Half marathon resolution required protective measures

It was nearly dawn and I was searching frantically for something to cover my nipples.

The Band-Aids I’d brought to the Seattle Marathon were tucked away in one of the many pockets of my backpack, which was locked safely in my car, down the road. I was wearing a thin, long sleeved polyester shirt over a cotton T-shirt. I knew that cotton would rub my nipples clean off my chest by mile 10 unless I found something to protect them.

In the roundabout next to the Experience Music Project, I spotted a sponsor tent and a basket full of bandages. I quickly grabbed two and slapped them on. After a few minutes of stretching and hopping in place to loosen up, I was ready for the 13.1-mile half marathon event.

But the race wasn’t ready for me. I didn’t have a watch, so I failed to realize I had 20 minutes until the start of the race.

Finally, at 7:30 on that cool November morning, the woman on the loudspeaker gave us the go-ahead. More than 7,000 runners slowly began to surge forward across the starting line. I was near the middle of the pack, so it took me nearly five minutes to officially begin the race.

The first mile or so was different from the type of running I was used to. It wasn’t free and open like my lonely jogs through Poulsbo. I had to go slow and weave to avoid crashing into other runners.

The course traced a path south along 5th Avenue, under the monorail tracks and toward the stadiums. The crowd began to thin out as we passed the Seattle Central Library’s jagged glass, and my speed picked up. By the time we turned east onto I-90, I was warming up and my purple UW hat was in my hand. I was feeling great, and passing a dozen of my fellow masochists for every one that passed me.

The stream of runners emptied out of the Mt. Baker Tunnel onto Lakeside Avenue and passed Leschi Park heading north. I, in my infinite wisdom, had dressed for the race’s cold beginning but not its warm middle and end. I was sweating like a glass of iced tea on a summer afternoon. In Bangkok.

Without breaking stride I wrestled myself out of my shirts, briefly exposed my nipple bandages to the spectators, removed the T-shirt, and put the thin polyester shirt back on.

Much of the final seven miles of the race are a blur. We continued along damp streets, huffing and puffing up hills and through parks. Somewhere between miles nine and 10 a runner in front of me stopped, arched his back and regurgitated what appeared to be Gatorade.

By mile 11, I was considering asking one of the more robust runners for a piggyback ride. I began grunting and mumbling motivational phrases to myself in a barely audible voice.

“Just two more miles,” I said. “Come on, just another mile. Remember what Ruby Roberts said: ‘A mile is nothing.’ You can do this. No walking. Oh thank God, there’s the Space Needle.”

At the 1 hour and 46 minute mark, I trotted across the finish line in Seattle Center’s Memorial Stadium. I cooled down with a walk through the 900 or so people that had finished before me, and headed into the exhibition hall to snack on bananas and chocolate milk.

For the next several days, my entire lower half was sore. But I was happy. I’d run more than four miles farther than I’d ever run before, without stopping or walking. It was an accomplishment I was proud to check off on my life’s list. And as 2010 dawns, I look forward to making more lists and adding more check marks throughout the year.

Happy New Year, and good luck with your own resolutions.

Brian Olson is a reporter for the North Kitsap Herald in Poulsbo.

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