Sunday, May 05, 2002

Monday's no fun day for runners

        The first-timers who finish will call it a great experience of their lives. Overcome by every available emotion, they'll sit on the Sawyer Point lawn, fresh from finishing today's Flying Pig Marathon, a 26.2-mile run for which they trained six months. They'd exult, if they had the strength.

        As my friend Hobson describes it: “How many people can say they've run a marathon? It's a ridiculous thing to do. It's like swallowing a sword. It's also the closest I'll get to walking on the moon.”

        And then Monday comes. The Day After. A warning to you, rookies:

  • Complete race details at
  • Watch the race at
  • Race results will be posted this afternoon at
        Today you'll be glorious and triumphant. Monday you'll be gum on a bootheel. You won't feel like you've carried a piano up a flight of stairs. You'll feel like you've carried a piano up a flight of stairs and dropped it on your legs.

        Think: Man meets truck.

        Technically, the lactic acid you've kept moving for so many hours starts to settle in and do its evil work. Matter-of-fact-wise, if man were meant to run 26 miles, he'd be a car.

        Where's the elevator?

        Julie Isphording was for a long time a world-class runner. An Olympian. What she says about the Day After is, “You can't even turn the knob on the shower.”

        You can tell the marathon people the next day. They're the ones walking backward down the stairs. Their quadriceps muscles — the big ones in the front of the thighs — are officially retired. The quads are on the porch at Sunnyvale Rest, playing checkers. “Elevators are a wonderful thing on Monday,” says Erica Wilson, a multiple marathon entrant.

Click to view zoomable map
(24K Acrobat PDF file)
    2001 winners: men's, Rudolf Jun (2:28:07); women's, Rebecca Gallaher (2:50:50); wheelchair, Vern Achenbach (1:53.47)

    2000 winners: men's, Jun (2:23:04); women's, Gallaher (2:49:31*); wheelchair, Franz Nietlispach (1:35:07)

    1999 winners: men's, Elly Rono (2:21:15*); women's, Sommer Settell (2:58:10); wheelchair, Saul Mendoza (1:30:46*)

    * Record-

        Before one marathon, Wilson forgot to take the price tag off the inside of her shorts. On Monday, she noticed a scab the size of Connecticut on her lower back, from the chafing.

        The Day After, marathoners feel older than original sin. Getting out of bed is worth the Congressional Medal of Honor. “As long as you're lying still, you don't feel anything,” Wilson says. “As soon as you make that first move, your abs tighten, pain shoots from your shoulders. Then you stand up and all the muscles in your body scream.”

        Prediction: Pain

        Says Hobson, “The bad thing isn't getting out of bed. If you can get out of bed, it's a great thing.”

        “It's hard to describe if you've never been that sore before,” Wilson says.

        I'm getting the picture: Three a.m., parking lot at Bada Bing: Tony Soprano's crew, a trunk full of tire irons, and me.

        The Day After, “I would pay millions for someone to carry my luggage,” says Isphording. “My whole body is sore. My fingernails hurt.”

        At the finish line, runners are in a primitive state, huddled on the grass, covered in heat-retaining wraps, mumbling, stumbling, speaking in tongues. You don't know whether to congratulate them or call a priest.

        “Monday's worse,” Isphording says. “Sunday night you're drinking beers. It's a happy time. Then you slowly start falling apart.”

        No wonder they call it the Flying Pig. Pigs will fly and rocks will sing tenor in the Metropolitan Opera before the rookies do this again.

        Or, more likely, they'll recover and start training for the next one. There is glory in pain. As Isphording says, “It takes guts and passion to do something you never thought you could do.”

        Also ibuprophen.

       Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; e-mail:


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