Name of the race: Beat the Blerch – East
Where: Lewis Morris Park, Morristown, NJ
Date: Sept 26, 2015
Time: 9:00 am
Distance: 13.1 miles (official distance); ~11.8 miles (actual distance)
Entry fee: 10K: $55
Swag: Gender specific tech shirt, finisher medal, headband, free race photos, temporary Blerch tattoos, meeting Matt Inman, The Oatmeal himself!
Post-race Food: CAKE!, Nutella sandwiches (on whole wheat bread), potato chips, grape flavored Gatorade, bananas, marshmellow with chocolate drizzle and bacon bits, and water
Performance: Overall: 212/923; Gender: 80/578; Age Group (30-39): 35/262
Weather: 64 degrees, 83% humidity
I BEAT THE BLERCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m a big, big, big fan of The Oatmeal. I don’t remember when I discovered it, but it was pretty much love at first sight. The nerdy science-y humor struck a chord in me and I’ve been a follower ever since. Last year Matt Inman came to New York to give a presentation and to autograph his new book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. I was thrilled that I got a chance to meet him last year and incredibly jealous of the lucky, lucky 2000 runners who got to do the inaugural Beat the Blerch races in Carnation, WA in 2014. When I told him how envious I was, Matt said, “I think we’re going to have one in New Jersey next year.” I was very hopeful. When news that Beat the Blerch would be held in New Jersey, Ben and I scrambled to register. We told our friends about it and Belle decided to register too.
My plans for Beat the Blerch Half was 1) HAVE FUN, 2) eat cake & Nutella, 3) sit on couches during the race, 4) take lots of selfies and photos, and 5) HAVE EVEN MORE FUN. This is a very different strategy than what I usually do in races, even in races where I’m not necessarily running for a PR. I absolutely did not care about my pace, the time, or anything like that. I simply wanted to have the time of my life out on the trail and beat the blerch. My marathon training from Run Less, Run Faster wanted me to run 10 miles at 8:38 pace. I couldn’t care less. I wanted to go out, run, have fun, and be happy while eating lots of cake and Nutella. (How can you not be happy while eating cake and Nutella? Impossible, I tell ya!)
We dropped Bandit off at Belle’s place, where her saintly fiance watched over Bandit and their own puppy for several hours. The three of us took off for Morristown. Early Sunday morning meant no traffic, so we arrived at the satellite parking lot quickly at 7:45. The volunteers working the parking lot were great. They directed us where to go and made sure that everyone parked tightly to ensure that all the cars would fit in the lot. Some jerk cut the line for the cars and parked where he felt like parking, but a volunteer yelled at him, and forced him to repark the car. We all cheered when he went back to his car. There’s nothing like socially shaming people into good behavior. The line for the buses were long, but it moved quickly. There were seven school buses that made endless round trips.
There were a few people in costumes and they were a big hit! Of course, there were Blerches. I couldn’t wait to see them out on the course.
We had just enough time. We arrived to at Lewis Morris Park. A few hundred people were milling about. Loud music was playing and later there was a live band. We got our bibs and swag, checked our stuff, and then it was time for the race to start. At the start of the race, there was a great pre-race appetizer of marshmallows with chocolate drizzles and bacon bits. Of course, I had one.
At some point, the first wave was sent off. Ben was up front and took off the fast runners. Belle and I hung back a bit and took our time running. We were there to relax, so we ran an easy pace. We admired the views, the trees, and chatted.
The first aid station was incredible. There were Nutella sandwiches (cut into fourths), cake, and magical grape beverages, along with a couch. I scarfed down a Nutella sandwich, drank the magical grape beverage, and rested on a couch. I fully intended to take advantage of every aid station. Then we ran some more. I ate more Nutella sandwiches and cake at the other aid stations. Took some selfies. Goofed off. In general, I had a grand ol’ time! I ran with Belle just under six miles. At that point, I decided to take off and go a little faster.
All throughout the course, there were Oatmeal comic posted up on trees. They made me smile.
It’s completely hysterical having couches on the trail and believe me, plenty of racers (er, resters?) were using them. I sat with a Blerch and she urged me to stay with her. “We’re ordering a pizza. They’re gonna set us up with Netflix. Doesn’t that sound great?” Yes, yes, and yes! I had a lot of fun chatting with a Blerch and eating cake at the aid station. Other people wanted the couch too, so I had to leave with the Blerch plaintively wailing, “Where are you going? I thought you were going to hang out with me?”
The course is pretty tough. You had to watch your feet the entire time because of all the rocks and tree roots. Several people went down (including Belle, luckily she just had a few scrapes, surface injuries). There were steep inclines that forced runners to walk. Many sections were single track, which made passing a little difficult, especially when the half marathoners ran into the 10K walkers. There were a number of times where other runners and I were trying to pass a long snake of 10K walkers, made trickier like a steep incline or decline. One overly ambitious runner tried to run down a steep decline and pass several people. He stumbled and lost his footing. I could hear him stumbling right behind me and I screamed in anticipation of being taken down by him. I would have tried to move out of the way, except there was no place to go to on a narrow track. Luckily for the both of us, he caught himself in time and didn’t run into me. People need to be careful when passing on a single track trail. The 10K walkers were self-conscious about being in the half marathoners way. While I was stuck I overhead someone say to her friend, “I feel bad for these people who are trying to do something. We’re just walking.” I automatically answered, “We’re all doing something. Including you.” Beating the Blerch isn’t about being the fastest runner. It’s about going out and doing something, anything, other than sitting around and being a blerch. Walking, running, it doesn’t matter. We’re all out beating the blerch.
I don’t know what people expect from (trail) races, but there were strange ideas. Some weeks before the race, someone posted a query on Facebook asking about what the race was going to be like. Apparently he had only done Tough Mudder-like races, so he wanted to know what obstacles there would be out on the course. What I love about The Oatmeal’s wicked dry sense of humor is how he does not tolerate fools lightly.
The other major complaint that I frequently heard from people was that it was a trail race. Yes, it was a trail race. Something that very clearly seen on the newsletters and emails sent to us by the organizers and mentioned frequently in the Facebook threads and tweets by Beat the Blerch. It’s not the organizers’ problem if you don’t read the information. And because it was a trail race, people complained about the rocks and the tree roots. It’s a TRAIL race!!!! That’s what a trail race involves! Actual trails, where you need to be careful about your footing. It’s not a freakin’ road race. At some point I was running with a girl who just had it with the trails. We were, unfortunately, running at the same pace for the longest time, so I couldn’t shake her off. For a few miles I heard her loudly howl to anyone who was within her vicinity, “This is stupid! I had enough! What race has rocks?” Um, a trail race does. Listen, I get that people have bad days and bad races, but that’s no reason to subject other people to your trail temper tantrum.
Around Mile 8’ish?, I saw The Oatmeal in his green Blerch costume running ahead of me. I caught up to him and ran with him for a bit. We chatted and I took a selfie. Other runners joined us and we had a fun conversation making fun of people who complained about silly things. I joked around with Matt by complaining that there was dirt on the trail. For a moment he thought I was serious and I hastily assured him that I was 100% joking. He was relieved because he was going to lose it if I had been serious. Yes, Matt ran the entire half in his giant green Blerch costume. I loved that I got to run with Matt for a portion of the run. After some number of minutes, I decided to go on ahead.
To run Beat the Blerch, you need to have the right attitude that this race is about having fun. It’s not about getting a good “time” because you won’t. The course was mismarked, so the half marathon was more than a mile short. The mile signs were consistently a little short. I saw the sign for Mile 6 and then a short while later I saw a sign for Mile 7. I wasn’t upset over a short course. It was a tough trail and being on it a little less was a bit of a relief. The course marking and my Garmin were so off, I had no idea when exactly I was going to be done with the race. I frolicked until I saw the end.
Eventually we made our way out of the rocky trails, and I saw that the finishing area was close by. At this point, since we were on a flat dirt path, sans rocks, I picked up my pace and ran as hard as I could to the finish line. As usual I heard Ben cheering for me. I got some food, found Ben, and we sat on the grass waiting for Belle to finish. She finished in great spirits. Her photo of her coming down to the finish line looks great! She enjoyed herself. This was her first half in a long while. She had to stop running for a while because of an injury, so she’s just starting to get back into running and racing.
After we all got some food and our stuff, we decided to head back home for a much needed tasty brunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Jersey City. Nothing tastes as good as those Huevos Rancheros after a long grueling run.
I had a great time at Beat the Blerch. It was everything I wanted it to be (well, I wouldn’t have minded some more Blerches and couches). I wanted to eat cake, Nutella, and take selfies and that’s exactly what I did. Beat the Blerch is a goofy race. It’s about having fun. It’s about eating cake. It’s about drinking magical grape beverage. This is not a race for people who want a PR. It’s not a road race. It’s about going out and beating a blerch by running or walking. Life is a celebration. Eat cake and Nutella and then go run.