By Jack McDermott
In the event that you all missed me (and let’s be honest, you probably didn’t), I have returned from my European vacation and the Rotterdam Marathon in Holland. My goal was to lead FSU-alum Laurel Slyck to a Boston qualifying time. Unfortunately, she was poisoned by Communists, and thwarted by indigestion.
Starting the Trip I signed up for the Rotterdam Marathon over the Internet and used my credit card to pay the entry fee of 140 Dutch Guilders. I have no idea how much money that is, but if you see me selling hot wieners at the FSU baseball games, you will know that I got a bad exchange rate and needed a second job.
Leaving the Atlanta airport, I boarded Air France (nicknamed “Air Chance”) with hopes of arriving in Frankfurt, Germany. I could not stop laughing when the stewardess gave instructions for a “water landing”. I told the stewardess that if we were planning to crash-land over the Atlantic Ocean, I would rather have a bottle of wine than put my seat and tray in their upright and locked positions.
I was also nervous about the customs officials at the Frankfurt Airport. I had just watched two Spielberg movies (“Saving Private Ryan” and “Shindler’s List”), and could not help but notice that the German guards were not very friendly. Therefore, I washed myself thoroughly in preparation for the full-body cavity search, but was a little disappointed when I received no more than a minor frisking. Apparently they determined that I looked too dumb to be an international jewel thief.
Tooling Around Europe My biggest problem adapting to life in Europe was not the language barrier, the food, the European culture, or that crazy metric system. My biggest challenge was confronting my nemesis – the pay-toilet. Searching for a free public toilet in Europe is like searching for the Holy Grail – there can be only one, no one has found it, and it certainly is an important religious artifact. This being the case, I was terrified to leave the safety of the tour bus in Paris without at least 10 French Francs in my pocket.
My legendary bladder-control problems have plagued me since my youth. Even my high school guidance counselor said I was “all brains and no bladder.” After taking the career aptitude test, my guidance counselor’s advice was for me to pick an occupation close to a bathroom facility. This is why I never became an astronaut. I figured by the time I got my cumbersome spacesuit on, I would have to pee again.
The Race Start Rotterdam was a beautiful city of 500,000 people and 2,000 parking spaces (No wonder they all use public transportation!). The city was also very clean which I found unnerving. I tend not to run well in unfamiliar surroundings, so the night before the race I spread some empty Ho-Ho boxes, beer cans and Snickers wrappers along the course to feel more at home. Not only that, I illegally dumped some worn-out home appliances in a few wooded areas along the route to make me feel like I was doing a trail run in the South. If only I would have stashed some Pepto-Bismal for Laurel, we may have had a fighting chance.
The Race Itself One thing peculiar about the Rotterdam Marathon is that it started at noon. I contacted the GU-Company in California to propose a new slogan, “GU-Packets — they’re not just for breakfast anymore!” The noon start was good in some ways because it allowed me to hit the snooze bar a few more times than normal, but the late start left me famished around noon. I knew I was in trouble when I kept seeing McDonald’s signs and started craving a Happy-Meal at the 15-K mark. I was so hungry I could even have eaten the plastic toy.
However, it was Laurel who had the real problems battling indigestion from the 5K mark onward. You know you are in trouble when you use the Port-a-Lets more than Jack McDermott. She may not have qualified for Boston, but she gutted out a tough race, and won the coveted, “Jack McDermott Bathroom Award.” The only other recipients of this distinguished award were Sue Kelly at the Rock N Roll Marathon and Paul Hiers at the Blue Angel Marathon. Their problem was heat stroke whereas Laurel probably had a bad bagel.
I tell you one thing that did make me nauseous was that blasted metric system. It always amazed me that other countries copy us in every way – right down to our fast-food restaurants and the types of jeans we wear, but somehow the goofy metric system survives. The “Miracle Mile,” the pinnacle in the sport of running has now been reduced to the more mundane, “Fantastic 1500 Kilometers.” No, the “invention” of the metric system ranks right up there with the automatic garage-door opener, and the electric toothbrush. We may have won the Cold War, but around the world, it appears we lost on the metric system.
The Race Finish We finished in 3:58. It was not my best race time, but you try running the marathon in wooden shoes! No, Laurel’s illness took its toll on our race time, but at least this gave us more time to appreciate the scenery (and the port-o-johns for that matter).
At the finish line all females received a pink rose in addition to a finishing medal. It was a nice touch, but I could tell it made some of the race volunteers nervous. Think about it. What should be the proper protocol when a particularly androgynous runner crosses the finish line? In the immortal words of Gertrude Stein, “When is a rose, just a rose?” I did overhear one of the race volunteers saying a jingle in English to one such runner:
Roses are Red Violets are Blue You could be a woman So we’ll give you one too
Into the Future All in all, I did enjoy my European Marathon experience, but I have yet to determine my next big challenge. I know Jeff Bryan and his cohorts were trying to convince me to do the Pennar 40-miler (in June, in Florida, with no water stops.) Let’s just say I am dumb, but I am not that dumb. Good luck boys, I will be with you in spirit (or spirits – as I may have a beer and laugh at the thought of you guys suffering). Until next time – happy trails.