There is a marathon among the many Mom and I have run together that we love remembering. It wasn't a personal record or a scenic course. We didn't meet any new and interesting people, but it was still one of the most memorable. The reason for this is because it was one of the absolute worst marathons we have ever run. It was so bad, it was funny. You know that delirious, hysteric kind of funny where you have to laugh to keep from completely giving in to your misery and curling up into a ball on the ground? That was it.
In 2003, Mom and I flew to Ozark, Missouri (pronounced "misery" for the purposes of this story), to run the 1st Annual Ozark Mountain Marathon. This was a point-to-point course, on the shoulder of a highway which traveled through the Ozark mountains (please note the words "highway" and "mountains"). I was planning to run the half-marathon, but because the course was laid out as it was, I would be able to run with Mom the whole way, keeping her company for half of her race.
The morning of the race was cold and rainy. And when I say cold and rainy, I mean it was 48 degrees and pouring sheets. We huddled under the porch of some country restaurant near the start waiting for the rain to pass. The race director postponed the start in hopes that the rain would clear up, but it did not. Why not back out, you ask? Well, that would have been the sensible thing to do, but we'd traveled all that way so... we intended to run.
Eventually, the race director started the race despite the constant downpour. It was so hard to step off of that porch, and I don't know that I have ever been so cold in all my life. I kept thinking I would warm up, but I never did. Mom and I tried to forget about the numbing cold, but it was increasingly harder as the rain continued.
It was made worse by the fact that we were running along Highway 65. A highway! This meant that cars and semi-trucks were flying by, throwing more cold, wet wind into our already frozen faces. The hills (mountains) were unending and we many times we could not even see the top when we started to climb.
It was a long time ago, so I can't remember every detail, but I do remember how unbelievably cold my hands were. I could not stick them inside my gloves and sleeves because those places were soaked too. I think Mom and I tried just about everything all to no avail. Everything was wet and the temperature was dropping.
Another fun fact was that there were no port-a-potties along the course (highway). This meant that when we had to go, we went on the side of a highway, baring our buns for all the world to see. Twice.
Mom asked me at one point if I could go the entire marathon with her. I considered it, but I knew there was no way. I had only run one marathon at that point, and I wanted so badly to get out of that weather. I hated to tell Mom no, but I didn't see how I could go 13 more miles when I reached that blessed finish cone (for a cone on the side of the highway was, indeed, all it was). Mom said she might stop too, but I encouraged her to keep going. I knew she was just as miserable as I was, but I also knew she would be mad at herself tomorrow if she didn't finished the race.
When we finally did reach the half-way point, I was thrilled. I ate a cookie and got some water and climbed onto the bus that would drive us back to the start line. I promised Mom that I would be back with some dry clothes, coffee, ibuprofen and whatever else I could think of as soon as possible.
The bus had to wait on all of the half-marathoners before driving back to the start. I was the last one (out of 19), but for some reason the driver did not know. As I sat there, wet and cold, I began to shiver uncontrollably. When the bus finally started driving the 13 miles back to the start, my entire body was shaking and tensed up from the cold. I had no idea how I was going to unfold myself and drive to our hotel, but I managed to do it once we finally got there. I cranked up the heat in the car and drove at lightning speed to the hotel. I figured I had a reasonable story if I were pulled over.
I pulled off my wet clothes to see bright red skin from head to toe. I took the hottest shower I could stand, and the quickest too. It was still raining, and the temperature was steadily dropping. I grabbed a dry sweatshirt, ibuprofen, food, and some coffee from the lobby and then drove at lightning speed once again down hwy 65 looking for the lone runner that was my mom.
When I found her I did a little Dukes of Hazard maneuver to park in the median and then ran across the highway to Mom. She had warmed up a little and did not need the sweatshirt, but she took the food, coffee and ibuprofen I offered. I cheered for her at several spots alone the route until I finally parked behind the marathon finish cone (no clock, no supporters, no real finish line, just a cone and a man sitting in his truck with his stop watch) and waited for Mom. She had a very steep hill to climb before she reached it, so when she got within ear shot, I began screaming and cheering for her as she climbed her last, miserable hill. She finished in 9th place out of the 10 marathon runners who ran that day.
While waiting for Mom to finish running, I had gone to pick up her finishers medal and my award (despite being last, I won first place in my age group), so I drove Mom straight back to the hotel where she could shower and get warmed up. We were so glad to be finished, and we were so glad that we did finish despite the misery of that run Missouri.
I'm not sure where or what we ate afterward, but I do remember driving around looking at antique shops and then laughing at the thought of getting back out into the weather. We got dessert and drove straight back to our hotel where we got in bed and stayed there until it was time to go home.
The next year, as I was looking on www.marathonguide.com for a marathon, I noticed that the Ozark Mountain Marathon was crossed out. It had been so terrible, that it had been discontinued. They picked it back up in 2009 under a new name and with a different course. I offered to sign Mom up to run it, but she declined. I'm not sure why.