Marathon finishers

My fiance Matt Lemay and I are smiling through our pain at the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon.

Even though I ran the Twin Cities marathon for the first time on Oct. 6, I still don’t consider myself a “runner.” Running isn’t something I love. I love scoring a deal on a $4 sweater at Goodwill that still has retail tags from Target. I love stopping strangers on sidewalks to pet their dachshunds. I love scooping myself a heaping bowl of cookie dough ice cream every night around 8 p.m. I love frothy, unsweetened lattes in glass mugs.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to put myself through 26.2 miles of pain on a perfectly good Sunday? Not something I love.

I have a new theory: anyone who tells you they enjoy running marathons is a liar. There’s only one word to describe marathon running, and it’s agony. I’m sure there are plenty of marathon runners reading this right now who are nodding along and thinking to themselves, “but they’re so fun.”

Runners told me the marathon would be a victory lap to celebrate the hard training I did over the last five months. That was a lie. The marathon nearly killed me.

Here’s what the marathon addicts don’t tell you: When you’re running a marathon, all behavior most people would consider the “acceptable norm” goes down the drain around mile 18. I saw one runner collapse onto the grass with cramping calves while spectators offered to stretch his sweaty legs. I saw at least four men peeing mid-course, and not in a discreet way. Random strangers handed runners pickle juice and beer and mimosas and doughnut holes and, yes, White Castle sliders — anything to distract them from their blood blisters and shin splints.

I was no exception to this barbaric behavior. I started dry heaving mid-trot at mile 23, and when my fiance suggested we stop, I kept running and flashed him a thumbs-up. At least I wasn’t like Jimmy over there, pooping his pants, I thought to myself.

Who does this?

Marathon veterans told me once we crossed the finish line and tasted the sweet flavor of accomplishment, all the pain would be worth it and we’d become fellow marathon addicts.

But when my fiance and I crossed the finish line together, the only thing I tasted was my vomit as I barfed in the porta potty. My fiance collapsed into the grass as every muscle in his body, including his arms, contracted like rubber bands. Not to mention our feet were rubbed raw, we could barely lift our legs and my head was pounding.

If only I’d taken a video of that moment of agony, it would remind me to never run another marathon again. Ever.

But there’s still this little demon voice inside my head whispering, “next time you’ll run it faster.”

What next time? I ask the voice.

“Next time.”

I’m not sure what motivates marathon runners to keep signing up for their next date of doom. I don’t know why the idea of completing four hours of agonizing pain makes all the training, the $200 running shoes, the cramping muscles and the chafing skin “worth it.”

Maybe the only reason marathoners run is the same as the reason they hate it: it’s really, really hard. And for some reason, humans are wired to become addicted to accomplishing hard things. Marathon runners probably do not enjoy pooping their pants as their nipples bleed through their shirts on mile 24. But they probably do enjoy telling the mortals around them that they survived this traumatic experience.

I must admit, I do like the feeling of finishing a race I always told myself I’d never run.

But for the love of my toenails, I pray I won’t fall under this spell. I will not start searching for the next marathon race. I don’t do this kind of thing. I’m not even a runner.

Maddie DeBilzan is a reporter for the Shakopee Valley News.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.


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