Kansas City PR

After two marathons in St. Louis, I finally got around to my hometown race—the Waddel & Reed Kansas City Marathon. And much to my chagrin, I finished all 26.2 miles without doing anything newsworthy like winning or giving birth to a child after crossing the finish line.

Because this year was the 25th anniversary of my mom’s KC catastrophe, though, I was really just stoked to meet the Giddings Marathon Hypothermia Curse head on and live to tell the tale. After all, for weeks I had been having nightmares that something similar would go wrong during my race. An injury, an ailment, record heat—at one point I even woke up in the middle of the night from a feverish nightmare that someone “Iced” me at Mile 18.

Please let there be no bros.

Although none of these delusions had the nerve to manifest, the race wasn’t totally without dramatic tension. Because I’m somehow incapable of marathoning outside the shadow of some sweeping personal crisis, I discovered at 10 p.m. the night before that I had left my inhaler in Columbia, Mo.—a nearly three-hour drive from where I was staying at my parent’s house in Kansas. Cue immediate panic, followed by a wild brainstorming session that ended in my dad drunk-dialing a late-night albuterol request to his doctor… Or at least to whom he THOUGHT was his doctor. In an unfortunate mix-up, he actually called a bewildered Episcopalian deacon (at a family funeral, no less) to beg for an inhaler scrip and the location of the nearest 24-hour pharmacy. And it took a surprisingly long amount of time for everyone involved to sort out the layers of inebriation and misidentification.

Person who isn’t a doctor: “I had no idea why you were calling at first, but then I assumed you’re just drunk.”

My dad: “Well, Charles, I wish I could say that wasn’t true.”

Maybe you had to be there, but it was the funniest case of mistaken phone identity since the time I accidentally texted my mom, “You look cute today. Sleepover tonight?” By the time I got my hands on the elusive inhaler, everyone involved was ready to take a celebratory puff. The race was on; there would be no five-hour drive for asthma medication. Let that cooling wave of salbutamol sulfate wash through your bronchial systems, team—you deserve something for putting up with my melodramatic freak-out session. I know “exercise-induced asthma” sounds like something D&D nerds like me make up to get out of gym class, but I swear it’s pretty terrifying once the wheezing actually starts.

But let me get back to the race. On Saturday morning, it was still dark when I got to the starting line at Crown Center. The Go! St. Louis marathon is my only basis of comparison, but the Kansas City race seemed well organized, smallish and minimally hectic. I lined up with the 3:50 pace group, which was my realistic goal time based on summer training and my 1:45 half marathon time from May. Really I would have been happy with anything under 4:00, so if I flamed out and fell off the 3:50 pace group later, I could still PR (set a personal record).

It was colder than expected when we started running, which was a pleasant change from the 2011 St. Louis marathon’s record heat. I still have the occasional PTSD episode when I think about that race, or run in 90-degree heat, or taste St. Louis-style pizza, or view any sort of arched monument.  I read somewhere that the ideal marathon performance temperature is 38, which seems chilly but doesn’t surprise me. Although it was 42 to 60 degrees over the course of Saturday’s race, the temperature could not have been better for running in minimal clothing and not having cold- or heat-induced wheezing attacks.

The route

We set out through downtown and back up toward the Liberty Memorial, the only steepish climb on the route. After that, we dropped down into Westport, cruised through the Plaza and trudged up into the tony Ward Parkway neighborhood, where indifferent spectators had the nerve to chug Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s while we slogged past. Those terrible masterminds! Around this point—Mile 14 or so—the hills started feeling tough. Some people like to employ a mantra when they run up a challenging climb, like “You can do this!” “Remember the unborn!” “Jesus is making me run fast!” or whatever. Mine is “PI-ZZA, PI-ZZA, PI-ZZA!” which is more or less the only thing I thought about while I was running up to 75 street and Ward Parkway.

Actually, this might have been the first year I got the eating thing right. Although I only ate a small toast breakfast before the race, I had a really healthy, hearty dinner Friday night courtesy of Lydia, my girlfriend and personal chef. She went to culinary school in New York and can best be described as an amazing cook and tiny delight. Also super-smart, hilarious and willing to grocery shop with me in matching barefoot running shoes—AKA, a nerd-sports “keeper.” And now I’m pretty sure I owe her a lifetime of forwarded kitten gifs after the amazing sandwich she prepared for me while I was scouring the earth for inhalers.

I also started the race loaded for bear with energy gels, though I only ate two new ones that were handed to me at aid stations. Normally I’m a proponent of running with as many pockets and bags as possible, to the extent that my friend Dawn created the following cover design for a future zine about my quest for ideal portage. Let’s just say I take great comfort in knowing that if someone were to mug me while I’m running, it would take over an hour to empty out every possible pocket and shoe cubby.

For this race, though, I eschewed my usual pouch-heavy approach to performance wear and simply carried my third gel in my sports top. Big mistake—somehow I came out of the marathon with deep wounds where the sharp edges of a mysteriously vengeful GU wrapper slashed into my flesh. No amount of Neosporin has since diminished my “felt up by a werewolf” look, and I’m really not looking forward to a lifetime of explaining away the deep scars left by energy gel wrappers. I have to say, I’m starting to wonder if I should just start carrying Peeps.

But back to the race, right? You came to read about the race in exhaustive detail. After waving to Lydia and my parents at Mile 18 in Brookside, my quads started to get really sore, and I had to employ new power jams to get me up the final two-mile climb back to Crown Center. For whatever reason, Meek Mill’s “I’m So Fly” rose to power jam prominence in the past few months, but please don’t take away my Feminist Club tote bag (an actual item I own) if you happen to be familiar with the lyrics. After all, you know my stance on power jams as a shame-free zone.


I don’t remember much of what happened between Miles 24 and 26, but I can only assume that I sprinted easily through Midtown like the world’s saltiest gazelle. Yeah, right. I crossed the finish line at 3:50 and collapsed immediately into a tiny, wheezing ball. Finally, a marathon time I can stand behind!

Thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors of an incredible race. Thanks to Lydia, my parents and TJ for calling in my inhaler. Thanks to all the funny little kids I high-fived along the route. And congratulations to the other 1,330 finishers!