James "Woody" Woodring (right), a thru-hiker we met on the Appalachian Trail who had St. Michaels connections, is now a marathon man.
Readers of the 4-1-Run may remember the encounter Keene and I had with Woody, the AT thru-hiker whose grandmother lives in St. Michaels. We were inspired by Woody's quest, his mentality, his humor, and his stories. We were even more surprised when he called us on his way to St. Michaels, and shared dinner with us at the Keene residence in Wittman.
Well, Woody has gone and run himself a marathon. The Austin Marathon in Texas, to be exact. He recently e-mailed a report to friends and family, which I happily pass along below. As far as we can tell, Woody did not strap on his 20-pound backpack before the race.
"I awoke super early, around 4:45, stretched, ate a light breakfast of oatmeal and grapefruit, and hopped on my bike. I pedaled downtown, arriving an hour before race time. Much excitement and energy in the air! After a futile attempt to rendevous with my cousin Natalie, who also ran the full marathon, I found myself being left behind as the crowd surged forward at the start of the race. I jumped a divider fence and began the run with what I figured was my pace group.
"What a stampede it was! As we made our way south on Congress street, slowly breaking up like thawing ice floes, the street went lower and lower in until I was in kind of an elevation trough, where I could see 12,000 people in front and back of me. Amazing! I was exuberant at the beginning, emotions and endorphins running amok. I remembered what I had read about starting off too fast and burning out too quickly, so I made an effort to find my pace despite being caught in the massive flow. It was at this time that I realized I had jumped in the line far ahead of my pace group, when a pace runner ran by waving a sign that read 3 hr 30 min. Too fast! As I was aiming for a 5 hr pace, I slowed wayyyy down and before long found my happy place.
"As the sun rose, the street became littered with hats, gloves, shirts, and warm ups people shed in an attempt to cool down. Before long, the half-marathon-ers split off from our group, and the runners spaced out considerably. Some people began to converse, others grimly set their jaw and looked straight ahead. At every mile marker or so, volunteers had set up tables stacked high with cups of water and sports drinks to rehydrate runners as they pounded by, not to mention the medics who handed out bits of vaseline, of which the importance is not to be underestimated when running long distances. There were also many bands, singers, drummers, and cow-bellers along the way, setting a rhythm and boosting spirits with their energy. They played a marathon of their own. What a blessing to have so many supporters lining the roadsides to encourage us, or at times, to keep us herded in the right direction ;)
"I stuck to my plan, hitting up every hydration stop, as well as slowing to walk at least once every mile, 30 seconds on the odd miles, 1 min on the even miles, which worked superbly. I pushed myself harder than I ever have before. At the end, when the experience was most intense, I seemed to be detached, running on a cloud, albeit a painful one, and as I went down the home stretch, the noise of the crowd and announcer was like a muffled ocean in the background. All too soon, it was suddenly over. At 11:37, I crossed the finish line, making my chip time 4:33. Not bad, when my goal was simply to run and finish.
"My cousin Natalie was right behind me the whole race, though I didn't see her until after we both had finished because I couldn't hobble back up to the finish line in time to see her cross. Although it is a wonderful thing to run with someone, as opposed to alone, we each have our own race to run, our own battle to fight, and we were both very happy to share our individual experiences afterward.
"Now I must rest my body, and look forward to new goals. Luckily, my cousin Eric made that one easy on me today, and proposed the idea of the Beach to Bay Marathon in Corpus Christi in May. What can I say? I'm hooked."
Congratulations to Woody and his cousin Natalie! What a great accomplishment. We will try to boondoggle Woody into coming up to Maryland for a race. Who knows, he might turn into one of those nuts who wants to do 50 marathons in 50 states.