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home > community > viewpoint > the roaring twenties

The Roaring Twenties
As his marathon training moves into 20-mile runs, our runner starts to hedge his bets: "I'm still running, but my Las Vegas odds are dropping..." The sixth in a series of essays.

The Roaring Twenties

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By Hank Brown
Posted Tuesday, 4 February, 2003

This is the sixth in a series of essays following columnist Hank Brown in his march to the Myrtle Beach Marathon. The first, second, third, fourth and fifth articles are also available.

Remember Tyler? Tyler's marathon effort at the Richmond Marathon gave me the itch to try another marathon. Then, Tyler promptly signed up for the Myrtle Beach Marathon practically before finishing his last slice of pizza in the Richmond finish line corral. So, what did I do? I enlisted also.

So, where's Tyler? He is injured. He is out of action. He is reading my articles and laughing at me from the warmth of his living room. A foot injury put him on the disabled list for about a month, and he hasn't been able to put in the necessary miles since. So, just like that, he's out of the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Now, here I am 9 weeks into my training, and all I have to show is an achy-breaky foot and enough painful stories to fill up a country music CD. Thanks a bunch.

Actually, I'm not mad at Tyler. He really wanted to run Myrtle Beach, and I know he would have been there. I'm glad he provided the inspiration for me to try this again (I think). But injuries happen. That's marathon training. Just because you proclaim to the world that you're going to run a marathon, does not mean you will find your way to the starting line a "wild and crazy" 14 weeks later.

So, am I hedging on my chances at Myrtle Beach? You bet! My left foot has been screaming more than 3 kids on a 9-hour car trip. But I can still run on it as long as I find an ice bucket within 3 steps after walking in the door. I walk like Chester on Gunsmoke. I lie in bed and stall those first early morning steps. So far, I'm still running. But my Las Vegas odds are dropping...


My left foot has been screaming more than 3 kids on a 9-hour car trip, and I walk like Chester on Gunsmoke.


This week I'm roaring into the 20's... miles that is. Two weeks ago I toughed my way through a 19-miler, but it wasn't pretty. My schedule calls for 21 miles on Friday, but secretly I know anything over 19 will be considered a victory. Jimmy is traveling again from Richlands to chaperone. I welcome him as he pulls into the driveway.

We decide to run an "out-and backer" on the local Greenbelt, which is a 5.5-mile trail along Reedy Creek in Kingsport. No traffic, almost all asphalt, good footing (left foot says thanks). The weather at takeoff (12 noon) is decent -- sunny, 40 degrees, but the wind (15 mph) is pushier than expected.

We stop briefly for water and Gatorade at 7, and again at 11, and continue the journey. Miles 9 -- 14.5 are straight into Mr. Wind. He puts his big hands out and tries to hold us back. We push on. By 15, we have turned our backs on the wind, but it doesn't seem to help me much. We stop again for a short stretch. My foot is killing me. By 17 I'm gulping air. By 18, I know another 3 miles falls into the miraculous category, so I tell Jimmy I'm "good" for maybe 2 more miles. He doesn't argue. He looks at me like he's running beside a heart attack in progress. He's very tolerant. He could have easily bumped me off into the creek miles ago and I wouldn't have blamed him.

We round the last curve and the cars in the parking lot (where we finish) are a beautiful sight. 20 miles. I wanted 21, but 20 miles ain't bad, all things considered. I haven't said much since about mile 15, and I certainly don't want to talk now. I just want to stop running. As we wobble toward the cars, a large man walking a dog looks at us like we're creatures from Star Wars.

"How far d'yall run?"

Great. Don't talk to me. I'll stare a hole through your forehead with my laser vision. Thankfully, Jimmy is a little more affable and quickly becomes the spokesman for the two aliens.

"20 miles. We're training for a marathon. He's running one in February, mine is in March." How can Jimmy be so chatty? Didn't he just run the same 20 miles I did?

"20 miles? I can't drive my car that far, " Mr. Dogwalker laughs.

Yeah, like I've never heard that one before. Go away and leave us alone. Can't you see I'm on my way to the emergency room? Can't you hear all the sirens on their way to pick me up?

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little hard on Dogwalker. But after 20 miles I'm in no mood for anything but breathing. I climb into my car for the short drive home. Right now I wish I didn't have a clutch. Right now I wish I didn't have this left foot. I pull into the driveway. My neighbor pulls up about the same time. Please don't talk to me, Tom. I'm out of lasers.

"Hey, Hank."

He looks at me funny. Why not? I look like Forest Gump after running for 3 years, 5 months, and 2 days. "You look like you just ran a marathon."

"Close. I just ran 20. I'm training for a marathon." I don't want to talk. I want to crawl inside a cave and lick my wounds.

"I thought you gave up that foolishness."

"Yeah, me too."

"Which one are you going to? Is Natalie going to run?" Gosh this conversation is lasting longer than a college Economics lecture after an all-night hangover.

"Myrtle Beach. February 22. Natalie's going, but she's not running the marathon."

"I always knew she was smarter than you." Tom is smiling.

"You got that right."

Week 10

I'm walking around much better than expected on Saturday, the day after my 20-miler. Natalie tells me we're going to Carter Fold tonight. The Fold is a rustic theater for country and bluegrass music in Hiltons, Va., named after the famous Carter family (Janette, and brother Joe still perform each Saturday). Even though the Fold is just about 20 miles from my home, I've never been. I'm looking forward to a new experience!

We arrive and true to reports, the Fold is rustic... in fact it's really just a big barn, with a spacious stage and stadium-type seating for about 1000 people. I look like Grandpa Jones as I hobble to the front door on my weary legs. I sit down and settle in for an evening of music... and rest. Within minutes the dance area is full of cloggers and two-steppers. This is fun!


Natalie wants to dance. I picture myself moving around about as nimbly as Frankenstein in a waltz with Al Gore. Huh uh, no way.


"Let's dance." I look over at Natalie in horror. Of course I should have known. Natalie cannot stand for anyone to have more fun than her. Wherever she goes, she's elected Queen of Funland.

"Uh, gosh, I don't know. These people are really good dancers. I don't know how to dance like that." I'm stalling. My legs are sore. My foot is aching. I picture myself moving around about as nimbly as Frankenstein in a waltz with Al Gore. Huh uh, no way.

"C'mon, don't be a party pooper." She knows that always gets me. You see Natalie is much younger and prettier and more energetic than me. I knew when I said, "I Do" that it really meant I Do. And do is a verb. And for Natalie, do is a very active verb. She DOES more than anyone I've ever met! I must try to keep up with her, even when I'm in my 90's!

So, we dance. Well, sort of. Natalie dances. I kinda stomp around and try to act like I know what I'm doing. My legs do not respond well. They are not absorbing the ups and downs. I stay down longer than I stay up. I see an old guy with a cane dancing circles around me (and no, he's not Fred Astaire!).

On Sunday, it's back to running. I manage about 6 miles on Sunday and another 6-7 on Monday. A 4-mile tempo on Tuesday goes much better than expected, and on Wednesday another 6-7 miles. Maybe things are coming around.

Then the snow arrives. We get 4 inches on Thursday, but Natalie and I decide to tour the neighborhood anyway. Running through the snow-covered scenery is very uplifting, even though we go very cautiously and watch our footing. My schedule calls for 13 miles on Friday morning, but a last-minute work meeting goes until almost noon. Don't they understand I have to run? This run is doomed. I can't really imagine running that far through the bounty of snow covering the roads and sidewalks anyway.

Natalie and I head up to Beech Mountain for the weekend, where the combination of snow (probably 8 inches everywhere), frigid cold (less than 10 degrees when we arrive), and terrain (there isn't one flat square foot to be found) make running impossible. For some reason, I'm not concerned. I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend with friends, food, and more than a few frozen beverages!

I need a short break.

Next: The Big One



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