An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

How I survived the 2011 ING NYC Marathon, part one

Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m., got dressed in all my running gear (jet-pack? CHECK!), and stuffed my event-approved bag with snacks and a Smurf-blue Snuggie. A what? A Snuggie. You took a Snuggie to the ING New York City Marathon? I took a Snuggie, a six-pack of Bud Lite and a McDonald’s Happy Meal. How else were the European runners going to know they were in America?

The event organizers advised everyone to wear cheap sweat pants and sweat shirts over their running gear because the four-to-five hour wait on Staten Island would be freezing. Before the race started we’d be able to discard this extra clothing and they would donate it all to various charities. I think this explains why I saw a teenage boy in Bangladesh wearing a pink hoodie that said “Miss Varsity Club Homecoming Queen 1998.”

When I ran that half marathon in Moab I watched other runners struggle to discard those extra layers, many of them getting their shoes caught in the hem of a cheap pair of sweat pants. I immediately thought, come on, guys! It’s 2011! AND THIS IS AMERICA. We don’t have to expend energy removing clothing before a race. DAMN STRAIGHT. You can drop a Snuggie like a cigarette butt. Also? It won’t get tangled in your holster.

Do I have to do all of the thinking?

(Photo courtesy of team member Amy Siegel who said that this was clearly my cape)

The whole team gathered near Times Square and hopped on a bus that took us to Staten Island. We drove over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn and also serves as the first two miles of the race. At one point we all looked at each other in horror until someone said, “THIS IS THE LONGEST BRIDGE IN THE WORLD.” I added, “I HEARD THAT IT DOESN’T EVER END.” Someone else said, “ACTUALLY, IT DROPS US OFF IN VIRGINIA AND WE HAVE TO WALK BACK.”

It was the beginning of all that horrible thinking that goes on when all you can do is wait for the anvil to fall on your head the race to start. To give my shaking hands something to do I started to fill an adjustable waistband with chocolate GU packs that I’d be eating along the route. A few of them. Okay, fine. Ten of them. The team was like, are you running back to Utah? Because that is a lot of GU. And I was like, listen. When you get to mile 19 and wish you had something to snack on, I’m going to point to my waistband of GU with my middle finger.

Better to be over prepared than dead.

Here’s how much I over prepared: the previous day I had pancakes with syrup for breakfast, toast and a potato for lunch, and a giant bowl of pasta and chicken for dinner. So if during the race my body could not find those carbohydrates, I had plenty ON MY PERSON. Do you see all of this thinking?

The team got to start with the first wave at 9:40 a.m. which meant we had to be in the corral by 8:55. That gave us almost an hour to stand around and mumble OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS, THAT SUPERMODEL DUPED US WITH HER HIGH CHEEKBONES. As the giant mass of bodies moved toward the starting line, people began to discard their extra layers. The only problem was that we no longer had access to porta potties, and in every direction there were humans casually pulling down their pants to piss on the ground. Penises and vaginas everywhere. An occasional hairy buttock.

I thought, genius. How else were we supposed to know which ones were Europeans?

There we were, human flesh as far as the eye could see, a bed of discarded and urine-soaked clothing underneath our feet. That’s when I remembered our cab driver from the first night we were in the city. In a thick New York accent he told us that many years ago he and his buddies signed up for the marathon and barely trained for it. On race day when they got to mile 18 and hit the wall a few of them tried to quit. But he grabbed one by the shoulders and said, “ARE WE NOT MEN? ARE WE NOT MEN?

The mother who gave birth without drugs in me wanted to say, you know, being a man has nothing to do with it, SIR. But his accent was so adorable, and his story was just begging for a Sylvester Stallone interpretation. I decided I’d steal his mantra. So I told this story to Erin, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, and said that if we stuck together and hit any rough patches we’d need to ask ourselves that question. And then reach down and scratch our balls.

  • tokenblogger

    2011/11/09 at 11:44 am

    I was really pleased when you finished. I don’t know why I got so excited — it wasn’t like you could even hear me cheering you on all the way down in Kentucky!

  • tokenblogger

    2011/11/09 at 11:46 am

    The first commenter? I am so unemployed.

  • KatR

    2011/11/09 at 11:52 am

    This already might be the most horrifying story I’ve ever heard.

  • Steph at UM

    2011/11/09 at 11:54 am

    You are such a freaking ROCKSTAR!

  • The Dalai Mama

    2011/11/09 at 11:57 am

    Awesome. I will never run a marathon (as fun as you make it sound) because of the arthritis in my knee. But I assure you when I prepared for my first Century–I had many of these same thoughts.

    Glad you were able to channel your inner “Are we not men?” and kick ass. Way to Go!!

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/11/09 at 12:00 pm

    If there was any part of me that was on the fence about running a marathon, you’ve almost fully knocked it into the “Or not” zone. I’m guessing Part 2 of this entry will finish the job.

    Congrats on toughing it out, tho.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/11/09 at 12:12 pm

    urine soaked bargain basement sweat pants …. file that under “things I didn’t know about marathons and didn’t really want to know … EVER!”

  • Amy J.

    2011/11/09 at 12:19 pm

    Someone has probably already sent it to you, but I thought you’d dig this alot!

    Sort of majorly mind boggling you were in this video!!! Seriously you should be very proud of yourself Heather!

  • Amy J.

    2011/11/09 at 12:22 pm

    P.S. Are you serious that people pissed in the street!!?? On the clothes they were supposed to donate to underprivileged people!!??

    I’m so hoping you were kidding.

  • crikkett

    2011/11/09 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve run a lot of races and I have NEVER seen people have to piss on the street before a race. Even at the Chicago Marathon. That’s insane. Every race I’ve done that has gates has had a entry/exit point that was manned and you had to show your race bib (it corresponded to the corral number) to get back in. That sounds like incredibly poor planning. I know I must pee 5x more before a race just because of the jitters/nerves.

  • santa barbara

    2011/11/09 at 12:28 pm

    i’m so sorry that you ended up with an injury, but i’m so excited that you finished! and with a great time! given how little time you had to train, you just totally blew my mind. congratulations! EXCLAMATIONS!!

  • waitimaprincess

    2011/11/09 at 12:31 pm

    The awesomeness that I embody makes me sing “Now that we’re men” from the damn Spongebob movie. Because I am that cool.

    And since when can someone not in jest describe a free for all pee fest upon cheap, donatable clothing (and have others know that it was in jest)? Sheesh

    Congrats on completing the marathon. I’m proud of you; it’s quite an accomplishment, especially in the midst of such maybe/maybenotness beforehand.

  • apostate

    2011/11/09 at 12:37 pm

    I think the Mormon Pioneers WOULD be proud. I mean, they had to commute farther by foot, but they walked and didn’t run. Also, it took them longer than a few hours. And they didn’t have snuggies back then. But averaging everything out, all in all, they would be proud.

  • Yolanda

    2011/11/09 at 12:39 pm

    I think Snuggie just found their new marketing niche. You are more stubborn than I am. I never could have run across that bridge. And I gave birth to a baby sans drugs.

  • lauriek

    2011/11/09 at 12:45 pm

    Congratulations, Heather! I was a naysayer but I am a naysayer no more. And your pacing – all 10 to 11 minute miles. VERY impressive!

  • Failjolesfail

    2011/11/09 at 1:07 pm

    I would just like to point out that I warned you about the penises. Comment #65, here:

  • tokenblogger

    2011/11/09 at 1:20 pm


    Where is she and how did you ever find her?

  • Anu

    2011/11/09 at 1:33 pm

    I am so so thrilled that you finally did it! So happy for you! Couldn’t wait for you to post so ended up searching for your name in the race results. Sorry about the fracture though, that must suck.

  • elozano

    2011/11/09 at 1:45 pm

    okay, seriously, you are my freaking hero! Congratulations over and over again just don’t seem to do justice to your accomplishment this weekend. Wow! and, Wow, again!

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2011/11/09 at 1:50 pm

    This may be the best post you’ve ever written. It contends with my first love, The One Where The Lady Lets ‘Er Rip in the Public Bathroom. Seriously, you captured the beginning of a race with perfection!

  • Steph Bachman

    2011/11/09 at 2:20 pm

    LOVE the mantra. And the GU belt.

    I met a woman who could move her shorts to the side to pee standing up without hitting her shoes. Now that is talent.

    Snuggie = total genius.

  • RoseTattoo

    2011/11/09 at 3:19 pm

    I have stored my emotions away for years, after growing up as the one who could and would cry over a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. and e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

    I teared up when I saw that you had finished the race. Well done!

  • luv and kiwi

    2011/11/09 at 3:57 pm

    Did you cry when you crossed the finish line? I sure did! lol Have the video to prove it. UGLY CRY!

  • SMD

    2011/11/09 at 4:49 pm

    Hysterical quotes in this post; thanks for making us laugh as we read about your sufferfest. How many GU did you eat?
    Looking forward to the rest of the tale.

  • Lauren3

    2011/11/09 at 5:26 pm

    @tokenblogger, I started watching the video also thinking “Oooo, gonna see H-dawg running!” But I think what Amy meant is that she’s SOMEWHERE in there.


    YEAH BOO BOO! LOOK WHAT YOU FUCKIN DID! I cannot wait to hear more about it. Tonight I’m drinking my globe of red wine to you.

  • jenwilson

    2011/11/09 at 5:26 pm

    You are a genius. And you look hot in that Snuggie.

  • Balkan Girl Down Under

    2011/11/09 at 5:38 pm


    Freakin’ awesome, dude! Congratulations!! I could say so many platitudes but I will just say that you’re kickass and you should be so damn proud of yourself for this huuuuuge accomplishment.

    Can’t wait for the next installment, wheee!

    As for people peeing before the starting line, ewwwww. Ack!

  • uvula_envy

    2011/11/09 at 5:39 pm

    Congrats. I am really impressed.

    I keep hearing Devo’s “Are We Not Men? No, we are Devo!”

    It’s been in my head all day since I read this post.

  • LittlestFinch

    2011/11/09 at 5:41 pm

    Now you’ve got to mention the fact that there were actually instructions “when running across the bridge – make sure to stay to the center because there will be people pissing off the side above you and you will get rained on by urine.”

    I’m loving how people are in disbelief about this – runners have no shame – I’ve seen people that have shat themselves during races. No shame.

  • Viastt

    2011/11/09 at 6:16 pm

    Congratulations Heather on finishing the marathon, especially with your injury, you’re hardcore!

    I just had a quick question about the food you ate the day before the race (pancakes, toast, pasta). Since you’ve been Paleo for the last few months, how did you react to the grains?

  • prestonk9

    2011/11/09 at 6:19 pm

    Up at 4:30 and no running until 9:40? Ugh, I would have pooped that potato right in my Snuggie from the jittery nerves from all that WAITING. That sounds worse than the actual marathon, which is rich coming from someone who’s never run more than 3 miles.

    You are a BEAST. In the most flattering of ways, of course. So glad you were able to do this.

  • Amy J.

    2011/11/09 at 6:25 pm


    LOL, I didn’t find her, I just know she’s there somewhere in that Wave 1 footage : ).

    I posted it because of how impressive the entire thing was…you don’t see 47,000 people doing anything en masse everyday. I still can’t believe the distance. I could walk it…maybe. But run it, never in a zillion years, especially in a crowd like that. I’d majorly freak out.

    If I were Heather, I’d get a copy of that video to keep forever…to show her daughters one day. How else can you visualize how “BIG” it was unless you see it from that vantage! : )

  • Naperville Now

    2011/11/09 at 6:30 pm

    Chick, you are badass, especially in the carbs department. Congratulations. A HUGE accomplishment. Time for a nap. Definitely a cocktail.

  • smellen

    2011/11/09 at 7:04 pm

    I saw you! At the 5 mile mark in Sunset Park. You looked happy. Wish I’d been there in the Bronx, when a person really needs a cheering section. Congrats to you!

  • Zannah

    2011/11/09 at 7:25 pm

    I noticed the peeing thing at the Army Ten-Miler last month. There were a TON of port-a-potties at the start, but before we even hit the first half-mile, men (and the occasional woman, but mostly men) were bailing left and right and heading for the bushes to pee. At least they were peeing in the bushes at the side of the road and not ON the road. And not ON the discarded clothes.

  • Jessica Bessica

    2011/11/09 at 7:40 pm

    Perhaps this resonates with your experience?:

    Anyways, congrats!

  • The Bold Soul

    2011/11/10 at 1:00 am

    “The only problem was that we no longer had access to porta potties, and in every direction there were humans casually pulling down their pants to piss on the ground. Penises and vaginas everywhere. An occasional hairy buttock.”

    As someone who pretty much has to pee about 25 times a day plus 2-3 times a night, I often wondered what marathoners did in these situations (even the non-Europeans). But THAT is something they never show on the live TV broadcast of the marathon (thank God!)

    So, did the Verrazano bridge bounce as you ran over it?

  • The Bold Soul

    2011/11/10 at 1:14 am

    And then, I saw THIS: “Paula Radcliffe London Marathon 2005 Peeing and Winning”

    I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go. And who cares if the world sees your hoo-hoo.

  • lnbowen

    2011/11/10 at 8:36 am

    I ran my first and only marathon last summer. In the many miles of dodging suspicious puddles, I think I hit every possible emotion you can have. Around mile 21 I saw an empty stroller in the crowd. The pure rage I felt toward the kid that was choosing not to occupy that stroller was cause for incarceration in and of itself. I briefly considered how my ass was going to wedge itself into it. And the next second I was laughing hysterically at the evil thoughts. And then I saw my friend in the crowd and burst into tears. It was ridiculous. I’m still trying to apply the lesson that I know is there somewhere. BTW, as someone else mentioned Snuggie = Genius! Congratulations on finishing.

  • katliz

    2011/11/10 at 9:15 am

    I had forgotten about the marathon until @blurb mentioned it on Twitter Sunday morning. As I did my weekly political reading over coffee, I kept a tab open with the race tracker so I could see you progress. My husband got rather annoyed with me, because I was giving him updates every 15 minutes as if he gave two shits about it. Whateves.

    I was so happy for you when you finished, and while I’ll never aspire to run (early onset arthritis makes even long walks painful for me), I got so inspired to start making a fitness goal for myself. Brava, Heather.

  • sgigs

    2011/11/10 at 11:16 am

    Snuggie idea is genius.

  • shestumbledin

    2011/11/10 at 12:14 pm

    Congratulations Heather! I hope your foot heals quickly. This is all I could think of when you said, “are we not men?”

  • juliemewood

    2011/11/10 at 1:05 pm

    I laughed out loud at the cape/snuggie photo. Hilarious!
    And thanks for all the thinking. Preciate it!

  • Katesss

    2011/11/10 at 5:07 pm


  • Monkey

    2011/11/10 at 8:36 pm

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around the piss fest. I mean, I guess if you gotta go, you gotta go…but still.

  • SeaD

    2011/11/11 at 3:57 pm

    “You can drop a Snuggie like a cigarette butt. Also? It won’t get tangled in your holster.”

    Dooce, you bring tears to my eyes! And the cape. Oh My Gawd Funny.

  • Canadienne29

    2011/11/12 at 7:46 pm

    I race-result stalked you on race day and totally choked up when I saw you had crossed the finish line – and HOW, faster than I hope to run my first. Totally badass!

    I was thinking of this race report part one that you wrote, Sunday morning when I was running a half-marathon and I saw a dude go hide behind a barrier to drop a deuce. I assume he wasn’t peeing since he squatted. I averted my eyes!

    Also, Reid Coolsaet (Canada’s fastest marathoner who just qualified for the Olympics next year) wrote a great race report about the Toronto marathon last month. He pulled over to take a crap and still came in 3rd!

    I may steal the Snuggie idea for my next race. GENIUS!

  • tallnoe

    2011/11/14 at 4:52 am

    I’m glad someone else got the “Century” comment in there… each time I start a century, I go through all the “WTF AM I THINKING?!?!” moments you went through.

    You rock for doing it, though! Even with the pain of after-race…

  • BrigidS

    2011/11/14 at 6:46 am

    Yikes! They don’t really donate the urine-soaked cheap clothing, do they? I can only imagine how degrading it would feel to be on the receiving end of that. I so hope that isn’t true.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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