Gary Rotstein's The Morning File: Running on empty -- the fake notes of a non-marathoner

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Like most years since 1985, this guy had every intention of rolling out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to get down to the start of the Pittsburgh Marathon and join in the fun of running 26.2 miles, while keeping a journal about the experience.

And like every year, once the alarm went off, we just didn't see the point -- aside from the fact that we didn't register, hadn't trained, failed to carb up, neglected to research the parking/bus shuttle system and would never get up that early on a Sunday unless we needed to suddenly improve a sermon we were to deliver in church after learning God was going to be in the front row.

But if we had gotten out of bed for once this year, our journal might have looked something like this:

Mile 1: Marathoners always make it sound like this is hard for someone who doesn't normally run. Ha! They must just say that to feel better about themselves. I do that myself, when I tell people it's a lot harder to eat two Big Macs in one sitting than it looks.

Mile 3: OK, maybe it's more difficult than I thought. How come those pedicab drivers on the North Side are never around when you need one?

Mile 5: Is that a Pittsburgh pothole I just stepped in, mangling my ankle? I thought Bill Peduto had put an end to all of those. Sigh, just another politician full of empty promises.

Mile 6: Wow, so this is what it feels like to run across the West End Bridge. I always wondered. Nice to be able to cross that dream off the old bucket list.

Mile 9: I don't know why my parents couldn't have been Kenyan. I'd probably be done with this stupid race by now. Thank goodness they give out separate prize money for slow, lumbering Americans like me in recognition of all the disadvantages we were born with.

Mile 10: Ah, the South Side, full of music and revelers and good folks to cheer me on. Such a big boost, just when I needed it. Hold on, is that guy in that alley pausing to do what I think he's doing when he thinks no one is looking? Dude, come on -- even on the South Side, it's still a Sunday morning!

Mile 12: I knew this part would be hard, going uphill to Oakland on Forbes Avenue, but no one told me it would feel like running up the Monongahela Incline. Wait a second, is that 84-year-old Ella Jane Custer coasting by me with a smirk on her face? I thought she was only doing the half-marathon. That's the kind of smugness that gives octogenarians a bad name.

Mile 14: It's always nice coming to Shadyside without needing to search for a parking spot. And I give the spectators props here for being the best-dressed on the route. When a middle-aged man with a nice cardigan, gleaming white teeth and a full head of white hair roots me on, I find that very inspirational, for some reason.

Mile 17: Surprisingly, I'm getting my second wind as I go through Homewood, but I'm worried that if I take advantage of it and start running faster, everyone will think I'm racist. I guess it's fine if I just trot casually and wave.

Mile 20: So this is what hitting the wall feels like. I mean, literally. That little second wind was just a bit of delirium, it turns out, and when reaching Highland Park I needed to stop and throw up, nearly passed out and ran right into a wall in front of a house. The homeowner came out, and I thought she was going to help me, but instead she just glared and demanded to know when the street was going to reopen so she could drive to Giant Eagle. Whatever happened to Pittsburgh friendliness?

Mile 23: I've just been walking the last couple of miles, because there are now blisters on my feet the size of a Pittsburgh Steeler's SUV. People have quit cheering for me. In fact, there's hardly anyone along the route anymore. I think everyone's left to start getting ready for the Penguins game. That's some thanks for the nine hours I've now put into running this marathon.

Mile 25: I give up. It would be nice to say I finished my first marathon, but then what would I have to look forward to as a goal next year? All I know is I need a couple Big Macs, STAT.

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.

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