26 Miles and Counting

Before I begin telling you this story, I feel like it's necessary to provide you with three key themes:

    1.) A gingerbread man

    2.) 1,647,360 inches

    3.) A shirtless woman on the Orange line D.C. Metro.

    I'll give you a moment to try and figure this one out, Encyclopedia Brown. Do you have any guesses? Well, I am sure they are wrong. Even if they're not, you're probably going to keep reading until the end.

    Like most tales of my life, this one all starts in a bar, with a drink, near a bunch of girls. Obviously, since I am also living in the present, I should inform you that I am quite aware that this story is going to go nowhere good.

Sitting at the Irish Channel near Chinatown in the city, I am next to my friend James who is next to a bunch of attractive women. We should all know by now that I am weak-willed around women I am attracted to (oh great, he's resorted to using lines from stories he's already written, what's next? Is he going to fall in love with one of them too on their first date?). Any conversation with these women was not going to happen as I was perfectly happy enjoying the company, the beer, and the bacon cheeseburger I was gobbling down.

    Then, like a movie scene, this tall man wearing a skin-tight black Under Armour shirt wandered in. Adorned to his chest was his race number, and around his neck was his medal. The jerk ran his hand through his wavy hair and released his pheromones into the Irish wilderness. The women next to us melted as he looked at them and loudly told a man next to him:

    "I just love to run, I mean, my goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states."

    No, I am serious. That is an exact quote that came out of his mouth and by God did it work. Now I had no reason not to believe him, but did he have to rub it in all the other people's faces like that?

And with that, a horrible idea was born.

    We left the Channel and back to James's apartment where I proudly announced I was going to run the Rock'N'Roll Marathon in D.C. To this day, I am sure the only reason why my friends didn't laugh me all the way back to Northern Virginia was that they were heavily intoxicated. To prove it to them, I went on James's laptop, paid the fees, and registered as a participant in a marathon. My logic (which there seems to be none) was that if I paid the money, there was no way in hell I would let it go to waste.

    Sober me woke up the next day, got ready for work, and soon realized that I was going to have to run a marathon. 26 miles. 42.195 kilometers. 1,647,360 inches.

    Mystery number 1: solved.

    There were multiple problems with this situation, though. I was not a runner. In fact, my athletic expertise exists solely in recreational sports that aren't sports to begin with. I have a three-way tie for the greatest athletic achievement of my life.

When I was 13, I was forced to take part in a karate tournament. Now I had been around the block a few times when it comes to getting into rumbles, but the consensus was that I was going to get my ass kicked. That's when the karate gods gave me my first break. The age cutoff needed to be changed the day of so at 13 years of age, I was now the oldest member of my group. When the tournament started, I began scouting out my competition and to be honest; I felt pretty good about my chances.

    That was until an 11-year-old monster named Renee showed up. Everyone watching just chuckled at the thought of this tiny, petite girl in pink karate attire stepping into the circle to challenge the boys. No one chuckled after she broke her first opponents nose in eight seconds. In fact, her next opponent told his mom that he wanted to forfeit. If she listened, she wouldn't have had to pay for hospital bills to repair ANOTHER BROKEN NOSE.

    The karate gods decided to give me my second break when the official judges found Renee's forceful contact a bit much and disqualified her from the rest of the tournament. It just so happened that I was next in line, and I ended up walking out of there holding a first place karate tournament trophy that I brought home, put away in a closet, and never spoke of again in case Renee could somehow hear me. I saw Final Destination; you can only cheat death so many times.

My high school sporting career was limited to two years of amateur wrestling (no, there are absolutely no pictures of me in a singlet, don't even try to find one), and professional dodgeball. Alright, maybe it wasn't professional, but it was pretty close to it. Along with seven of my closest friends, we decided that we weren't athletic enough for real sports, but what kind of people actually would show up for a dodge ball league right?

    Wrong. Again. We were manhandled by nearly every team we played, and when the playoffs came, the outlook was bleak. That was until a massive snowstorm hit rendering out four of the five best players in the league's cars inoperable and we somehow accidentally found ourselves in third place. Our team didn't get a trophy, but we did get some nice t-shirts. (And yes, I still wear my t-shirt. A lot.)

I am a two-time Fantasy Football champion.

    I get it, the third one isn't an athletic achievement but based on the first two, can you just give it to me?

In any of those events, did I mention running at all? Of course, I didn't because I am not a runner. Literally, the only time I ever ran was if I was being chased, and despite being on the wrestling team, or on a dodgeball team, or whatever other embarrassing stories I've already written about, I was not chased often. I was now signed up for run 26 miles. In a row. All at once.

    I needed to train, and I did. I trained for real. I set up a running schedule, I went to the gym, I busted my butt. I even dated a girl for a few months who ran races for fun while dressing in costume. That wasn't the reason we dated, but I am sure that was fate's reason for why we broke up.

    My weekends were designed around my runs and two weeks before the big race I pushed myself for 24 miles, which I completed. I didn't move off my couch for the next 36 hours, but I did it, and surprisingly it felt really good. There was a chance I could do it. That's where I was wrong, dead wrong.

    A week before the race, my friend in the city posted on Facebook about the St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun Leap 8K. I had no plans for the weekend, and I figured why the hell not, it was only an 8k. I could do this in my sleep. We made plans to meet up, I paid my fees, got my shirt, I was ready to go.

    With the wind blustering, I got into starting position near my friend and waited. Hundreds upon hundreds of people were lined up alongside me ready to run this race. Listen, I wasn't looking to get first place, I just wanted to beat my friends time, and as the race went on, I was doing well. I was keeping pace with everyone, drinking water like a champ, slamming my plastic cup on the ground as if I was saying, "HOLD UP PEOPLE, I DON'T HAVE TIME TO CARRY THIS CUP BECAUSE I AM RUNNING WAY TOO FAST!"

    Now the next part is going to be truly embarrassing. I don't know if it's more or less embarrassing than everything else I've told you, but it isn't a good thing.

    Right around the 3rd mile or so, the world seemed to be in order. My music was great, my thirst was quenched, my legs felt wonderful. That is until I saw that goddamned gingerbread man.

    Mystery 2: Solved.

    I never realized running races in costume was so popular, but to be fair, who am I to judge, I actively play wiffleball, a sport designed for 8-year-olds. I have to say, though; there was just something about this gingerbread man racing past me that made me furious. My face red, the fury building, I told my body to step it up a notch. I would have been fine getting my nose broken by an 11-year-old girl in a karate tournament, I would have been fine getting the last place in a dodge ball tournament, but I would rather die than be outrun by someone dressed as a gingerbread man.

My legs started churning, faster and faster and faster until I was at pace with the gingerbread man. As we ran, I glanced over at him and just snarled. Not like a dog per se, but not entirely like a human being either. We can both agree it wasn't the finest of moments for me. Footstep for a footstep, we were together. Nothing was going to separate me from my goal of beating this damn gingerbread man. Well, there was one thing. The pothole near 13th Street.

    I was so busy staring down this gingerbread man that I failed to look down at where I was running. This was Final Destination coming to get me once and for all as my foot sunk into the hole and in slow motion, my entire body hit the pavement. I glanced up; the gingerbread man turned his head, and I swear if I could have seen through that mask, we would have seen him smiling at my misery.

    Eventually, I hobbled my way across the finish line only to drive back home that night with a swollen ankle. The next day I tried jogging but there was no use, I couldn't put any pressure on my foot. It seemed as if my dreams of being a marathon runner were over.

    Now I know that you are wondering about the third mystery: the shirtless woman on the D.C. Orange line. Give me a second and I swear it will all come together.

    Despite not being able to run, I still went to D.C. that weekend to visit my friends. I never went and picked up my free marathon t-shirt, but thankfully my good friend picked one up for me after she completed it herself. I threw it on and forgot all about it.

    That afternoon, there was a crowd returning home from a beer-tasting event on the Orange line home.

I have always been one who believed in destiny and that I would meet the woman of my dreams on the train. After viewing the body-fluid-filled atrocities on the train that night, I hope she wasn't riding. Within two stops on my way back home, I witness a girl being held up by her boyfriend as she vomited all over the floor, yet that wasn't even the most awkward event that evening. A couple moved swiftly from heavy petting to heavier dry-humping, to now removing clothing while the train was moving. His button-up shirt was fully unbuttoned. Her shirt hit the floor; then she threw her bra down there as well.

    Mystery 3: Solved.

    This entire train ride, I was given three options on how to proceed: I could look at the vomit, I could look at the people attempting to conceive a child, or I could try and have a silent conversation with the cute girl in front of me. I tried option number three to much failure, and eventually the couple put their clothes back on.

    An announcement over the loud speaker: "Last stop, Vienna." Doors opened, and we all made our way towards the exit when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the girl sitting across from me.

    "Excuse me, did you run the race this morning?"

    Remember, I'm weak-willed around women I'm attracted to.

    "Yeah, absolutely. Actually, I'm trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.”

Garrett CarlsonComment