Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Top Ten Reasons for Running to Ruthenium

(or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the balm)

If you know of the Marathon Maniacs club and the various levels of ranking in the club, from one to ten stars, you may know of my interest in reaching the five-star, or “ruthenium,” level, which can be met by running marathons in three different states within a period of ten days. If you don’t know all this, chances are you don’t really give a crap anyway, but thanks for reading this far. I hope you will somehow enjoy this odd tale of how I set out to reach the level symbolized by this little-known and “rare transition metal belonging to the platinum group of the periodic table.” (See Wikipedia entry.)
The ideal opportunity presented itself this month, with the availability of three marathons within driving distance of my home: the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Piney Point, MD (March 11), the Rock ‘n Roll USA Marathon in DC (March 17), and the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA (March 18). And why would one want to do this?

Reason No. 10: Because it’s there. There’s no requirement to have to fly all over the country to do these things, and when the stars properly align and simplify the logistics, you might as well go for it.

Reason No. 9: It’s my anniversary. Yes, I ran my first marathon 10 years ago this month (in one of the rare marathons run within the boundaries of DC), and it was time for a new challenge. Ok, that really had nothing to do with this whole thing, but it did turn out to be nice timing.

Reason No. 8: A chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all weekend. If you were from Butte, Montana, or New York I suppose, you’d understand this perfectly. What it meant for running purposes, is that on March 17, the real St. Patrick’s Day, nearly everybody at the race was wearing green running shirts of some sort, adorned with the appropriate hats, tutus, socks, makeup, leprechaun beards, etc. And on March 18, in the official “Shamrock” race at Virginia Beach, everybody did it all over again, creating for me an International Date Line for St. Patrick’s Day. I must say people in both races looked pretty good. My contribution was to wear my Bighorn Mountain shirt, a sort-of lime green festive color.

Reason No. 7: No apologies needed for being slow. People will forgive you if you just complete the damn thing. In fact, my running friends were very supportive and e-mailed and tweeted me along the way with advice and encouragement. One of them, An, even showed up on his bike and rode with me along the Anacostia River and made sure I stayed relatively coherent. Of course, the pressure of being in the e-spotlight also added an element of performance anxiety, but probably all for the good.

Reason No. 6: See more of your neighborhood in a short time. I’ve seen more of the trails and back roads of metropolitan DC/MD/VA than I ever would have without having taken up this hobby. Kind of like that, these three marathons provided a pavement-level tour of lots of new ground: the beauties of the Piney Point and St. George Island, MD, area, the cultures of the diverse neighborhoods of DC (if you’ve only seen the Mall you haven’t seen it at all), and some rural outskirts and military bases outside Virginia Beach you’ll never see just hanging out on the ocean front.

Reason No. 5: That’s what I’m talking about. No two marathons are identical, and that’s all the more true for three. There’s simply more of the basic beauty of the race to experience by cramming the hassle and discomfort of multiple events into a short time. You’ll adjust to it. Here, I had Piney Point, a small-town marathon put on by marathoners, for marathoners. Person for person, head to head, it had one of the best running fields I’ve seen in a race (and the most Maniacs), with enough of a grace period to fit in runners like me. With great scenery to boot. Rock ‘n Roll DC brought to town the Competitor group’s well-oiled, big-time operation, and I freely give those folks a thumbs-up. There’s something to be said about being able to roll in the trucks, set up like Barnum and Bailey sets up the circus, recruit the local music talent, and get it on. Well done. And Shamrock, a more mid-sized race, has the tradition and local support and awesome venue to pull it off nicely in its own way. Find your own trifecta, and vive la difference.

Reason No. 4: Pain can really be temporary. There are such things as getting a second or third wind, or working out cramps by running through them, or starting an endurance event with long slow warm-ups. What else could explain having hip and foot pains going into the first marathon, or having a strong case of “marathon legs” after the second one, but feeling smoother and more comfortable during the third one? Or finding the “zone” at the end of the last marathon and enjoying the last mile more than I had run in the month previously? Maybe I’m kidding myself and just blocking things out, but it was truly surprising how well that third marathon went. That’s the way running is, right? Sometimes things come together when you’re least expecting it and you get to have your little moment of Zen. You’d never have the experience if you don’t give it a chance.
Reason No. 3: Certain things get prettier at closing time. That last finish line was great. Like at that first marathon, or ultra, but different.

Reason No. 2: Say goodbye to the post-marathon blues. You got no time to weep when there’s appointments to keep.

Reason No.1: It’s great preparation for a Quadzilla!


  1. 10 days, yah. Such a bugger. You know two of them will have to be a double (when do they have a marathon mid-week)


    Have fun! Wish I was there 8)

  2. You are a certified, 5-star, ruthenium level Marathon Maniac. And yet, you were "kind of glad" to skip Seneca Creek Greeway Trail Run.

    Maybe you should have a star deducted for that attitude.

    Nah, you are a truly deserving 5-star Marathon Maniac.

    Congrats on a significant job over eight days.

  3. Congrats on 5 stars! I am at 4 now with plans to do 7 in 7 over the summer which will get me to 6. Crazy what we will do for a promotion :)