The first thing I would recommend if you were considering running a quarantine-half-marathon in your backyard is this: Absolutely don’t do it.
The second thing I would recommend is that if you must do it, don’t run on a day with 25 mile-per-hour winds.
It’s just smart advice. It was hard-learned… because I am not a smart man.
Another thing about me: I am an extraordinarily high-energy person, which has made isolation… difficult. I am 28 years old and have resorted to shooting a balloon into a laundry basket, yelling “LeBron,” which is very mature and everyone in the house loves it.
So, when that viral tweet about a guy running a marathon in his driveway surfaced, my coworkers joked I should do it. Again, they joked about this. I countered with ehhhh I could do a half-marathon. Then I thought, Fuck it, let’s do it Friday.
The parameters of this ill-fated attempt: I like running and I’ve completed a marathon before, among other long-distance races. I used to be very good at running and now I’m in less good shape, but I still work out frequently. I’m quarantining in rural Virginia, in a house backed up against a bay, where the wind can be absolutely brutal and unblocked. The backyard where I’d run my half marathon made for an about .03 mile lap, which meant I’d need to do roughly 437 laps to hit 13.1 miles.
To make things worse: On the day of my attempt, winds were whipping, just nastily snapping at around 25 mph. The kind of wind that creaks the windows. The bay water — normally glassy and calm — had ocean-like white caps and splashed over the bulkhead. A post on this cycling blog equates 15-20 mph wind to a 6 percent incline, which feels about right when comparing my experience to running on a treadmill.
So, anyway, it wasn’t the ideal day for me to do this dumb thing but… anything for a good blog, right?
Here’s the beginning of all this, me live-tweeting innocently, thinking it’d be a good time.
hello! did you see that viral tweet about a driveway marathon? im gonna try to do a half-marathon in my backyard. here’s the setting! here’s the forecast (20+ mph winds… yikes). why? because it’ll be funny content at mashable dot com. and why not. so… uh, let’s go. pic.twitter.com/rHYnisgdmj
— Tim Marcin (@TimMarcin) April 10, 2020
After one mile I knew I made a mistake. You can’t picture running into 25 mph winds until you’re doing it — or at least I can’t. And, to make things worse, running tiny, stupid laps, you face that headwind on countless turns, over and over and over and over and etc. forever.
After two miles, I was keeping a 9-minute 12-second pace and was miserable. Just straight-up not having a good time. Each mile was about 34 laps around the yard. Thirty-four goddamn laps. That mental hurdle was a sonovabitch. I tried to take a video of a lap and the wind was so loud you can hardly hear a thing beyond the wheeeeersh.
I enjoy running. Really! I know some people hate it, but I love the meditative process of putting one foot in front of the other, no real destination beyond the next time you land your feet on earth. But looping yourself around a small, wind-swept yard? Nah. Just nah.
But on I went because I am a proud man, and I told people I would do it.
I listened to podcasts but I couldn’t follow the conversation because I couldn’t escape the thought “I have so many fucking laps left.” I mixed my running up and, every once in awhile, changed direction or dipped into the side-yard. Sometime between mile four and mile seven some birds — what looked like turkey vultures — started circling. Had to be a good sign.
There’s this zone you hit while running sometimes: you sort of zonk out, your body moves itself, and, sure, you’re still sore but it doesn’t actively feel like anything. For that reason — well, that reason and the fact that exercise can ease anxiety — running has been an absolute godsend during the coronavirus crisis. And since I’m in a rural area, I can run on the roads while also easily social distancing.
I found it so hard to reach a zonk state during my backyard half-marathon. I just felt like an idiot going in circles. (I was an idiot going in circles, considering I had perfectly good roads to run on.)
But somewhere around Mile 8, I embraced that idea: This is dumb, that’s totally fine, but keep going. The wind still sucked, but I embraced that suckiness. I put on my favorite album by my favorite band. (Almost Killed Me by The Hold Steady.) My pace actually got faster. Here’s what that looked like (God bless my fiancée, who filmed her partner running laps around the yard like a dog chasing its tail).
The last three miles were a painful, but somewhat enjoyable, blur. Did I feel like a race car, doomed to make eternal left turns? Sure. But you know what? Things could be worse.
I was healthy enough to keep running. My next breath didn’t escape me. Things could be much worse.
Soon enough, the robot voice of my Nike running app alerted me I had knocked out 13 miles. I pulled out my phone and watched as I ticked off that final tenth of a mile. The wind picked up — I swear it was laughing at me. Waves crashed. But I got it done. A relatively plodding 9-minute 12-second pace with lots of breaks to tweet, but it was over. Thirteen point one miles in a small backyard. The Nike app produced a map of my adventure. It was a hilarious glob, lines on top of lines.
“I’m happy my driveway marathon inspired you!” Forrester Safford wrote in aDM. “I decided to do it after reading about a guy in France who ran a marathon on the roof of his apartment building. Crazy times bring about crazy ideas.”
You got that right, Forrester.
Did I eventually get some level of enjoyment out of my run — tiny little circles, over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-etc? Sure. Yes.
But remember what I said at the start of this thing. If you’re thinking about copying my crazy idea: Absolutely don’t do it.