My First Race

The Mayfair Marathon

It was difficult choosing a marathon. I wanted to run somewhere nearby, as it would be easier to get there, less expensive than having to travel, get a hotel and everything else that would entail.

I looked at a race in Green Bay to be held in early May, 1981, on and around the University of Wisconsin Green Bay campus.  It was called the Green Bay Phoenix Marathon; the Phoenix was the mascot for the school.  From our home it was only 60 miles to the start line and that would work well for our budget.

We went to Green Bay several times over the next few months for weekend getaways and I would get up before Gail and Chris were awake and run from the hotel to cover portions of the route I would be running on.  Then one day we went into an athletic shoe store and I discovered they were putting on a marathon too.  The same day as the other, planned at the UW.

I thought that was rather strange.  How could a city the size of Green Bay support two marathons on the same day?  I figured they knew something I didn’t or they did not know what they were doing.  After talking to some local athletes, I concluded the latter and decided not to run either.

Another race, almost the same distance from our home and run on Memorial Day Weekend caught my eye, after searching the race calendar in my Runner’s World magazine to which I now was a subscriber. The Mayfair Marathon was named for the shopping mall where the race was held and where the race director operated as shop.  The race was to be held on Sunday, allowing me the next day, which was a holiday, to recover before returning to work on Tuesday.  It would also provide Gail and Chris something to do while I was running; shopping for as few hours appealed to both.

Until that day, I had never run with anyone and I was very nervous how the others would perceive me.  I was not as slim as most, but  I had shed over 20 pounds in the months I trained for the race.  I went from 167 down to 145 and felt almost like my high school weight and condition.  I had done this with running alone, not even thinking about changing my diet and eating foods that were meant to fuel the body for an athlete.

Pining on a number made me feel good, standing next to over 700 other people, all about to do the same thing I was awesome.  Some were going to run he half-marathon I found out, but we were all line up on the start line together.  We would separate later, after a lap or two around the shopping center and a trip along a parkway and a nice boulevard, we returned to the mall.  The runners in the half-marathon went on to the finish line and we took another lap around the mall and then retraced the same course we had just run, for the second time.

Running with an Irishman, who filled my ears with jokes and laughter made the miles pass quickly.  Each time we passed the start/finish area a group of spectators, drinking “screwdrivers” cheered us on and lifted their glasses to us.  I told them to save some vodka for us when we finished.  Each lap I repeated my request.  Then as we approached the final time, we saw they were no longer there, but the bottle of Smirnoff Vodka was!

Now the real race began.  Who would get to the bottle first and claim the prize and carry it to the finish line.  We both sprinted and grabbed for the bottle left on the curbing and still containing the clear liquid.  We reached it at the same time and grabbed for it, both holding it in our hand.  It was a tie!  We held it between us and headed for the finish, tied again, and then shared a swig to celebrate.

Gail and Chris greeted me and helped me down the steps to the fitness center where I showered and changed into clean, dry clothes that made me feel human.  I felt like I had been in a battle and now I was taking off my armor.  We searched for results that were going to be posted in the finish area and when we located them learned I had run 3:16:33.  I was very satisfied and felt very good.

Then as promised we headed for the ice skating rink in the center court of the Mayfair Mall.  I rented skates for Chris, who was working on a badge for Girl Scouts and for myself.  We skated for nearly 2-hours before heading home.  When I got out of the car, it was like the day after my first run of two blocks, I really hurt.

No one told me you don’t “have to” run the day after the marathon, but, I thought the same way I did when I started.  If I don’t get out and run today, what makes me think I’ll get out there tomorrow?  It hurt, I got through it, and I learned from it.  No more ice skating following a marathon race for me!  Or was it the Smirnoff?

The next race wasn’t as well planned as my first one.  I did not specifically train for it, but rather just did it because the running bug had bit me and the only antidote was to run another.  It didn’t matter what the distance or where it was, I “had to” find another one and keep this feeling alive.

Running with others had been something of a rush.  Everyone there chattered about the same things.  They spoke about their mileage, types of training they did to prepare, what they ate and I felt a part of something, like I had not ever felt before, except my time in the army, where we were all for one and one for all!