Carrollton Charity Races Marathon, 29 July 2001

With a granddaughter on the way, staying close to home again this month was the advisable course of action.  This trip would take me about three hours from home to Carrollton, Michigan.  It would be my second night spent in the Aztek.

After registering, finding some pasta, and watching Planet of the Apes, it was time to find a nice parking lot for a quiet night.  I pulled into the High School parking lot, where the race would start and finish the next morning, and blew up the air mattress.  I decided that the lot was way too lit-up for my tastes, and drove around the area to find a quieter and darker spot.  A church parking lot adjacent to the school was just the ticket.  With the tailgate down and the hatch propped partially open by a Saucony Grid Shadow, my sleeping arrangement was just perfect.  The night was warm enough, with just a little breeze on my face, which was sticking just outside the slightly open hatch.  

About one o'clock, I heard some noises coming from the school parking lot next door--not enough to keep me awake, but I could tell something was going on over there.  The next thing I knew it was 5:00 a.m., one hour until race time.

It would be a nice day for a July marathon, warm but not too hot.  And I soon found out, this marathon was the only one in the country this weekend, so all of the people who think they need to run a marathon once a week were there.  Don Lang, who has run at least two different marathons in each state; Don McNelly, who did 300 marathons while in his 70s; Norm Frank, with over 700 marathons to his credit; Ray Scharenbrock, who is working on his fifth (or maybe sixth) 50 States and DC circuit and several others who had run anywhere from 100 to 500 marathons apiece were there.  Some had taken the early start at 5:00 a.m.  Others wanted to run a 50K ultra and had started at 3:30 a.m.  Race director Craig Douglas started at 1:00 a.m., ran 35K, and would finish his marathon distance with the rest of us who started at 6:00.

So in my 58th marathon, I would be pretty much a rookie.  

The course was repetitive, yet unexciting--a 2.195 K loop, followed by 8 laps on a 5K out-and-back flat course.  Nothing on the course resembled a hill.  The biggest obstacle was a rough railroad track, which we would cross 18 times before the morning ended.  The only other interesting spot on the course was about 1K out, where someone had spilled a bag of cat food in the middle of the road, and with a little rain it looked like someone may have had a rough night at the Carrollton Bar just down the street.  We all tried to avoid stepping in it.

Dave Dwornick was the course record holder at 2:57:28 from last year's race.  Dave and I met following the Martian Marathon on March 31.  It was pretty funny because he had been talking to another GR Track Club member earlier that day, and when we exchanged names, he said, "Oh my God, you're not Marathon Don, are you?"  We've since seen each other at a three other marathons.  Because Dave and I didn't know each other by last names, I didn't realize that it was this Dave who owned course record until after the race.

In the first loop, I fell in pace with a couple of guys from New York.  After listening to some of their conversations about marathon trips, I decided I must know them from somewhere. One of them looked familiar, and sure enough, when we exchanged names, it was Edson Sanches, whom I met in Caracas, Venezuela in 1997.  The other was Mark Warnstein.  We stuck together for a few loops, discussing faraway marathons and other adventures, until pit-stops and changes of pace separated us by a little bit.

One thing I like about out-and-back courses is seeing everyone multiple times.  The faces of friends always are a pick-up, and you get to see them quite often this way.  Dave would come past me and yell "Go Marathon Don" and offer encouragement.  He actually lapped me twice, and while I was in my fifth 5K loop, I knew that he would finish the race somewhere about the same time I finished the loop.  When I made the turn, he was just out of site, but a couple hundred yards into loop six, I saw him coming.  I looked at my watch, it was 2:54:xx.  I figured if he kept going, he could break the course record.  Just before he reached me, I turned around to run with him for a minute, and told him he could break the record if he pushed it.  With a couple more words of encouragement, and a congratulatory hand-squeeze, I turned back around and proceeded with my last 9 miles.

At the end of each loop, the race volunteers addressed me by name, counting down the loops and offering good words.  Finishing the sixth 5K loop, I told them, "I think I'll do this two more times, then I'm going to call it a day."  Part way through that penultimate loop, it started to rain.  Not a heavy rain, just enough cool us off a bit.  It stopped about the time I had 2K to go.

My finish time was 4:37:42.  A little slower than I hoped, but with the non-traditional course, the non-traditional bed the night before, and any other excuses I can make up, I felt like I did pretty well.  My last three marathons are averaging a half-hour faster than the three before that, so I'm pretty happy with it.  Dave once again set the course record, winning in 2:56:25

In addition to the marathon, the race also offered a 20K, 5K, 10K, and while not advertised, some did the 5K loop ten times for a 50K ultramarathon.  While the course will keep you in a constant state of deja vu, the organization is great.  If you get a chance, next year, give it a shot.

and the adventure continues....

Marathon Don