The story of Marathon Matthau

I loved the Seabiscuit nickname while it lasted. But, unfortunately, Seabiscuit was replaced.

Born of an ill-timed picture, hunger, and exhaustion, this week, friends, I give you the story of Marathon Matthau.

For those of you who don’t know who Walter Matthau is, this is he:

Walter Matthau

And now that you can all put a face to the name, I’ll begin.

A year and a half (and no lost pounds) after I began running and cycling, my friend suggested we try a 10KM race. Initially, I hesitated. But because of her nagging enthusiasm and the promise of free pizza at the finish line, I agreed.

I convinced my husband to join us. He, while in great shape, doesn’t enjoy running. He prefers playing sports, lifting weights, and cycling to jogging long distances. So, although he committed to running the race, it was mostly to support me, not to achieve a personal best or a fitness goal.

I, however, was in it to win it. I set a goal time for myself. It was stupid ambitious, but I trained for it.

Not going down

The day of the race, it was pouring rain. And, although it was June, it was a cold rain. To summarize, my first race experience went like this:

“I’m cold and hungry.”

“I hope the free pizza doesn’t get wet.”

“Do squishy shoes make you run faster?”

“Whoa, I just passed an old man with a really long beard!”

“At least the rain hides my tears.”

“Whoa, I just passed a child!”

“I am so hungry.”

“My legs hurt and I’m hungry.”

“The child just passed me.”

“The old man just passed me.”

“Was that actually my stomach?”

When I rounded the last bend and saw the finish line, I looked up at the clock. I was within seconds of my goal time, but my legs wouldn’t move any faster. The cold rain and hunger had taken their toll. I finished 10 seconds slower than my goal time. Hmph.

Exhausted, I took my medal and went to find the free pizza while I waited for my friend and my husband.

10 minutes later, I saw my husband round the bend. I finished my first slice, and ran over to cheer him on. He glanced my way and smiled as he crossed the finish line.

3 minutes after that, my friend came round the bend. As she approached the finish line, she broke into an all-out sprint.

What I thought we looked like when we finished.

What I thought we looked like when we finished.


A few days later, the race organizers posted pictures from the race. My friend’s picture was great. She looked like The Flash. She was just a blur as she passed the finish line.


My husband was smiling at me in his picture. The rain had stopped just as he’d approached the finish line, and a brief ray of sunlight made his muscles gleam. Basically, he looked like Didier Drogba.

didier drogba


And my picture? Well…

The camera caught me as I was looking up at the clock, mouth open, mid-exhale. I did not look like The Flash. I did not look like a footballer. The bags under my eyes were huge. My cheeks were enormous. My left leg swung precariously out to the side.

I looked miserable.

I looked like a grumpy old man.

I looked like Walter Matthau.

Marathon Matthau

The birth of Marathon Matthau


At first, I fought the Marathon Matthau name, but it was here to stay. Eventually, even I embraced it. After all, I’d (nearly) met my goal, and I’d finished the race ahead of everyone I knew (except Gazella).

So what if I looked terrible.

I was Marathon Matthau, and this grumpy old man would race again.


What we really looked like when we finished.

What we really looked like when we finished.







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Get off the treadmill, Superman

Ok, quiz time.

At your gym, there are two rows of treadmills. In the second row, you see a lady running limping quickly on the 2nd treadmill from the wall, blissfully watching A Few Good Men on cable TV. You want to go for a quick run. Do you:

A) Avoid the treadmills on either side of the gimp

B) Pick the treadmill next to the gimp and try to outrun her

C) Just walk away, despite the urge to ask the gimp how she runs on that angle

D) A or C

Look. Here’s the deal. If you pick a treadmill next to someone when there are other empty ones to use, it’s the same as picking the stall next to someone who’s mid-crisis in an otherwise empty bathroom.

I hate it when the gym is busy. In fact, on days when my only options are a crowded gym or a run in sleet, I choose the sleet. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a go-to gym time for me in the winter is Saturday afternoon. Generally, it’s just me and the receptionist.

Ok, and Gazella DeVil. Hmph.

One Saturday afternoon, when our snowbanks were taller than me in stilettos, I headed off to the gym for a nice long run on the treadmill. When I got there, I noticed that all of the treadmills were empty. I could enjoy a nice long run without Gazella!

I hopped on to the 2nd treadmill from the wall and found the movie channel. A Few Good Men was on. Excellent. I hadn’t seen the movie in it’s entirety (I know, I know), so I was pretty excited.

About 20 minutes into my run, I could sense someone was behind me. Sure enough, a huge, muscle-bound dude who I will call Superman hopped on the treadmill to the left of me.

Ugh. Really?

I glanced left to get a better look at him. I could tell he was a lifter. In fact, I could tell he hadn’t ran in a very, very long time, because he looked like this:

Dem twigs tho!

Dem twigs tho!

And runner legs look like this:

Holy tree trunks, Batman!

Holy tree trunks, Batman!

I tried to ignore him and get back to the film. But as I glanced away, I noticed Superman’s speed. It was 0.5mph faster than my 6mph.

My inner lion growled.

Superman, the gimp, and the treadmill

So I, naturally, increased my speed by 1mph.

But then Superman increased his speed to 7.5mph.

Are you kidding me

So I upped my speed to 8mph. I felt a twinge in my short leg, and unwillingly glanced left.

He’d increased his speed to 8.2.

So I increased mine to 8.5.

By then, I was starting to hurt. While I remained a calm blue ocean on the outside, my innards were screaming. But I was determined to beat Twiggy. After all, he’d interrupted my bliss.

After about 15 minutes, Superman hit Stop and keeled over.

“How do you do this? You’re not even sweating!” He exclaimed.

Relieved, I exhaled heavily and let out a sigh that sounded kind of like a “huh”. I slowed down to 6mph and dropped an earbud.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“How long have you been running?”

“About a year,” I said.

“That’s incredible,” he replied, with twitchy lifter-legs.

“My husband got me into it.”

The mention of my husband ended the conversation. Super-legs had (finally) got the hint. He hobbled off to the free weights and I, once again, didn’t get to see A Few Good Men from start to finish.

never know the truth

In case you don’t know, the answer to the quiz is D.

But the lesson, folks, is that if you choose B, don’t skip leg day.

do you even lift

Time for some victory pizza.

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Seabiscuit, a bus, and a judgmental bunny

Saddle up, folks, Seabiscuit’s trotting to the gate.

Seabiscuit and his jockey, Red Pollard

Seabiscuit and his jockey, Red Pollard

Time passed, and eventually I found myself in a solid workout routine. Spin, run, rest. Spin, run, rest. I even made it around my neighborhood (thank goodness for circles) a few times. I was feeling pretty smug. The short, scoliosis-ized, lob-sided individual who no one thought could be a runner was becoming one. I certainly wasn’t breaking any records, but I was consistently improving. I even had a new nickname, Seabiscuit. Mmm, biscuits.

One spring Saturday morning, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a jaunt around the neighborhood. It was so early, my only companions were the birds. As I trotted away, I noticed that I felt pretty good.

No. I felt really good.

For the first time, I wasn’t digging deep to get myself through the workout. I wasn’t thinking about lions, gazelles, food, or drinks. In fact, for the first time in as long as I could remember, I wasn’t thinking. And it was glorious.

no thoughts

I rounded the last bend in the road to my house, and glanced to the left. I saw a bunny, blissfully grazing in the morning dew.

“BUNNEHHHHHHHHH!” My inner 4 year old cried with glee. Unfortunately for me, the little bunny  was on my short side. And while I was turning to look at the wee lagomorph, my long leg caught the edge of a heaved sidewalk tile.

Face. Concrete. Body. Sliding. Concrete. Ow.

I remember looking up and seeing the bunny, unflinching, looking down at me. There was nothing but judgment on his face.

This picture might not be quite to scale.

This picture might not be quite to scale.

And then I saw the bus.

I stared into the bunny’s deep brown eyes.

“Not today, War Admiral.”

I didn’t check to see if anything was broken or if my pants were ripped. I could feel blood, but I refused to look down to check how much. Seabiscuit would  finish this run, and Seabiscuit would sprint it.

“Jerk”, I said as I passed the judgmental bunny, still looking at me over his shoulder. The bus was now a block away. I looked like garbage,  but at least I was still running.

run you beautiful gimp

“You’re fine”, I said to myself.

I sped up. The bus was now half a block away, and I could see my house.

As I passed the bus, I noticed there was no one on it but the driver, who didn’t even glance in my direction. My crisis had gone completely unnoticed to, at least one of, its two witnesses. And I had finished the run.

An honest runner will tell you that, to be a good runner, you have to be a bit nuts. Sometimes, the only thing that gets you through a bad run is what’s going on in your head. It can be almost anything – mind games, talking to imaginary friends, or thoughts of post-run drinkskies. That day, for me, it was channeling a tiny, wounded, underdog racehorse.

RIP, Seabiscuit.


Seabiscuit's grave

P.S. For the record, I love bunnies. I have two, lovely, jerk bunnies named Dean and Maggie. Watch for upcoming posts on the terrible and wonderful world of lagomorphs.




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The pain is real: 8 things to expect from your first spin class

The pain is real.

The pain is real.

My other fitness love is cycling. But, like running, the journey would not be an easy one.

Fitness classes were included in our gym memberships, so my husband suggested we give a spin class a try. I knew how to ride a bike, so I shrugged and mumbled an affirmative “hmph” between bites of nachos.

We arrived to class a few minutes early. My husband was helping me with my bike set up when I first laid eyes on McSvelty, the instructor.

I could try to describe him in words but, instead, I’ll just show you:


He actually looked like this

I knew I was in trouble.

And so, I give you, the 8 things to expect from your first spin class.

1) Your instructor will be really, really, ridiculously good looking.

Do not be distracted by the pretty. The beautiful, spandexed-out being at the front of the class is on a mission to end your life.

2) You will sweat so much that simply wearing clothing will annoy you.

Resist all urges to be buck-naked.

3) Yes, that smell is you.

Accept it.

4) There will be at least 3 psychos who are actually enjoying themselves. 

These people “woop” and “woo” and “hoo” with every increase of the resistance dial. Hate them.

5) Your heart will explode.

It won’t, actually. But it will feel like it.

6) You’ll call for help, but no one will hear you.

The music is loud, so your newbie whimpers can’t be heard.

7) You might cry when the cool-down track starts. 

It’s okay. Just let it out, man. Tears are only eye sweat.

8) You’ll be unable to sit comfortably for a week. 

It’s called Saddle Seat. And that pain is real.

Death by spinning

Just let it out, man.

When it was over, I stumbled off the bike and, unable to stand on my own, leaned against it gasping for air. My surroundings retreated to a vague mist while I struggled to catch my breath. I was sure it had escaped me for good.

I was so focused on my desperate fight for survival, I didn’t hear McSvelty.

“Let’s give her a round of applause, team!”


Wait. What? Applause? I looked up to see the whole class looking at me, applauding me, smiles on their faces. I knew I’d be back the following week.

As I limped out of class on rubber legs, I saw Gazella DeVil, frantically beating her treadmill at rapid-fire pace.

treadmill of destiny

Short leg and all, one day, I would catch up to her.

But first, I needed an ice pack and a donut.


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