The Connection Runners + weight loss

A Man in (the) Full

A marathon! 26 miles and 385 yards! 42.195 kilometers! An interminable distance! It cost Pheidippes his life! And now a marathon, through Atlanta, the living, breathing, pulmonary heart of the South! Thousands of narrow waists and lithe bodies yearning for speed, legs rippling and popping with chiseled sinew, step after agonizing step! Never before has so much unbridled fury charged through this place since William Tecumseh Sherman lead the Union army in his infamous March to the Sea!

For anyone who has ever read Tom Wolfe, that's my exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek take on how he might describe yesterday's Publix Georgia Marathon. One of the most gifted contemporary American novelists, he's written such accliamed works as The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, but my favorite Wolfe work has to be A Man in Full, a 744 page opus set in late 1990's Atlanta.

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When I first read A Man in Full, I had yet to visit Atlanta - but he described the city in such vivid detail, I felt as if I had. I read it about a decade ago, and have since been there at least a dozen times over the years, but my trip this past weekend brought back the great memories of that book - more about that later.

Anyway, it was a terrific trip and a great race. I met my wife at Hartsfield Int'l Airport on Friday evening as she was flying up from Orlando from a conference and we cabbed it to our hotel downtown, which was a five minute walk to Centennial Olympic Park where the start/finish was.

Saturday was a warm, gorgeous day, perhaps 82 degrees - but fortunately the forecast was calling for cooler temps on Sunday. As much as I love hot weather it would have been rough to run in that heat after being acclimated to Maine winter running. We walked to the Georgia Dome, maybe ten minutes or so from the hotel. It was just past the Philips Arena where the Hawks and Thrashers play (Atlanta has a terrific sports complex) and the CNN Center. The Georgia Dome was a great venue for an expo - there were about 100 booths, lots of giveaways (thanks Larabar!) and packet pickup was about as simple as pecan pie. Bib #1970, Corral D and I laughed - do they hand out bibs according to your birthyear? Hey, I'm not 40 yet! That's next month! (Off by a year.)

We had a magnificent pre-race meal with a colleague of my wife at La Tavola Trattoria in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. We dined al fresco, and the Strozzapreti in a rabbit ragu was sensational. Fueled and primed for the race, we turned in early.

I was up by 5:30 and ready to go. I wore my white Livestrong technical tee, black North Face shorts, compression socks, and Brooks Defyance 4's. Probably about 60 degrees at the start, a slight touch of humidity, but very comfortable.

I love races that begin before sunrise, and this one was no exception!

2,200 marathoners, 11,000 running the half, and 7:00 we were off!

I did make a rookie mistake, however, turning my Garmin on indoors (and selecting indoors) so when the race started - it was not utilizing the GPS! Arrrghhhhhhhhh. I was on the run, in the dark, shoulder to shoulder, cruising along at a 7:30 Mile 1 clip cursing at my error. I nearly tripped while trying to reset it, and after about a mile still was unable to change it - literally - on the fly. That's when I said the hell with it.

I felt a little like Charlie Croker, the main character in A Man in Full, in the hilarious scene when he woke early, put on his equestrian clothes, and wanted to go riding but first make himself a big hearty Southern breakfast - but he sets off the burglar alarms and wakes the whole house, security comes, chaos ensues, when all the man wanted was some grits and start the day off right.

So instead of getting frustrated, I rolled with it, and just ran sans GPS and had the timer going as if I was on a treadmill. So I don't have any race data with elevation, but whatever. And I took a weight off of myself by not worrying too much about finish time - just run, enjoy, be in the moment. Soak it up, work hard, and the time will be what it will be.

The sun started to rise as I crossed the Jackson Street bridge, and shortly after that passed the home where Dr. King was born and also his resting place. That was an inspiring moment for me, to see the eternal flame, and my thoughts did turn to his struggles and how he was taken from us on the 4th of April. I remembered the words of RFK's speech upon hearing of his death, of course the famed Aechlyus quote, and then one of my favorite lines Bobby ever said:

Let us dedicate to ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

That carried me a long way. The few miles after seemed effortless, and easily got me through the old Fourth Ward and Inman Square, where I saw my wife and our friend. The course then turned through Little Five Points, The Carter Center, and shortly thereafter the 1/2 and full marathons split. We passed by Agnes Scott College, and Emory University, and into Decatur. I was feeling good.

I was surprised that at the split the clock had me at 1:50, which meant I ran about a 1:47 because it took me about 3 minutes at the start to cross the timing mat. Not bad at all, considering the first 13.1 was hilly - but I knew what was ahead. The back half was going to be tough.

The Druid Hills neighborhood was indeed hilly, but the hill at 19 was a beast. It just kept on going - and for that matter, from 16 on it just seemed like I was always going uphill. I found myself in R.F.P. mode, which stands for 'Relentless Forward Progress' - a phrase that I picked up at last summer's ultra. There was another steep hill at Mile 23 in Piedmont Park, but once we reached the top turned around and had a slight reprieve downhill which was certainly welcome at that stage in the race. We then passed the Georgia Tech campus but I really didn't notice it by that point because the late mile hills were taking their toll - another huge one around Mile 25, but was still putting down about 10:15 miles for 23-24-25, almost the exact same speed as the Hyannis Marathon three weeks earlier, so I was encouraged because this was exponentially more difficult.

My left achilles was also a bit tender, never in any pain or even sore, but I could 'feel' the pull and contraction of it. I was very mindful of that, and though I kept churning up those hills with everything I had, for the first time since I started this 12 marathon challenge the potential spectre of an achilles injury presented itself. "Finish this, but don't get hurt!" I would often remind myself. "Six more, six more!"

When we banked into Centennial Olympic Park I started to sprint but the moment I turned on the jets I felt a twinge in my left hamstring - the same thing happened last April in the Cherry Blossom, when you suddenly shift into a faster gear - so I immediately eased up and just finished up in a light trot the final 20 yards or so.

Final time : 4:03:51



Clock Time

Chip Time

Overall Place
672 / 2215

Gender Place
520 / 1420

Division Place
106 / 277

Age Grade



22 1Mi




Not bad considering I ran Hyannis (albeit in the sleet and cold) in 4:02:44. I think temps make a huge difference in my running - a lot to be said for good weather!

After a quick ice bath and nice hot shower, I watched some of the NCAA tournament and then headed out for our tradtional post-race steak. This time we went to Ruth's Chris, indulged in a hard-earned filet, shared a bottle of Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon, and savored the weekend.

Six down, six to go! I'm at the split! #7 is Flying Pig in Cinncinati which will be a blast - I am pacing a good friend who is running in his first marathon, and my wife will be running in the marathon relay.

I have six weeks until my next one, and will take at least a solid week off from running - hopefully the achilles is simply sore, nothing more than that. The hamstring feels fine as well, but my body could use a bit of rest. Ironically, my calf feels fine. It's the achilles that has be slightly concerned now, but rest is probably my best medicine at the moment. Tough not to run, but I need to be sensible and err on the side of caution and let myself heal from my marathon wear-and-tear.

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A Man in (the) Full + weight loss