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JOIN ME AT MY BULLSHIT SITES

Are we there yet? Six hours and 41 minutes later, the answer was Yes!

2008 Marathon for Music
She Did It!

Long absence, yes, so I should explain where we’ve been: Cheryl finished her second Disney marathon Sunday—and her first Annual Marathon for Music: she was doing it to raise money for her youth orchestra: you can still make donations here. In the Women 35-39 category she came in 1,088 th, with a time of 6:41:14, and survived it far better than the first time: no crippling aches this time, not even any tears, just a post-marathon hobble and a vast appetite for beer, which, darling lush wife of mine, she more than quenched at Epcot later between the Carlsberg stand and Germany’s Biergarten Restaurant. Chivalrously, I sacrificed and helped. (Meanwhile I see the world went to piss in a horn brisket in the six days we were gone, although nothing too surprising: the usual barbarities in Beirut, Kabul and between Arabs and Jews in Gaza, crashing Wall Street, Bush continuing to fulfill scriptures—“Thou shalt make an ass of thyself in the Promised Land”—and the Supremes continuing our slog back to 1920s corporatism. Take me back to Disney.)

First emergence at Animal Kingdom

I mentioned that I began training with Cheryl to do the marathon some five months ago but never mentioned that I dropped out half way through. I couldn’t put in the increasing hours week after week and keep my various jobs and a few other commitments, so the marathon had to go, and with it my pride, my self-esteem, my sobriety, my belief on the Virgin Birth, the seven dwarfs and the Wild Bunch. I’ve been commuting between home and Betty Ford ever since.

On the other hand dropping out saved us babysitting trouble when it came time for the thing, although the kids and I didn’t see Cheryl after I saw her off on her 3 a.m. bus (the 18,000 participants had to be in their corrals at Epcot’s starting gates by 4 a.m. for the 6 a.m. fireworks that started it all) until, to the sound of Jamaican steel drums and impressively sincere-sounding encouragement from every Disney employee around, she was making her way through the Animal Kingdom four hours and about 17 miles in. She looked radiant, I guessed—correctly—because it’d been the first seven straight wakeful hours she’d enjoyed without kids in about three years. She was a great sport: she smiled at seeing us there even though her spell was broken.

Hat tip to Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer

My moment of heroism? We were standing by actual bathrooms, which were being mobbed by runners (heard on the trail: “Do not use the port-a-potties”), so while we waited for Cheryl’s appearance I sent Sadie in to claim a stall and stay there until she’d hear her mother’s voice. The scheme, viciously unsportsman-like on my part, must have won her seven seconds overall.

After running a painful half mile ourselves to catch her again in the park’s parking lot, it was off to MGM—no no no sir, not MGM anymore; it’s now “Disney’s Hollywood Studios”; what, is Disney thinking MGM’s evocation of Sam Goldwyn and Louis Mayer too Jewish for its antiseptically multicultural ethos?—to catch her there. We were driving.

I couldn’t resist picking up a woman along the way. Actually, we’d pulled off by the side of a highway right by the runners’ lane, I figured we could catch Cheryl there as well, but there was a woman, lilting and sighing beneath a tree in the hundred-percent-humidity and by-now 75-degree air. We were just shy of the 19th or 20th mile.

Her name was Fran. She was from north of Philadelphia. Her son had already finished the marathon, it was her first (she’s 64!), she was feeling fine except for dizziness and stomach issues, and she was crestfallen—so close to the end, and she couldn’t finish, after having done everything right—the training, the diet, the gear. We took her back to her resort at Saratoga Springs, did our best to lift her spirits, but words are crap in these situations: Fran was disappointed, she had the right to be, and indulging her disappointment was the most consolation she could give herself.

We made our way back to MGM (it’ll always be MGM to me) and there was Cheryl again, approaching Mickey’s big hat, still in fine shape but a bit deafened by the entertainment along the way: between the dj’s, the bands, the pumped-up encouragements, the cheering, the Disney characters and the honking, they don’t let you have a moment’s peace.

My interest in doing the marathon with her had been the attraction of spending six straight hours on a course with a good audio book in my ears—a history of torture maybe, or some incomprehensible Cormac McCarthy. Forget it: there’d be no way to hear a word. Maybe that’s why the ranks looked so much thinner after the 23 rd mile. Half the participants had gone deaf.

No, I’m exaggerating: 12,964 men and women finished the race, or about 70 percent of those who started, and most of them, Cheryl included, were grateful for the noise along the way. It’s what lifts them through the agony and sling-shoots them through the dead zones between noisy spots, on the highway especially. “That,” Cheryl said, “is where it’s hardest, where you’re entirely on your own, and where you appreciate the cheering sections the most.”

Rounding out the Tower of Terror

It was exhausting, all this running around and driving between parks (hey, I had to contend with an adolescent girl’s Tower of Terror moods and my four-year-old’s strum und drang (strum for the hecticnesss of it all, drang for his mommy), not to mention that damn stroller every time we parked and unparked. So that’s what Cheryl’s daily marathon with these two is every blessed day of the week. (No, I’m exaggerating again: it was a fine day all around, except for the Tower of Terror shit. Nothing ever fictional about that.)

Finally, the finish line. Just our luck, we couldn’t get in for a good visual, so we went up the line a hundred yards or so and waited there. Just then, my good son Luka said he couldn’t hold it anymore. Had to pee. Had to pee. Well, what the hell. I told Sadie to let him drop his pants right there against some mesh, his back to the seventeen thousand people looking the runners’ way, and give it a whiz. Luka was actually in the act of lowering his pants when Cheryl appeared around the corner, and Luka, heroically, put his pants back on and rushed back for the final cheer. I’m not sure, but I don’t remember him peeing for the rest of the afternoon. Either hat or the gathering storm above us preëmpted him (the clouds were Pinot Noir-thick and slashing with lightning).

fter Cheryl claimed her luggage and chatted with two friends who’d been waiting for her at the finish line, we walked the mile back to the car—a very nice touch, I thought, this business of having to park a mile away to reclaim our marathoners, who themselves had had to walk about a mile and a half before the race to get to where they were supposed to be. All told, a 29-mile affair. It wasn’t over: after knocking out for a nap with Luka, they both dragged themselves out for five or six more miles of walking that evening at Epcot and the victory dinner at the German Beergarten, where Cheryl did her best.

Before:

After:

There’s nothing left to say but congratulations and thanks for the inspiration. Now go to Cheryl’s orchestra web site and donate a few pennies to the cause! (And now back to the end of the world.)

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