My hands are sore from clapping for people. There's often not a bench to sit on, and since you don't know exactly when your friend will be coming by, my lower back aches and my feet become very, very tired. Marathons are completely exhausting.
I've learned a lot of other things about marathons since my better half has been doing this. Here are a couple of fun facts for you, in case you're considering signing up:
- After the Brooklyn group is done with their training, they all go to the Dram Shop for cheeseburgers and beers. Or to Zito's for an enormous sandwich. Or to Shake Shack. Or somewhere else where they can stuff their faces with food. That's because when you're running all the time, you're pretty much forced to eat like a pig. It's like they have no choice. They have to eat burgers and drink beer in order to cure cancer. This is genius, in my opinion.
- The human body is not meant to run 26 miles in one stretch. In order to finish the race without keeling over, runners need fuel. Many of them slurp down packets of this stuff called "Goo" which is basically just caffeine, sugar, flavoring, and some kind of jelly-like substance. It looks completely disgusting, but you have to eat them or you will die in the middle of the race. They come in all sorts of disgusting flavors, and as a follow up post to this, I intend to take a bullet for the FiPS team by doing a taste test of "Goo" and reporting on the results. So, you know, you'll want to look for that in the next week or two.
- The word "Marathon" is from the Greek, and has a dual meaning. It can mean either "candy bar" or "filling station." You know, depending on the context.
- If you're a dude, and you don't put band-aids on your nipples when you run, your tits will bleed through your shirt, and blood will drip down your sweat-soaked torso, and you'll cross the finish line looking like Carrie on her prom night.
- Some people are so intense about running that they can't be bothered to use the porta potties along the route. Or maybe they can't control their sphincter. Either way, toward the end of the race, you'll actually see people who've shit themselves while running, and the poo is dripping down their legs. It's absolutely the most horrific and disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life, and if they weren't trying to cure cancer, instead of yelling, "GOOD JOB, GUYS!", I'd be shouting, "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?
Team-in-Training also trains folks for triathlons, half-marathons, and I think maybe bike rides or something. All of it raises money for a cancer research. Some of the races are nearby (Westchester, Hamptons and New York races), or you can go somewhere far-flung. In fact, they're signing folks up for the marathon in Dublin, Ireland right now. How cool would that be? Spend a few weeks running around in circles and eating Dram Shop burgers, and then all your friends and family give you money to go to Ireland and fight blood cancer? That's fucking awesome!