How to Crack the Vermont City Marathon

What follows is an outline for a book that I thought about writing; I was going to get a booth at the Expo next to the kettle corn stand and sell it for $20 a pop.

Chapter 1: Why do we run?

Since the dawn of man–since that time when humans migrated across the continents in their quest for food, shelter, and gold or other wordly treasure–man has been running. Man has run against man, and man has run against time –from Phippides’ pyrrhic peregrination to declare the victory on the bloody fields of Marathon to Pre’s pushing the pace on the second-to-last lap in those fateful 1972 Munich Olympics. (Now put in a bunch of big ass, out of place, pictures showing Shorter looking back, Pre in full 1970s hairy blossom, Bekele with large quads and #1 sign, and RitznWebb doing various RitznWebb things). (Continue on to write about cavemen and mammoths or sabre-tooth cats, ancient Greeks–lots of ancient Greek shit–and then migrate, ever so gingerly and delicately, to Arthur Newton then to Paavo Nurmi and the walking Finns of the 1920, slowly now to Lydiard with Snell, then Bowerman with hairy, inexorable Pre, then Shorter on his own with poofy hair and aquiline nose and then boom…RitznWebb, Gen-Y-altitude house-X-box360 breakroom fandango.) Finally, end with a tear about the lost boys. Boom. Pulitzer stuff baby.

Chapter 2: Running History…..blah blah blah .

Chapter 3: The influence of running in the Movies. (put in Chariots of Fire picture as well as a picture of the movie Running Man– take up 2 pages with that)

Chapter 4: The History of the Vermont City Marathon — a Tradition of Tolerance, Justice, and Multiculturalism.

For nearly 17 years, the Vermont City Marathon has been the crown jewel of Vermont marathons. Year after year, glorious weather and a happy, tolerant crowd have set the backdrop for the race which has been nothing but a vivid example of fierce, tolerating competition. One need look no further than the fine list of overall winners and top ten male finishers through the years to conclude that the Vermont City Marathon is one exciting race: Bob Hodge, Wejo, Mike Slinskey, Byrne Decker, Mike Wardian, Casey Moulton, Kevin Beck, a smattering of Skirack*FOOTNOTE elites, and Duncan “donut skip did dee doo dah” Larkin. (blah blah blah…go into the history of Vermont with some references to: Calvin Coolidge, Ben n’ Jerry, General Ethan Allen, Michael J. Fox’s palatial estate in Woodstock, and the filming of Me, Myself and Irene.)

Chapter 5, THE DAY BEFORE — Getting Ready for the VCM the Right Way.

On the morning of April 14th, 1861, the streets of Vermont’s Queen City, Burlington, were awash in crazed people running everywhere, anxious to get the news out– some perhaps doing 6:00/miles on the very streets that you will be running down. The nation had been torn in two: Fort Sumter had been fired upon and Major Anderson had surrendered his tiny Union garrison to the newly formed Confederate Army under General Beauregard–rumored himself to have been a 16:00-5K man. When you arrive to Burlington in May of 20XX, you may very well see the streets awash in a similar hubub of activity, but this time it will be a celebratory, peaceful, multicultural one. This town doesn’t hold back. The first stop on your list the day before should be for a dainty lunch at one of Burlington’s finest eating establishments — Smokejacks! After a lunch of cheese and after experiencing a bit of a Chardonnary wine buzz, get in your car and drive up the hill to the Vermont City Marathon Sports and Fitness Expo. Located at the Sheraton Hotel on Williston Road, the Vermont City Marathon Expo is your place to pick up your bib as well as take in the fine vendors selling various running essentials. But before you go inside, you have to experience two things: 1. The kettle corn! Just outside the door, to your right is a booth for the best kettle corn west of the Winooski River. Stop for a quick bag; it’s good carb loading for that big race coming up. 2. The EMS kick ass vanagon. Located somewhere in the parking lot will be a huge, EMS green machine. This thing is the fruits of at least one year’s worth of marked up, overpriced revenues for Patagonia fleece (in ‘Save the Seals’ red and turbulent, ‘Magellan Strait’ dark blue). You have to climb the wall and high-five one of the EMS sales associates who, without a doubt will either be a very attractive woman in Chuck Taylors with Heidi hair, a bandanna, and a black tank top or a skinny, flying Tomato-type man with a red soulpatch who will be quick to use the word whisker, “stoked.” Once you’ve got your ‘corn and your shot of adrenaline porn, it’s time to step foot into the expo. For your convenience, I am providing you a map of the expo. My team of VCM researchers have went to great lengths to compile this map and I wish to thank them here (Joe R., Ron, and chim-chim). Peace out homies.

Probably the first thing you need to do at the expo is pick up your bib #. The bib, or race number as us elite runners like to refer to it as, dates back to the Pelopponesian Wars when Alcibiades, a disciple of Socrates and a brilliant orator and satirist in his own right, recommended that each member of the Athenian army wear numbers to mark their imminent death before their failed attack on the Sicilian city states. So go get yours and as you grab it, imagine yourself as Athenian private on an assault boat, on your way to lactic immorality under the onslaught of countless Sicilian arrows similar to Dog Red Beach, under MG-42 spray in that classic movie, Saving Private Ryan. Imagine the door to the ancient boat opening as you race, heart beating fast, head-on, into glory! You are an Athenian, you detest Sparta; down with Sparta and 4:00 marathons! Victory or death!

Now, open your eyes and take in the spectacle. Test your chip on the mat and while you are at it, shake Bart Yasso’s hand over on the right. Bart’s not there to shake your hand, but rather–in full temple worm, emaciated form–to hand out bibs to the secret elites.

The secret elites are a Templar group of sub 2:40 runners who think they are billy bad asses out to prove something to the world. One of them may very well be a satirical man who makes people cry and raise their pitchforks; he usually has nothing good to say. Avoid him.

But still look for the Templars. They will receive their bibs, free dinner tickets, a genuine handshake from Yasso, and will be led down a secret staircase to a secret room where they are sequestered and given free Gatorade and a course run-down on butcher block paper before being led back upstairs for the symposium on how to be a billy bad ass sub 2:30 marathoner.

You should make an effort to attend the symposium. There you will see people like Peter Flemming show up late, and then complain to the elite coordinator (in Baby Huey fashion) about not being placed up on the dais next to Wardian. Trumped by Wardian! For shame, for bloody shame! He may even offer his hand like a dead fish. You never know! Go for it. Try to shake Flemming’s hand. Are you an Athenian or a Spartan?

After the symposium, make your way back into the main hall and visit some of the vendors. Be sure to purchase this book by Duncan ‘donut skip did dee doo dah’ Larkin, as well as some of da Clif Shot Blokz ™ and a ‘Stick.’(TM)

Don’t forget as well to stop by Skirack’s booth. It’s on the left as you face Yasso. Say hi to the elite team as they stretch, drink water, and adjust their flashy Cobra Kai singlets, and be sure to check out Skirack’s tents and their John Masters limited edition Himalayan climbing boots ™.

Your last stop at the expo will probably be to check your chip one last time. I can’t state enough the need to check your chip! You don’t want this adventure to be for not. You gotta be counted, you gotta be remembered!

You should then head back down to Church Street for your evening. The street will be full of Burlington’s finest on a Saturday night and the whole wondrous scene cannot be missed! Look for the UVM dandies in their top hats and frock coats as they walk arm and arm with their fickle lovers singing beautiful ballads about crewing on the Winooski. You may even find the adorable UVM barbershop quartet, slicked back and clean cut, crooning that lovely UVM fight song, “Verdant Fields! Hear Ye my Glorious Mountains!”

Chapter 6. The Course — Ben n’ Jerry, Peace, Love, Justice, Taiko drums and that Bitch called Battery Hill at 16.

Note to self: tone down the satire. Ease up on the cynicism. Stick to the facts and pour on the Rick Steve ‘back door’ emotion. Put the readers on the course. By the time the sun rises over the hulking shoulders of Mount Mansfield, you will be standing on the starting line down in Battery Park. You will be surrounded by thousands of your peers most likely clad in garbage bags and disposable Hazmat suits. Off to your right, you will see grandstands where the announcer will attempt to rally the crowd into a frenzy. About ten minutes before start, a veritable who’s who of Vermont notables will grace you with their presence. Sure to appear will be the mayor of Burlington, Peter Clavelle. He’s got one hand on the hammer and the other on the sickle. He drives a Volvo and he saves the fucking whales. Brian Dubie will follow Pete. He’s the anti-Clavelle. He rallies the old guard of Vermonters –a flannel-clad cantankerous group of flag-waving, ‘good ole’ day’ curmudgeons who stoke wood stoves while bitching about the exodus of New York commies led by Comrade Representative Bernie “Ilyich” Sanders, their Moses. Dubie flies fighter jets and wears a Top Gun jacket. He crisply salutes the flag by the dawn’s early light. Everyone else on the podium looks around hoping that the independent, avante-garde newspaper paper, Seven Days doesn’t catch them in their moment of embarrassing patriotic vulnerability. The start commences promptly at 8:05am and you are off! Mike Wardian and Byrne Decker move to the front taking the early lead… Flemming gets pissed at the second dis…. (serious race strategy advice to follow)

The first 3 miles — Turns and Tempered Times

Think of the first three miles as an urban adrenaline rush. You will be bolting down Pearl Street and then Willard Street carried on by the throng. If you aren’t careful, you’re first miles will be 10-30 seconds per mile faster than goal pace. Ease up here. Tell yourself to run slow and you will run probably your first mile about five seconds faster. In these first miles, you get a quaint tour of the nice houses around Burlington and will for sure see cute, enlightened kids sitting in Radio Flyers next to their liberal parents; they’ll all wave to you. Bohemians love to wave.

Ignore them.

Miles 4-8. Poop zone.

At mile four you leave the enlightened comfort of the scions of the Sierra Clubbers and head out into a vast mess that Burlingtonians refer to as the ‘Beltline.’ These miles are hard pavement out on a lonely road that borders putrid swamp and the “Intervale.” You get no cheers and will be lucky to see one or two stalwart supporters out there. General Ethan Allen put his house out here a long time ago, and since then, everyone else has decided to stay the hell away from it. You’ll intersect some underpasses where people play bongo drums but that’s pretty much about it. The highlight of this section is seeing the elite Templars as they clip along going the opposite direction. Flip them off. You turn around up a slight hill at mile 6 and usually turn around into the wind; be ready for this.

Miles 9- 15.

Fast running past Dean’s house Mile 9 brings you back into the crowds. You’ll swing down Church Street hauling ass. A garage band with kids and zits is always right by the Old Navy store on your right. Wave to them.

Miles 10 to 13 are all South of town. You’ll run down by Oakledge Park and past Howard Dean’s house. He likes to show up for the marathon and he will probably put on a puppet show for you–pretending that he is a common man from Vermont instead of that silver-spooned scion of a New York banker. He’ll probably have a wheelbarrow out and a LL Bean flannel shirt caked in fake garden mud for you too. Give him your best presidential bid-ending scream. The 1/2 marathon point is in Oakledge Park and get ready to smile for the camera, because as you come around the turn, the photo company will be there to take your visage.

Mile 15-16, Taiko drums, Jean Luc Picard, and the Hill.

As you get closer to mile 15, you’ll hear the hill. Battery Park Hill is about 300 meters at about 13%. Get ready for it. Hopefully you have saved some tokens for it. If all else fails, and you are dying, look for Jean Luc Picard. He’s this guy

and is like the mac daddy kingpin of the Taiko gang that roams the streets of Burlington late at night; those bastards, always looking for someone or something to beat. Remember Jean Luc–he will guide you in these tough times, like he guided the Enterprise through the Banadalanian asteroid belt.

Miles 17-22, The Death Zone. Without a doubt, this part of the marathon is the worst. All marathons begin to suck in these miles, and leave it to the VCM to lay in the most boring parts of the course during these miles. I don’t even know how to describe the course here. You weave in and out of housing areas; the tolerant, Caillou-watching Sierra Club kids from downtown devolve into blue collar, Cartoon Network ingrates who spit watermelon seeds at you. NASCAR stickers appear; you have left the green zone. Weave in and out…turn…turn…turn back…turn again…SUCK. Save it all for here.

Miles 23-26.2 Cruise control. By mile 23, you are on the bike path that parallels Lake Champlain. Now is the time to cruise. Your legs are toast, but realize that it’s rolling, shaded downhill from here on out. The Queen City has returned and she is caressing your sweaty forehead telling you that all will be ok. She tolerates you. As a word of advice, you can run off the asphalt on a small gravel path to the right of the path — do this. Just at the finish, you will have to double back for the dreaded .2 mile slog. Get ready for this, because the inexperienced will think that they are done when they hear the crowd. You run a gauntlet of a crowd for this .2 and they will carry you into the finish. There you have it. The rest is predictable post marathon playbook — tin foil Zorro capes, disinterested teenagers snipping your chip off your shoe, and landfilling bottle after landfilling, petroleum-wasting bottle of fresh spring water. Oh, I forgot the landfilling hunk that is a finisher’s medal.