18 + 8 = ?

This entry has nothing to do with kids music. No Laurie, no Barney, no Wiggles, no Ralph. (Really, I tried to think of a way to tie them in, and nothing clicked, short of using song titles that were a particular stretch.)

So click below only if you want to read about, well, you'll just have to find out...
Early last year I decided to run a marathon.

Of course, if I knew that the Sunday morning I would be running the marathon would be coldest morning in Phoenix in more than sixteen years, I might have reconsidered my decision, but who expected freezing temperatures in Phoenix? "Average Race Day Temp.," the website says -- 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And that, frankly, probably understated it by 3 or 4 degrees thanks to the urban heat island effect. Who knew it would hit 29 degrees?

I know, 29 degrees is not cold -- I've been outside in 29 degrees below zero -- but one is typically not expected to wear shorts in such weather.

But there I was with 11,000 other marathoners waiting for the sun to rise and for us to start running, which might actually help us warm up.

Once we took off, it was surprising how cold I didn't actually feel. It was certainly brisk, but I had a couple layers of shirts, a headband, gloves, and long pants on over my shorts. So I felt OK, which made for a bit of a shock when I passed a photography store temperature gauge which read 32 degrees. Oh, OK.

The first six miles went well. I saw my wife and kids, who had a few friends from the neighborhood (the route went right past it), and shedded more clothes than I'd originally anticipated. The second best part of the day for me, though I know it couldn't have been fun for people to stand in the same weather I was running in. The next six also went OK as I continued to run along streets I drive down weekly if not daily. Even the third six miles weren't too bad, though I began to slow down a bit.

And then I hit the wall. Now, I'd run a half-marathon before and had sort of hit a wall at the 10-mile point, but this was worse, where I simply had to stop running for a while. I was amused (darkly) by the people shouting "Looking good!" because however I looked (I was moving forward), "good" would have been about #5,693 on the list of words I'd've used to describe myself at the moment. Someone else (who was running, I think) shouted, "Pain is temporary, but the memory lasts forever," which is one of those aphorisms that sounds motivating before the race and consoling after the race but which sounds like a bunch of cow manure during the race. The pain might be temporary but at the moment it was, well, real.

Before the race I'd mentioned to a couple people that I thought it might be cool to run some big-city marathons to see parts of cities you might not see otherwise -- San Francisco, perhaps, or Chicago. Well, it was a good thing that I've been to Scottsdale and Tempe many, many times, because I didn't really see anything except the quarter-mile ahead of me (if I wasn't just staring at the ground).

As painful as it was, I think I was basically running 12-minute miles during those last 8 miles, as compared to the 9 1/2-10-minute miles I ran the first 2/3rds of the race. (Of course, that was a 12-minute mile when I was running. I walked every mile or so.)

And, then, before I knew it, I turned the corner, Sun Devil Stadium loomed above me, and the finish line was 500 feet away. I sprinted across the finish line, and it was over. Not that I was entirely coherent. After winding through all the lines you have to go through (medal, timing chip, picture, goodie bag, food), I saw someone I knew waiting for his wife at the exit area. He recognized me, and noted that I looked a bit dazed. I told him that Sun Devil Stadium could have been burning, and I would have simply nodded "OK. It's burning."

So that was my day Sunday. I'm glad I ran the marathon. I don't know if I'd ever train for another one, but I remember hearing somewhere that pain is temporary, but the memory lasts forever. That sounds nice, don't you think?