They say “everything’s bigger in Texas” and I certainly found that to be true of their marathon medals.
What started as an innocent, inquisitive trawl on Google some six months ago to discover “the biggest marathon medal in the world”, somehow morphed into me running Texas Marathon on new year’s day this year and collecting the almost 1.6 kilogram monster.
Bigger than an entree plate and presented in a satin-lined box, this Texan behemoth is a chiropractor’s nightmare when hung on the neck, being officially the heaviest marathon finisher medal going around (even the medal for the event’s half marathon makes most look positively puny).
I’m shallow – I don’t deny it. As soon as I learned of the existence of these mighty pieces of race bling, I knew I had to nab one – even if that meant travelling to the US in the depths of winter and running the marathon in sub-zero temperatures.
Texas Marathon was my eighth 42.2km event inside nine months, so I thought I might be flagging at the tail end of such a big program and after a nearly 15 hour flight from Sydney to Dallas, but, at the start line, I felt surprisingly fresh and ready to go (probably in part due to the icy conditions).
Run entirely on concrete trails snaking through the scenic greenbelt area of Kingwood, near Houston, the event is limited to just 700 runners because of congestion and the narrow paths continuing to be open to other recreational users (not to mention hordes of skittish squirrels!).
For this marathon, I felt an added weight of responsibility. I was representing my country internationally!
Yes, this little Tasmanian Road Runner was the lone Aussie in the ‘Lone Star State’ event, lining up with participants from all over the US, as well as a handful of other internationals from countries including Mexico, Nigeria, Singapore and the UK.
So, as the super-patriotic American runners (including a significant number of US military representatives) – hands on hearts – sang ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ with typical gusto through frosty breath, before the start gun, I almost inaudibly hummed ‘Advance Australia Fair’ and jiggled about to try to keep the biting chill at bay.
On that note, I think most of the other runners were secretly incredulous of my scanty TRR gear, while they were bundled up to run in tracksuits, scarves, beanies and even buffs and balaclavas!
Actually, come to think of it, some were not-so-secretly bemused, as I did hear several runners exclaim: “Oh my God!” as I overtook them in my meagre TRR singlet and shorts.
The Texas Marathon course consists of four 10.46 kilometre loops and takes in some lovely views of Lake Houston.
It wasn’t too many months ago that the area was under many feet of water with the record-setting flooding that occurred in and around Houston, but I found I had to look very hard to find any lasting evidence of that.
I was simply very happy to be running yet another marathon in yet another part of the world; to be enjoying the flat course and invigorating conditions, and chatting with the many other runners who were fascinated to learn where I had come from – so much so, that one even insisted on taking a mid-race photo of “a real, live Tasmanian”!
While I had initial reservations about a four-loop course where you cover the same sections eight times, in reality, once ‘in the zone’, it became a positive experience simply counting them down. I knew I was making gains; reeling it in.
Completion of the first two laps (a half marathon down) felt a bit of a doddle. I was flying. The third felt a degree tougher, though not too bad, but I was starting to feel the pinch and had dropped pace come the back half of the final loop.
With the chilly conditions, I hadn’t felt the need to take a single drink for the entire race – probably barmy, given what is always drummed into us runners about hydration, but my body simply didn’t feel like it required it.
Nearing the end of the marathon, I was at least an entire lap ahead of a good many of the other runners and it was encouraging to hear their whoops of genuine joy for me as they realised I was close to the finish line: “Ya’ll doin’ so well. Ya’ll almost there. You go girl!”
I was ecstatic to learn that I had finished in 37th place overall and was the lucky 13th female to cross the line and finally get my still-frozen hands on that whopper medal
Written by: Annie Robson