ST. GEORGE — The 4 a.m. bus bound for Central smelled distinctly of peanut butter. Peanut butter and fear. Or maybe that was just me nibbling my peanut butter and jelly on multigrain bread and hoping I could eat my way to a good race.
I ran a marathon Saturday — the 39th annual St. George Marathon, to be exact — and I am writing this report from my home office, fairly sure my fingers are the only part of my body that can still move and with quantifiable proof that PB&J can only take you so far.
For me, a marathon is an hourslong suffer-fest in which I constantly remind myself that this is what I consider fun. And judging by the record number of racers at this year’s starting line — almost 7,800 — I am not alone.
I can’t rightly explain why I do it or why anyone does it, but it has something to do with what I like to call “the marathon experience.”
Running a marathon is a fully sensory experience. I hear the announcer at the start, cowbells, and cheering crowds. I smell smoke from the bonfires, Icy Hot and sunblock. I see the colorful cliffs of Snow Canyon State Park greet me as I come around the corner from Diamond Valley. I taste raspberry GU Energy Gels, which are gross but effective. And I don’t know if pain can be considered a sense, but when I pound the pavement, I definitely feel it pound back.
But the best, the absolute best thing about a marathon is the people that carry us through.
There was Sharon, my pacer, who was on her 137th marathon. Sharon made us sing military-style chants to pass the time and made sure we knew where every porta-potty was located. Sharon was too fast for me and I got dropped at Veyo hill.
Later on in the race I met Steven. It was Steven’s first St. George Marathon but not his first full. He had been injured just weeks prior to Saturday’s start but stubbornly refused to miss the race. We ran and walked and talked and ran some more for several miles. This time I dropped Steven, but I am grateful for his company on those many miles.
There was Zara with a “Z,” Daniel, Shawna, and countless volunteers and community supporters who sacrificed their day to bring a little cheer to us crazy racers … they, all of them, carried me through.
If you are wondering if you really can smell fear, the answer is unequivocally “yes,” just as sure as you can also taste victory.
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