I told her there were very few marathons close to home, so I had to travel to them.
"A marathon is a 26.2 mile run, right, Dad?" she sort of asked and told me.
"Yes," I confirmed, knowing there was more to come from this future debater.
"Well, why can't you just run 26.2 miles around here?"
"Well, there is more to a marathon than 26.2 miles."
"Like what?" she asked. She knew I preferred to run alone, so I wasn't going to go there.
"Like every couple of miles they have a water stop," I said.
"Look Dad, if you set up a course that passes the house a couple of times, I will set up a water stop," she said.
I stopped looking online because I knew it was going to take all my concentration to win this debate. "Yes, but they give you a t-shirt before you run and a medal when you finish," I told her.
"I could paint you a cool t-shirt and make you a medal," she countered.
I needed to find something she could not do. "Well they have a pasta party and all the runners meet there and talk and eat all the pasta you want," I said. I knew I was in trouble; she was on a roll.
"Yeah, well would you rather eat pasta with me or a bunch of strangers?" she asked. "And are you saying their sauce is better than Mom's?" I was losing this debate big time and I knew it. My only move was to challenge her.
"Okay, I'll set up a course, but you need to do the rest. If you agree to that, I'll run a marathon right here," I told her.
A week later Alex showed me my t-shirt. With permission from John "the Penguin" Bingham, she had a shirt with a penguin painted on the front. The caption around read, "The Lone Penguin Marathon." But Alex did not stop there. She also had a hat painted to match the t-shirt.
I stretched and waited out at the starting line for the race director. I looked around and was thankful to see that no Kenyans had shown up. The race director arrived in her pajamas. She told me she would start the race, go back and have breakfast, then dress and be here in 45 minutes to hand me my next water bottle. The race officially started right on time at 9:36 am.
Now the thing is, this was so easy I forgot that it was still a marathon and I still had to run 26.2 miles. Never take any marathon lightly. I had passed the water stop three times when around mile 16 I remembered why most marathons start early. It was 11:30 am in late June and getting hot. By mile 19 I was doing the death march, and the water stop at mile 20 was now an aid station. Stick a fork in me; I was cooked.
I sat with the race director at our kitchen table after my first DNF (did not finish). Clearly I was depressed. Alex asked me what went wrong. I told her I was dehydrated. Then she asked, "So why are you so upset?" I told her it was the first time I could not finish a marathon, and it was her marathon that I could not finish. Then she said something that only an innocent child could think of. She said, "Well let's just have a do-over."
"A do-over?" I asked.
"Sure," she said, "We do it all the time in school. We'll do it next week, when it's not so hot." And as simple as that she solved the problem and walked out.
A week later, after another great pasta party and a good night's sleep, I got up at 6:30 am. The race director met me at the starting line at 7 am, again in her pajamas. I ran and completed the do-over. Alex added a few extra features this time. She had my wife, Jill, and my son, Justin, cheering me at each lap. She had a finish tape and got Jill to take a picture of me finishing. I received my finisher's medal, and to my surprise a week later I received an official finisher's certificate.
After all was said and done I had one nagging question. Was my marathon record 31-1 or 31-0? Does the DNF count if the race director calls for a do-over? I asked my running friends and the consensus was. who cares?