“America—you gotta love it!”

~My fiend Jim, after I explained to him what a beer mile is

The week began with rest, at least for my legs, though I was busy finishing up my tenure at North High School, smoking ribs for the neighbors on Memorial Day, and planning presentations I am to give at conferences in Bosnia later this summer. Monday afternoon, I took my son, Titus, to get Thai food and see a movie. While we were eating, someone who follows me on social media came up and introduced himself. His name is Jeff, and he told me he’s part of a plan to create a documentary film in which participants would run every street in the city of Omaha. The idea as I understand it is to help shed light on who is comfortable in which environments; Omaha is a study in red lining, a city that John Stewart once referred to as a “racist neopolitan” for its clear and very intentional segregation. This is a city that literally built a hotel in the middle of a street in an attempt to keep the Black community from going downtown. It largely seems to have worked. It’s also a city that has built interstates to segregate portions of the population, and which has more than twice as many “priority roads” in the white part of town than in the Black or Hispanic sections. I told Jeff I would be eager to participate in his project. I’m excited to hear from him again.

Early in the week my friend Adam pledged $.01/mile for me for the rest of the year. I was touched. That sort of thing is oddly motivating to me, and knowing that, presently, every mile I run raises $.26 to help resettle Afghan refugees in Nebraska will only encourage me to keep my mileage high. Thank you, Adam.

Wednesday I ran seven and a half miles.  Thursday morning I went out for ten miles at race pace, determined that, hills be damned, I’d keep each mile under nine. I finished ten miles in a time of 1:24:45, having succeeded and even having run my final mile in 8:06, my fastest of the morning. Yet the pain that popped up between my second and third metatarsels and radiated into the anterior side of the toe box on my right foot was unmistakable—and scary. If it persisted, I thought, it could take me out of my marathon.

Friday’s run was an easy eight miles, pain free, after which I went to a coffee shop to work. While I was working, I got an email from my friend Deanna telling me that the 9th annual Berry Street Beer Mile, which she hosts with her husband, Greg, was on Sunday. I’d never aspired to run a “beer mile” before, but it donned on me that it’s something I hadn’t done, and I prefer for there to be as few of those things as possible. Besides, I reasoned, I’m in my taper. What could it hurt?

For the uninitiated, a “beer mile” involves drinking twelve ounces of beer as fast as you can (chugging it) and then running 400 meters, stopping for another beer, running another 400, and repeating this process until 1600 meters and four beers have been devoured. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but so is running twenty-six miles, right? My wife dropped me off at Greg and Deanna’s home, where a large tent was set up and a large crowd had gathered. The event was far more organized and professional than I expected for a neighborhood fun run, right down to the race swag which included branded coozies. I was told there were trophies for the top three places. I like trophies. I like winning. So I decided to compete. On Deanna’s advice, I drank raddlers, which met the requirement of being 5% ABV but were less carbonated and slightly sweet, making them ideal for rapidity of imbibement.

I got the first one down quickly, then ran belching violently down the path. Three other runners flew past me, and I was deeply concerned that these were “pros” and that I was out of my depth. I soldiered on with difficulty, knowing that I had the running part down, even if the chugging beer part was something I hadn’t practiced since college. I passed one, and then another, putting me in second place. After my second beer, I was in first. On the way down the gradual hill for my second 400, two runners again passed me, but I could tell they were hurting. By the time I had run half a mile, I was in the lead and at the turn-around points could see that I was widening the gap. “You’re making great time,” shouted Greg with his stop watch. In my last 400, he yelled out that I could break nine minutes, which is apparently a feat. I increased my cadence, pumped my arms, and resisted the urge to vomit–a disqualification, I had been warned. I finished in first with a time of 8:49, sucked wind for a minute, then grabbed a water and went back out to cheer on other runners. “You have the third fastest time ever for this course,” Greg congratulated me, then added “Jerk. It was my time you beat!” We laughed. I’m not sure if there are more beer miles in my future or not, but I’m glad I got to check the experience off of my proverbial list of things I had yet to do, and the trophy is the largest award I’ve picked up from running to date. Sonja rolled her eyes at me when she saw it, but Titus and Zooey were impressed.

There are three rest days scheduled as part of my taper next week. I suspect that it’s going to be extremely difficult for me to not go running three days out of seven, but I know that rest is an incredibly important part of the training process. Grandma’s Marathon is only two weeks away, and I’m pleased with how my training is gone and really couldn’t be more excited. I know that taking time off my feet will increase my ability to perform well, and my likelihood of finishing uninjured, of finishing at all. I’ll do my very best not to go for a run those three days, and I’ll report back to you soon, of course. Thank for following along on the journey. Have a terrific week, everyone!

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