Marathon Story 1 of 3 – Sneaking In

November 1, 2009

It was July when I first figured I could do it.  Something about it had always appealed to me. I suppose I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it (and anything else I set my mind to). Fast forward to today and I still had the idea of running a marathon in my mind.

If I was really going to run a marathon, I would have to get serious.

First things first, Google ‘local marathons’ and how to run them.

I soon found the Sacramento CIM (California International Marathon) which was scheduled for December 6th, 2009 at 7am. 35 days away. Plenty of time to get in shape.

Find marathon. Check.

The only problem is that registration closed the day before. October 31st.

How’s that for irony? At first I saw that as a clear sign I should not run this marathon. With a bit of backwards rationalizing I decided that it would be a perfect oppurtunity to accomplish a slightly smaller goal of mine…

To sneak into a marathon!

Just kidding.  I wish i could say that sneaking into a marathon was on my bucket list, but it definitely wasn’t.  So now, along with not being prepared to run this marathon, I would be sneaking into it.  Great. I think this may be the definition of stupid idea.

Enough of the negativity. Onto the next step.

Google: “How to run a marathon.”

The internet being the amazing place that it is had all sorts of suggestions on how to train for a marathon. The entries ranged from first incredible first hand accounts like this one to full-on 6 month training regimes.  Unfortunately none of them were geared towards training for a marathon in 35 days. Drat. I certainly did not have 6 months to train.

“I’ll play in the rugby tournament in AZ in two weeks (November 17) and feel out the marathon from there.” I thought to myself knowing full well that I had only run a total of 10 odd miles since July.

Fast forward two weeks of sedentary living.  The tournament came around and after playing both days I somehow felt pretty damn good. Sure the whole weekend of running was probably equivalent to running about 7 miles. But still, I felt great.

At that point I didn’t make a decision either way on the marathon.  On my way back to Davis from Phoenix, AZ  I stopped by my friend Yasar’s place in LA.

One night I decided to go for a “training” run with the goal to run a long distance. Luckily it was night time and after running up to the Hollywood sign I got lost. This forced me extend my training run. 2 hrs and 10 minutes later I found his place.

Doing some math, I figured myself at a 10 minute mile pace to have run 12-13 miles and, surprisingly enough, I did not feel that bad the next day. Sure I was sore, but I could walk. In fact, we volunteered at a local Habitat for Humanity house and all I could think was:

“I got this marathon business in the bag!”


Fast forward 10 days. It was now a week before the race.  I  had put an 8 mile run around campus under my belt as well.

For the folks counting at home, we’re pushing 20 miles in training runs in the 6 months leading up to the race. Plus, the two day touch rugby tournament. That should certainly put my total miles run above the golden 26.2.

Training. Check.


Feeling ok, I decided to do a bit of due diligence and see if sneaking into this marathon is kosher. At first I thought I could just show up with a windbreaker on and run with it the whole time, pretending my racing bib was underneath,  but after reading the website I saw very clearly in bold letters:

Your bib (number) must be showing at all times or else you will be subject to disqualification from the race.

So much for that idea.  Not entirely discouraged, I searched through the site a bit more and found a place to sign up as a volunteer the day before the race. My eyes lit up.

This was be my ticket in! I didn’t know exactly how I would finagle my way into the race legitimately, but there had to be a way!

After a couple emails I was now signed up pass out bibs the upcoming saturday. Sunday @6am being the official start.

At this point I was still not sure whether or not I would be running, but I figured I could make a more informed decision the day before while I was volunteering.

The Saturday to volunteer came around. I rolled out of bed at 11.15a, after somehow managing to stay up until 6a doing the wrong kind of carbo loading.

“No way am I running this race, I can barely even get up to volunteer.” I thought to myself.  Regardless, I had a commitment to fulfill as a volunteer so I got it together and headed to the convention center.

Upon walking in, the crowd was absolutely buzzing with runner freaks. Everyone was milling around sipping lattes comparing notes on another’s rigorous training schedules.  Not wanting to hear a word of it I reported for duty and immediately started talking to the volunteer next to me who was getting updates on the USC-AZ foosball game.

The work was surprisingly fun and afforded an easy way into the race!. I had the bibs for all the registered runners whose last name started with Sa – Zz. Every time someone came up for their bib, I would wade through what seemed to be 1,000 bibs finding the one meant just for them. As long as 1 out of the 1000 runners whose bibs I had didn’t show up, I’d be in! This “bib security” allowed me to relax into my volunteering duties for the next couple of hours.

The runners certainly provided some entertainment for me. There was a good looking girl  passing out bibs next to me that alot of the male racers seemed to fancy.

These spandex clad nerds would walk up trying to be smooth to get their bib and say something like “Is this for the half marathon?” She’d shake her head no. “Oh no, I signed up for the wrong race! Oh well. I guess I’ll run it anyways.”  Then the runner would smile, head to his buddy for a high five and walk away.

That’s when I would say something to her like, “Those guys are dorks, wanna make out?” Of course, she would oblige. Every time.

Then there were the other runners who showed up in their shortest shorts complete with water bottle belts, just in case somebody blew a whistle signaling a one-time-only head start for those who dared be ready for such an occasion.


All in all, I enjoyed the volunteering duties. It started wrapping up, which meant it was time to assume my racing identity…


In my box there were still about 250 bib packets unaccounted for. Perfect. I had my pick of aliases for the run.

I started flipping through all the names looking for one that really matched up with my running character. One top contender was Major Willis.  I began visioning myself running 26.2 in army fatigues and a green beret.

“Yeah, I could swing that.”

Just then, an interesting fellow approached my booth, and I just knew it was Major Willis himself.   Sure enough, he said “Hi I’m Maj…”

With my hand already on the packet, I handed it to him before he could say “reporting for duty.”

The Major was a bit taken aback but must have just figured I was a professional volunteer.


The final minutes of the registration ticked away, and just before 5 o’clock I snagged a bib!

We’ll call him Andre’ Schlemmer from Oregon. Looking and feeling as German as possible I strolled to the registration booth, bib in hand. It was a bit awkward because I had talked to Jerry, the volunteer at the registration booth, for a few minutes before and certainly hadn’t mentioned that I was running the race. Let alone that my name wasn’t actually Luke, but rather Andre.


Either way, Jerry got me (Andre) checked in and gave me race t-shirts. Piece of cake. It was really looking like I’d have to run this race afterall.


As the racers started clearing out, and the volunteers packed up, I set my bib at my booth and jogged over to the Gu booth to get some of the energy gel that would keep me going through the race, should I decide to run it.  After loading up with Gu packs, I made my way around to the other booths to see if I could score any other free race shwag.

Nothing. All the other promo booths had closed up shop. Bummer.

On top of that, upon returning to my booth, my worst nightmare had materialized.

My bib was gone!

“Is this some sort of sign that I shouldn’t run the race tomorrow?”  I thought to myself incredulously.

I couldn’t believe it! Someone had picked up the bib I worked so hard for! Well, technically, the bib Andre had worked so hard for. But still! Someone had to run in his honor. I had to find that bib.

Just then, I noticed the Lead volunteer, Amy, putting what looked like racing bibs into packing boxes.

I walked by her acting cool, but couldn’t bring myself to inquire about the bibs. After all, she knew me as Luke the volunteer…

Before I had a second to say anything, she handed her box of bibs to another who promptly put a lid on it and sealed it with tape.

“Noooo!” I thought. Game over.

I had one move left. I had to ask her directly about Andre’s bib.  I turned to Amy again and blurted out: “Have you seen Mr. Schlemmer’s bib? I had it at my booth.”

Her face lit up.

She pulled it out of the folder that was pressed close to her chest and said “I thought he lost it! You almost gave me a heart attack!” She was pretty old so I had no choice but to believe her.

And with that, Amy handed me Andre’s bib.


With a huge sigh of relief I pocketed it knowing full well that I had to run the marathon tomorrow…

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