The DIY Mini-Marathon

The streets of the fair were deserted as we made our way to the would-be “starting line.”

What was I thinking, running a mini-marathon just four days before a sprint triathlon?

Even more baffling, why did my sister agree to this deranged plan?

The original concept was to run the Parlor City Trot Labor Day weekend, then test our cycling prowess (or lack thereof) at Sunday’s Colavita Time Trial. When conflicts prevented us from entering the half-marathon, we thought it would be fun to do it on our own. And since the timing was up to us, we thought, why not do it during the Bluffton Street Fair, when the race was traditionally run long before anyone ever heard of the Fort4Fitness mini marathon that has since swallowed everything in its path?

I kept thinking something would come up to derail this ridiculous plan, but Traci never voiced any objections, other than moving it back from Tuesday to Wednesday so she wouldn’t have to run 13.1 miles after working all night in the sleep lab.

So yesterday we got the kids off to school, then made our way through the mostly empty street fair to the “starting line.” It was much cooler than when we ran this race for real last year, around 39 degrees. I’d dug out my running tights for the first time this fall. We didn’t start a stop watch as we headed out; part of our agreement was that Traci would do this with me only if we ran slowly, without worrying about the time.

We crossed the Main Street bridge over the Wabash River and headed out on State Road 124 to Elm Grove Cemetery, where we deviated from the course slightly to jog past our stillborn nephew’s grave. Not too long after that our brother Brent met up with us and drove beside us until we got to Oubache State Park, where we pulled off the main road onto a trail.

It was a gorgeous fall morning, and we both felt energized by taking the race route instead of our usual approach along the River Greenway. It was fun to make plans for Sunday’s triathlon, which will be Traci’s first and my second.

When we emerged from the campground road we met up with another vehicle escort, our mom. She’d packed a cooler full of bottled water and filled us in on the status of various relatives, especially her cousin Vicki, who’s struggling with lung cancer. I really need to get up to see her soon; just this past week I was cleaning out the china cabinet and found the basket I carried as flower girl in her wedding 40-some years ago.

Traci talked less and less the farther we went. I knew she wasn’t thrilled with the gravel path around Kunkel Lake, but the real issue was a much-needed bathroom break — the kind that takes a while — and a sore hip. Still, she wasn’t about to quit. We took one last drink and hit the trail back to the gatehouse, knowing the rest of the way was very familiar territory.

Mom met us again at the White Bridge with more water, and one last offer to relieve Traci’s suffering. She shook her head.

“We’re so close now, I might as well keep going,” she said.

My legs were getting tired, but it felt great to get in this run — only the second time either of us have done a half marathon. As we jogged across the would-be finish line, Mom whisked Traci off in the van, while I opted to walk back to my own van to stretch my legs and enjoy the sights of the fair on a beautiful day.

“I just ran 13 miles, finishing at the fair. What should I eat?” I texted Rowan, who’s coming home Friday from Manchester University to meet up with friends at the fair.

“ZUM stick!” she texted back.

Those chocolate-dipped fruit kabobs are pretty tasty, if you ditch the marshmallow. But I was craving a fish sandwich from Ruth Mettler’s stand, now in its 91st year at the fair.  Having delivered Traci to her vehicle, where she made a hasty getaway, Mom wound up joining me. I’ve eaten a lot of those sandwiches over the years, but I’m not sure any of them ever tasted as good as that one did yesterday, after our DIY Parlor City Trot.

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