Today marked not only the first running of the Madrid Rock n’ Roll Marathon here in Spain, but also the first time for us to run a marathon in Europe. Without fail, it turned out to have its highlights, its highs and lows, and though I’m not happy that this is beginning to be a trend, there is in fact a poop story involved.
Since the race didn’t start until 9am, it was quite easy logistically to get to the race by simply using the city’s fantastically organized subway system. The trains were packed with runners as we headed to the start around 7:45am, and we chatted with a few runners about the upcoming race and their goals for the run. Mind you, this was all in Spanish, so it felt pretty special to be heading to a marathon in Europe, on the public transit, and speaking the local language.
Everything was going smoothly for the morning. We both ate a small breakfast of water, bananas, and bread, we both took care of our bathroom needs long before the porta-johns ran out of paper or filled up (strange side-note here, but the porta-johns were supposed to flush like a toilet, but didn’t, so instead the toilet bowl filled up, ehem, rather quickly after just a few uses of nervous runners about to race).
After we both took care of our bathroom needs, it was 8:20am, and we both looked around and said to each other, “Where do we put our drop bags?” We’d both packed bags of clean clothes and sandals to have after the race, as did most other runners around us, who also had that puzzled, looking-off-into-the-distance-look that says, “Now where do I go for this?” After asking several groups of people, who all had different answers, we trusted one group that answered with complete confidence that the drop bag location was actually at the finish line, which was over a mile away. Yikes!
We walked quickly towards the finish line, noticed it was 8:40am and still saw nowhere in sight to leave our bags, then started running towards the finish area, dropped the bags off at 8:50am, and ran quickly back to the starting line. We were both in the front corrals, so at least we were able to start farther up, but it was a less than ideal start to the race by warming up almost 3 miles. I almost felt worse for the other runners I saw running towards the finish area as we headed back to the start, the panic written all over their faces, and me thinking, “Sorry buddy, I know how that feels. And by the way, you’d better haul it right about now!”
As for the race, in one word, it was Awesome. Aside from the strange porta-johns and the drop bag fiasco, it was a well-run race, it had tons of volunteers for liquids and gu, there was lots of crowd support (so much so that at some points the runners were squeezed in almost single file through the street!), the course went by a lot of famous parts of Madrid, the weather was cool yet sunny, and we ran well considering how out of shape we are. As for the crowd support, the often used cheer was, “Animo!”, which means, “Let’s go!” in a sense. The verb literally means to be motivated/animated, so it was what most of the crowd was yelling to cheer us on.
Since the 50k in Guatemala, our training has been less than ideal for a marathon, only because of our lack of discipline and our love of what I call the “3PG” in Italy: Pasta, Pesto, Pastries, and Gelato. They are cheap, plentiful, so good to eat, and yet a huge detriment to our weight and therefore quality of running because we just can’t stop ourselves. This marathon was a good wakeup call for us to get in better shape, eat less, and run some more respectable times for what we’re capable of. Matt finished in 2:49 and I finished in 3:44, so while we held it together, it was harder than it should have been, we both felt heavy during the race, and we miss feeling like we’re running at our best.
Other parts of the race that were cool were the sheer number of runners. There were over 18,000 runners with the marathon and 10k combined, and about 10,000 runners in the marathon. Strangely enough, as I was running, I looked around and thought, “Where are all the women?” I knew I wasn’t running a blazing time, and in seeing the results, I saw that there really weren’t that many women running. Out of the 10,000 runners, only 1,000 women ran, so there were 9,000 men! What a crazy proportion for a race, at least from my experience. Lastly, in terms of race support, there were volunteers on rollerblades the entire race, carrying stuff like Vaseline and Bengay spray for runners who were chaffing or cramping up. It was a cool aspect that I would have never thought of for a race, but which I really appreciated.
So you may be wondering, “Hey, where does the poop story come in?” Well, I thought this blog post would be void of one, as I made it through the pre-race bathroom needs, I made it through the race despite some stomach discomfort with all the water, gu and powerade in my system, and even made it to the point of changing clothes. After Matt and I chose a spot for me to change, nestled in the corner of a bush, behind a tree (this is in the Buen Retiro park at the finish), I pushed out a fart as I went to organize all my post-race clothing. I knew my stomach was off, but thought it was just gas from all the gu and powerade. I immediately knew I was in trouble, as I felt a warm, liquid-like mass fill my shorts, and I whispered to Matt, in shock, “I just pooped my pants.” For all of those that have read my book, “The Trail Life: How I Loved it, Hated it, and Learned from it,” this story probably sounds a little familiar. I guess I haven’t learned my lesson when it comes to farting with an upset stomach.
The worst wasn’t necessarily that I pooped my pants, but that the cleanup wasn’t exactly normal when I was standing by a bush, in a public park, with thousands of people walking around. I went into solution mode without skipping a beat, used Matt’s mylar blanket as my changing room, and sacrificed a pair of socks to wipe up the mess before putting on clean shorts. I also happened to pack a baby wipe that was intended for my sweaty, salt-crusted face, but thought it better to also sacrifice that to clean my bum. The cleanup was relatively quick and successful, however embarrassing or however many people to whom I may have flashed my nether-regions, and we were on our way back to the hotel in no time.
My stomach has not been the same since the race, and I’ve spent so many trips to the bathroom, that I keep asking, “Where is all this coming from?” Maybe it’s just all the 3PG I’ve built up over our time in Italy and my body is telling me, “Enough!”
So there you have it, our first marathon in Europe was a success, and without a doubt included a poop story. I really hope this isn’t becoming a trend though, as we still have 3 more marathons to run in Europe, 2 more in the US, and a 50 miler in Washington. It’s back to Naples tomorrow, with a day’s tour of Rome along the way, and then more fun to come after that. Thanks for all the support, for reading our stories, and being a part of all the adventures.