‘Twas the night before the marathon, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The runners were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of race morning danced in their heads.
Their Garmins were plugged in and charging with care,
And arranged on the floor was what they would wear:
Singlets and split shorts, and throwaway shirts;
Compression socks, racing flats, and pink running skirts.
They dreamed about Deena and Meb in their slumber;
They dreamed about PRs and flapping bib numbers.
For twenty-six miles makes it all right
To fall asleep at eight-thirty on a Saturday night.
After loading with carbs and foam rolling with zest,
I settled in for a night full of sweet… blissful… rest.
When all of a sudden there arose such a racket:
I jumped out of bed to dump out my race packet.
What time does the race start? Seven-thirty or eight?
What corral am I in? What if I’m late?
Did I pack my race belt? Did I set my alarm?
My IT band is tight. I can’t feel my left arm!
I sifted the swag with growing frustration.
There was nothing but lotion and race registrations!
Where are the safety pins? There should be four!
I got down on my knees and started searching the floor.
When what should appear in the strangest of places
But the D-tag I forgot to secure to my laces!
Where are the instructions? Did I put it on right?
What if it falls off? Is it too loose or too tight?
With trembling hands, I fixed the chip to my shoe
And climbed back into bed… Wait! Where is my GU?
Do I have the right flavors? Do I have enough?
I ran to the dresser and ransacked my stuff.
Sport beans and gels formed piles of provisions,
As did hats, visors, and sunglasses (I couldn’t make a decision).
There were arm sleeves, plastic trash bags, and throwaway gloves
For hot, cold, or rainy—
Or all of the above.
So out of precaution, I thought it best
To practice, one more time, getting fully “race dressed.”
I pulled on my singlet, shorts, socks, and shoes;
I jammed all my pockets with Salted Carmel GUs.
I pinned on my bib and I slapped on my hat,
My arm sleeves, my gloves, and over all of that
I pulled on the sweatshirt I’d toss in the first mile.
I stood there and looked in the mirror for a while.
I looked like a champ. I looked ready to run.
I looked ready to celebrate all the training I’d done.
I hopped once or twice and even jogged in place,
Just to test what would bounce (and what wouldn’t) in the race.
Then with a sigh, I undressed once more,
And, piece by piece, laid everything out on the floor.
I set my alarm—actually, I set three—
Five, five-ten, and five-fifteen.
I spoke not a word and climbed back into bed,
And pulled the covers up over my head.
I closed my eyes, but my stomach was in knots,
And my brain was churning with worries and thoughts.
What if I cramp? What if I’m slow? What if I’m running and I have to go?
What if it’s hard? What if it’s hilly? What if I’m hot? What if I’m chilly?
What if it rains? What if it snows?
What if I’m stuffy and can’t breathe through my nose?
What if my GPS fails or my legs feel like jelly?
What if the GU is too much for my belly?
Oh! How the doubts crept into my head!
Oh! All those doubts! How they filled me with dread!
But then I remembered: Those doubts were all wrong!
The doubts were a lie, for my body was STRONG.
I had followed my training. I was fit—lean and mean.
I’d had good runs and bad runs and everything in between.
I had experience to gain and nothing to lose;
All that was left was to strap on my shoes.
A race is a challenge. It’s hard. So what?
Everyone needs a little kick in the butt.
And—finally—I fell asleep, with a smile on my face.
Happy racing to all and to all a good race!
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.