It has always been hard for me to enjoy running without being preoccupied with my time. On easy training runs, I end up competing with the unaware person on the treadmill or beside me. During races with amazing scenery or on course entertainment, I am unable to focus completely on enjoying the moment because I am calculating my next split time. So in an effort to have a lot of fun and just enjoy my West Virginia race, I decided to run in costume.
With 20 marathons under my belt and the understanding that runners are just plain silly, I have seen it all- a fully costumed Elvis….a male ballerina in full tutu and pink leotard….a body painted red devil with horns and a tail….a bunch of balloon grapes. The possibilities for my costume were endless, but it wasn’t hard for me to decide on “Super Suz”. I don’t read comic books, but let’s face it- doesn’t everyone want to be a superhero at least a little bit?
The Hatfield McCoy course began in Kentucky and finished in West Virginia, crossing back and forth between the states several times. Each runner was put on a “team” to represent one of the families, with the collectively lower time declared winner of the feud: I was a Hatfield. This label could have easily been the Clark Kent to my Superman- after all, many heroes choose anonymity as their first defense, right?!
Not me. Not only did I dress to my full superhero potential, I was able to get another Super Suz to do it too! My friend Suz, who would be halfing it as a Hatfield, helped prove the no superhero can be two places at the same time thing WRONG. Donned in a red cape, “S” shirts, and the ability to harness the positive energy of our superhero powers (!), we were greeted at the race start with smiles, camera flash, high fives, and the occasional eye roll.
Just after mile 6, we arrived at the infamous Blackberry Mountain…it was an extremely steep, quick change in elevation (as in, I could feel my ears popping) and looooong (just over 1 mile climb). Although my clothing was the last thing I wanted to worry about, it was at this point when the cape started to get really heavy. Not only did it seem to be catching all of my sweat, the weather was extremely muggy- there had been a lot of flooding in the area over the last few weeks and the air was saturated. I had a water bottle waist pack resting on my lower back, too- this did not help. Faced with the decision that something HAD to go to alleviate the uncomfortable weight on my back, I did what any reasonable superhero would do…got rid of my water.
The ride DOWN the mountain was pretty wild. I bid a fond farewell to my toenails and tried not to fall on my face as I zoomed down. The half ended in Matewan, West Virginia- population 498 and looked like it was the set of an old Western movie. We literally passed the half finish and saw runners cross the line, receive their medals, and celebrate their accomplishment. This could have been a sticky point mentally, but the crowds in Matewan really pulled me through with their cheers- “Go Superwoman!”, “Look, it’s Supergirl!”, and “It’s a bird, it’s a plane..!”. I kind of felt bad for the other marathoners around me, as the support was about as participant specific as you could get.
Every hero has their kryptonite, and mine was the lonely country road around mile 16. Although the race does a great job of rounding up volunteer support with water stops at each mile and hand-written signs for every runner along the course, the field had thinned out and I was really feeling my trashed quads from Blackberry Mountain and questioning my unconventional (read: lack of) preparation for this race. The hills would NOT stop. I started to do the negative self talk thing- you know, pity party of one. By the time we ran over the swinging bridge at mile 18, I had convinced myself it wouldn’t be SO bad to just walk all the way to the end. I could walk 8 more miles by the 7 hour cutoff, right?!