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Pittsburgh Marathon 2014: 20 hour pace group (05 May 2014 at 19:48)
This Sunday was the nth annual Pittsburgh Marathon. I ran it again, again in a ridiculous getup, again tiring you with my again-ness:

Pace Group 20 hours - Photo by Matt S!
Pace Group 20 hours - Photo by Matt S!


"OK," you likely think, "What in the world is THAT?" I know from the reactions of many people during the race (self-selected as runners or running spectators) that this is not super-clear. In long races there's the concept of a "pace group", like if it's your life's goal to finish in 4 hours, there is some pro guy or gal who runs with a sign that says "4:00" and if you stick with that person, then you'll finish in that time. Here the idea is that I am the pacer for the 20 hour finish time (the course is closed up after 6h30m so this is way too long), running along with my entourage of four runners whose life's goal is to finish in 20 hours. Moreover, each of these little puppet-people has a story:

Sam
Sam
Sam is worried about hitting the wall, so he's bringing along lots of high-calorie running goo.

Walter
Walter
Walter has all the latest gear, including a very stylish running belt with four individual water bottles, which can be used to hydrate himself and up to three of his friends simultaneously. He also has cool shades (with the UV Protection sticker still on) and a LiveStrong bracelet.

Peter
Peter
Peter used the bathroom twice before starting the race, but the third time, the line was too long for him to make it to his starting corral on time, so he skipped. He's been regretting it ever since.

Junior
Junior
Junior is registered for the Kid's 400m Fun Run, but the race seems longer than he expected, and where is his mommy?

I attached these characters to a belt using some tomato gardening sticks, strings and coat hangers, and pieces that I designed and 3D printed. That part worked pretty well, but again I underestimated the jostliness of running, and I had to stop frequently near the beginning to repair. (Big ups to Chrisamaphone, who ran the first 10 miles with me, for helping with repairs!) Once the low-quality string knots had been vetted and I figured out how to run while bracing the tomato sticks with my hands and elbows, the only serious construction problem was that the tomato sticks would come out of the 3D printed tomato stick holes and my people would start dangling and spinning and dragging on the ground. Eventually it was happening every 10 minutes, but I got good at grabbing and reattaching the costume while running. Next time (?!), deeper tomato stick holes. Several additional ideas (such as someone covered in Kinesis tape, someone with a DC City Map and binoculars, a CamelBak water backpack for Walter) were cut because I ran out of time. (As usual, I was up too late finishing it and, and then had to be up at 4am for the race!!)

This costume mostly was not as hard as usual to run in. It was awkward to brace everything, but other than some slow bruises in weird places, it really didn't hurt that much. The biggest unexpected problem was the sign in the wind. During the race I realized that real pace group signs are tiny, and made of flimsy bib material. Mine was torso-sized (see picture) and made of foam core. It wasn't that heavy, but in the wind, it was this absurd sail, either pulling out of my hand or doing a metastable wiggle or (usually) pushing back against me. It took so much energy to run against the wind. When it picked up, for the last 10 miles, maybe, I did a lot of walking. Once I was downtown and the buildings were shielding me, I ran again, and I probably had many more miles in my legs. Anyway, the point is not to get a good time. I finished in about 5h15m. Right as I got to the finish line I made a show of checking my watch and the pace sign and the timer at the finish line, like, "Oops, did we go way too fast?" and then consulting each of the puppets to make sure they were okay with beating their goal time by almost 15 hours. They were.

The costume got some good reactions, which I enjoy. It's nice to get cheers from spectators or make kids laugh. Some people, mostly runners if I passed them, were freaked out by the puppets, which admittedly did look like hanged children effigies twisting in the wind. Ain't nobody ever made a hosiery puppet and had it come out not lookin' creepy, so I knew that was a possibility. The sign only had text on the front, and several people that were behind me for a while, eventually caught up and "had to ask, what is this for? what is the cause?" Those people usually did not understand. Then we might run 10 more miles together, which is awkward.

Here's a short video of it in action right before the race, courtesy Chrisamaphone:

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ndm (c-69-251-72-59.hsd1.md.comcast.net) – 05.07.14 14:18:08
The "Peter" character looks like he just got kicked in the nards
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Anonymous (101.172.170.146) – 05.07.14 19:55:30
Meanwhile, women across town are going without their hosen
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masodo (50-195-177-254-static.hfc.comcastbusiness.net) – 06.12.14 09:50:00
Ha Ha - Nice get-up :D
(and they say the indy 500 is "the greatest spectacle in racing")

I have not look in on you in a year and this is what I find? Yeah, you're going strong... ;)
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N7DOT (c-50-139-55-109.hsd1.or.comcast.net) – 06.23.14 16:29:16
Tom 7 Radar is getting hit by the spam waves again... Just look at the comments on "Bathroom? Mushroom!". There is more than one comment talking about 'this game is amazing", when there is no game mentioned there.
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N7DOT (c-50-139-55-109.hsd1.or.comcast.net) – 06.23.14 16:30:25
Oh wait, those are spam comments referencing another spam comment.
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Tom 7 (c-67-186-7-254.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 06.25.14 09:34:36
Yeah, the spam is ubiquitous -- I usually delete them pretty quickly, but I guess I was slacking this week. :) Gone now!
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