The mini-marathon mind game

Traci and I at the finish of the Parlor City Trot

I’m still trying to figure out why my first mini marathon was so much fun. I expected pain and suffering. Instead, it felt like a 2½ hour adrenalin adventure.

Was it the beet juice? My comfy road beaters*? My dad the retired runner popping up all over the course, offering towels and moral support?

Personally, I think it was the Grape Juice Maneuver. In Saturday’s post, I described how my sister Traci endured a foul-tasting endurance elixir — beetroot juice — by holding her nose and pretending she was actually drinking grape juice.

The start of the Parlor City Trot

We pulled a similar mental fake-out during the 13.1 mile Parlor City Trot Saturday morning. Because we‘d run the last five miles of the course so many times, when we got to key landmarks in Ouabache State Park and then along Bluffton’s River Greenway, I’d tell myself we were just returning from a 10-miler, then a 6-miler, and finally a 4-miler.

And it worked — at least for me. Thanks to the Grape Juice Maneuver, I felt like I was on cruise control instead of the longest run of my life.

Traci and I finish the Parlor City Trot

Unfortunately, by that point Traci didn’t want to hear my mind-game commentary. Her hips started hurting as we pounded the gravel around Kunkel Lake about halfway through the course, and she preferred suffering in silence. Though we finished together, a few minutes ahead of our goal, there wasn’t much of a celebration. She hurried off to her son’s football game in agony, and was still hurting Saturday night when we stopped by for Madison’s birthday party.

Even so, I think the Grape Juice Maneuver helped her make it to the finish. When you’re in pain it’s hard to keep going, especially if you’re not sure how much farther you’ve got to go. We’ve returned from a few 10-milers on that same course feeling pretty awful, so I’m sure she was replaying those in her mind. Not fun memories to recall, but at least she knew she could hobble back into town, because she’d done it before.

"Garter Snake Alley" in Ouabache State Park

On the front end of the course, it was fun to catch up with Ellie Bogue, a co-worker at The News-Sentinel who I don’t see as much working my odd part-time hours the past few years. Comparing notes on how our kids and the newspaper have evolved made the first few miles zip past almost unnoticed, except for when Traci and I would point out sights of  interest, like Karter’s grave in Elm Grove Cemetery, or Garter Snake Alley, a winding path in the state park that used to be a highway back when we were kids.

Traci and I fought the urge to think of this race as a Very Big Deal by treating it like any other long run. We wore the same clothes, our same old beat-up shoes, even parked and stretched in the same place we usually do, the parking lot behind Hardee’s.

It was different, of course, in that we were running a longer version of what we were used to, starting in the opposite direction, and had lots of company. Between the three of us, before Ellie headed back at the 5-mile turnaround, it seemed like we recognized every third or fourth runner we encountered.

It was fun to finally experience this race that’s been a part of Bluffton lore for 37 years. Though it makes me a little sad that we never ran it in its heyday, when it was part of the Bluffton Street Fair tradition.

That late September weekend has since been usurped by a much bigger race, the Fort4Fitness event in Fort Wayne, which draws thousands for races of varying lengths. Now the Parlor City Trot is more of a Labor Day tune-up for the Fort’s mini-marathon, which is why so many people, including Ellie, elected to run the 10-mile version of the race.

I can only imagine how glorious it must have been to take off amid the fair festivities downtown, then lope out to the state park decked out in full autumn splendor. Maybe we’ll do that run sometime during fair week, just for the fun of it.

*I’d fretted during some of our longer runs that my beat-up old shoes might subject my feet to too much pounding over 13 miles, but they were fine. My emerging philosophy on the lightweight shoes phenomenon is that rather than drop a hundred bucks on a fancy version of next-to-nothing footwear, I’ll just continue wearing my “broken-in” beaters.

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2 Responses to The mini-marathon mind game

  1. First, congratulations to you both. The concept of running as fun is very foreign to me, but a man can dream.

    Second, I had to look up Ouabache. I thought you were being funny writing that instead of Wabash. Shows what I know.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Thanks, Skip. You just need to get out of the gym once in a while and find someplace where you can breathe without choking on smog and give yourself time to build up to 2-3 miles, long enough to experience the endorphin rush. From what you do in the gym, I know you could do it. And the reward is so much more amazing.

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