OK, before I get to the big day itself I have more Expo Day to write about. Stuff I forgot in what I already wrote: I also stopped at Helmut Kunst’s gallery in Clifford in my way to Forest City, & bought 2 paintings, a tiny oil of a bridge and a larger one of birches in spring. I vacillated about actually making the purchase but asked the test question, “If I saw this hanging in a museum, would it be one of the paintings I kept returning to before leaving?” Helmut and his wife were really nice and when I mentioned I was going to scope out the marathon course, he said he had run in college. His wife asked the common question, “What kind of marathon is it?” Tons of people don’t really know what a marathon is; they think it’s any long race, like you could do a 10 mile or 15 mile marathon. Maybe it’s the concept of half-marathons that confuse them? Or ultras? Anyway, in my experience, when you tell them it’s 26.2 miles, their eyes bug out!

A part of Jay Sochoka’s talk I forgot to mention was his poem “‘Twas the Night Before Steamtown,” which was pretty funny and true (even though it didn’t scan–hardly any amateur poetry does…) He lies awake worrying “maybe I’d forgotten how to run” because of taper brain (yes! exactly), and then Steve Prefontaine appears and takes him to a stadium where Jay beats Pre because he has an unexpected kick left at the end.

In the course discussion, the main emphasis was on going out slowly. Bill King made the point that doing this wrong was a double whammy, because not only would you be dying at mile 20, but psychologically you’d be getting hammered because everyone would pass you. And vice-versa, if you started conservatively enough, you’d get the boost not only of still feeling good in the last section, but also passing people like crazy (which proved to be prophetic!)

The Scranton paper was being handed out for free, and you could sign up to have Sunday and Monday’s editions mailed to you (which I have–it’ll be time to check the mail later this afternoon!) The entire list of entrants is printed in the Saturday edition by bib number, so that spectators can look up your name. Alas, they only printed my last name! “270–Caws-Elwitt, Friendsville, 39.” Everyone else had a first name listed–it must be the hyphen that threw them off. (J & I have to be alert for getting filed under E instead of C, not being able to do things like get online boarding passes because of poor programming that thinks hyphen is an illegal character, etc.) It made me extra-glad that I had decided to put my name on my shirt.

There was a huge poster of the course map and elevation, which I didn’t get a chance to examine at leisure because there were always clusters of people in front of it. Various money sinks for the proud finisher were also on display–a wooden stand to hang your medal and a zillion different fancy frames/plaques/presentations for your run pictures. There was a posterboard of information and photos from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, the beneficiary of Steamtown. (Bill King said at the course talk that by the end of this, the 9th marathon, they will have raised $165,000 for St. Joe’s, which is pretty great.) Many people mentioned that the residents of St. Joe’s cheer on the runners at the top of one of the last hills and what a difference that makes–you think you can’t go on, and then you see a child who will never walk and it puts your own temporary pain in perspective.

It was past 3 by the time I left the Expo, and I had really wanted to drive the rest of the course. Instead I picked up the last section, from about mile 20 on, and couldn’t even drive the whole thing because of one-way streets and block parties. But I got a good sense of it and told myself that the unknown sections would be an adventure for Sunday, something to keep the middle miles interesting.

I got home after 5 with a whole list of things to do–make dinner, blog about the day, figure out parking/meeting with J., pin on my bib number, decide what to put on my shirt, etc.

The shirt thing–I’d been thinking about this a long time. More than a year ago, my brother Matthew and Jonathan and I were on the phone talking about the New York Marathon (which goes right past Matthew’s windows on Bedford Ave in Brooklyn). Matthew talked about how people yell “Go, Joe!” if the shirt says JOE, and how you could put things like FOR IT on a shirt. We started brainstorming things that start with “go,” like “gophers,” “goal oriented,” etc. So in the back of my mind was tucked this idea of having my name & then FOR IT, -PHERS, or whatever. (I even thought about (BUSH MUST) but decided I didn’t want to stir up any potential negative vibes from spectators, as true and important a statement as I believe that is–this area is heavily Republican.) The idea of a shirt that might make someone smile when they got it appealed to me. But I was concerned that people *wouldn’t* get it (there’s not a lot of room on a shirt and you don’t see it for that long if you’re a spectator), and Jonathan agreed. So it was just going to be “Hilary” (lettering by J. who is a talented graphic artist).

But then I thought, well, I could put a non-political message about voting. I think the low voter turnout in this country is embarrassing–no matter what your beliefs or political inclination, please make up your own mind on the issues and at least VOTE! It’s a right and responsibility we are lucky to have–it’s pathetic that so many people aren’t even registered, or are registered but don’t bother to come to the polls. If ONE person saw a pro-vote message & decided to turn out on November 2nd, that would make it totally worth it. J’s designed some neat voting buttons that we’ve been wearing. My favorite one says “VOTE–Get in the driver’s seat” and I wanted something like that related to running. Something that indicated, “hey, you may not be running a marathon, but you can do something just as empowering and cool by voting.” We talked about something concise enough to fit on a shirt, and J came up with “Vote! Democracy is run by you,” which I thought was perfect.

J reminded me that I’d be wearing my waistpack, which cut down on the available area even further, so I decided to ditch the name on the back & just go with the message. J drew the outlines on the shirt in Sharpie while I was wearing it and then I filled them in, giving me a solvent fume OD. I chose this shirt because it’s the one I’ve worn in all my long runs and it’s breaking down where the Camelback rubbed on it. Technical fabrics definitely seem more fragile than cotton!

I finished up my pace card. On one side it has the miles, my conservative pace for that mile (depending on the slope), running total of conservative time, and running total of optimistic/don’t-exceed time (30 seconds less than conservative pace). On the other is a list of family, friends & co-workers to think about when I need inspiration, and 4 inspirational quotes:

  • “something so remarkable, difficult, and inspiring that i can carry it with me as long as i’m alive to remember it.” —Hollie
  • “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”–Confucius
  • “I have met my hero, and [s]he is me.” — George Sheehan

For dinner we had yummy pasta with Lombard sauce (cubed boiled potatoes, garlic, and crushed red pepper sauteed in a mix of olive oil & butter)–“carbolicious,” as J said. My goal was to get to bed by 10pm, which I didn’t quite make, and of course I had trouble getting to sleep!

Next: the Big Day itself.

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