How long is the new run learning curve? 3 years and counting

This weekend I picked up the shirts for a marathon relay I ran with my husband in mid-May.  May 14th to be exact.  The shirt is soft, comfy and baby-blue, a nice change from the stacks of white and black race shirts that fight for space in my drawer.

Hubby sports the 2011 Windermere marathon shirt

Still, five months is along time to wait for your race shirt.  During the Expo in May they were out of my husband’s size Medium and the ladies shirts were a mess, with weird angles and cuts.  The organizers added our names to a lengthy list and said they’d be in touch.  Many emails and apologies later the replacement shirts finally arrived last week from who-knows-where-Asia.  It took the shirt supplier just as long to make it right as they took to make it wrong.

It’s the latest in a string of mis-steps for this poor race, the Windermere Marathon, which raises money for the local Ronald McDonald House.  From what I’ve heard, the race has been plagued by problems since its inception three years ago in 2009.  I didn’t run the first year and I’m not fact checking the rumors I’ve heard about the first run, so I won’t repeat them.

In 2010 I had just returned to running when a friend invited my hubby and me to run the marathon as a four person relay with her and her boyfriend.  My 6.5 mile leg, the second in the race that begins in Idaho and ends at Riverfront Park in Spokane, WA, was lovely.  I ran through sun-dappled shade on the Centennial trail.  To my right the Spokane river bubbled and surged, as if it were urging on the runners who whizzed past me.

This was my first experience with marathoners and they evangalized me without even trying.  So many of them said positive and encouraging things as they passed this slower runner.  I wanted to be like them.  (Five months later I completed my first marathon on 10/10/10 in Portland.)

With many trailheads along the Windermere marathon, part of the fun was stopping to yell encouragment at our running partners, then jumping in the car to drive to the next relay exchange.  We had a lot of fun.  But at the end we were dismayed to hear the finish line announcer telling runners if they wanted to qualify for Boston they had to turn around and run another .8 miles.  The lead bike made a wrong turn so runners had to perform a course correction for accurate mileage.  Seriously.  The finish line balloons are in sight.  The crowd is yelling.  You’ve finished over 26 miles and you have to turn around. Yikes.  I was glad I wasn’t one of those marathoners.

This year the course was correctly measured (and probably remeasured.)  There was the shirt fiasco but otherwise things looked great.  The hubby and I were on a taper, two weeks away from the Coeur d’Alene marathon and we decided to run Windermere as a two-person relay.  He ran legs 1 and 3 while I ran 2 and 4.  It was another lovely day and we had a blast tag-teaming our way along the river from Northern Idaho into Spokane.  It’s a fast course that’s ends slightly lower than it starts, with no real hills.

But as I ran the end of the final leg into Riverfront park, winding along the trails and across several bridges, I was surprised to see my way blocked several times by pedestrians – regular park users out with their strollers and family for a sunny Saturday.  They had no interest in the runners who were completing 26.2 miles (or runners like me who had only run 12.5).  Some hopped out of the way.  Others glared in annoyance.  I was baffled that the race hadn’t secured whatever permits would be necessary to block off the course through the park.  Again, I was thankful I wasn’t finishing on fatigued marathon legs.  Dodging pedestrians isn’t ideal anytime, but at least I still had some quick twitch muscles to make it possible.

I want to say I’ll do this race as a full marathon.  It’s beautiful.  It’s fast.  It’s local.  And it supports a great cause.   But since I train on the trail spring through fall, I can access that beauty any time.  And there are other great causes.  So, I think I’ll wait and see if they can get all the kinks out before I sign up again.  Besides, if I run the full marathon, I want to wear my shirt the next day.  Not five months later.

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