I think I've ran the past four Debbie Green 5K's. This year the course was a little different. Some light uphill action during the first mile and then it flattened out. The humidity was pretty rough, but I did the thing in 26:46 (8:38/mile pace). I'm relatively content with that.
First, let me praise the people who put this thing on. They do a tremendous job. People have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to coordinate all the logistics. I checked out the website, the coverage on WTRF and WTOV and of course I read the article from this morning's Wheeling Intelligencer. They seemed to focus on the "sights" and "sounds" of the race. I'm going to take this opportunity to focus on the "smells." I've often heard the term "Wheeling Feeling." I will now introduce a a new term which is unlikely to gain traction. Let's drop the "h" and the "e" and add an "l"... whaddayaget??? The "Welling Smelling."
Just before the start I opted to line up in the front, just off to the right. Last time I got caught up in some flailing walkers and nearly tripped over a bunch of kids who decide to engage in an all out sprint for the first 1/4 mile. This yearly problem could easily be averted if you stagger the people into 3 separate groups. Runners, competitive walkers and then walkers. Regardless, it was pretty congested near the start line. A slight hint of B.O. wafted through the crowd. I'd define this particular scent as "elderly shirtless male with a slight hint of armpit and sternum."
So we rounded through the maze of the Wheeling business district (mostly parking lots and law offices). As we passed the police station, I could detect the faint smell of pork. Yeah I know... the pig reference is kind of weak, but I represent the only race entrant with the following perspective... strict kosher, self-hating, devout atheist, circumcised Jew.
As we ran up Chapline St., I detected a slight hint of cheap beer emanating from the breath of a flabby man seated on an apartment stoop. Somehow he was able to force feed himself a bag of Cheetos while simultaneously clutching a 7/11 Monster Gulp of Mountain Dew. As he launched into a spattering of errant applause, I witnessed actual particles of orange dust floating near his face. Each micron of artificial snack dust appeared timelessly suspended in mid-air, somehow in defiance of the laws of conventional gravity.
As we began the brief downhill descent onto Main street, I could see the Wheeling Intelligencer building in my sights. As I approached the Nutting fortress... KABOOM, it hit me. The first encounter with belligerent sewage. This one's the rough equivalent of the scent found in Morristown, Ohio on the final day of Jamboreee in the Hills. Yes, it's commonly referred to as the "acrid stench of incest" - shit, beer, piss, vomit, with just the slightest hint of tampon. It crushes you with this take no prisoners attitude. It begs the following question... What did the repeated homosexual prison rapes of Andy Dufrane in the Shawshank Redemption actually smell like? Well... look no further than the main entrance to the Wheeling Intelligencer.
As we ventured into Center Wheeling, I could see the 2 mile marker. We passed through the central market area and I smelled the notorious "Coleman's Alley." It's that tiny midway alley where the fish market employees travel back and forth. Hauling massive buckets filled with batter, these hair-netted women are metaphorically forced to "walk the plank." As the Pittsburgh Pirates descend into a potential 10 game losing streak, the best I can stammer is a lifeless "arrrggghhh." This scent reminds me of "the bottom of leaky kitchen trash can." Yes, inexpensive tall kitchen bag has failed yet again. It was only meant to serve as a trash bag for the discarded junk mail in a business office wastepaper basket. But some evil marketing executive decided to up the ante. Hence, it's improperly labeled as a "tall kitchen bag." And it desperately needs hosed out. At the bottom of the trash can is a combination of mildew, raw meat fat, dead insect and Ken's Ranch dressing surrounded by a tiny puddle of congealed merlot.
By now, I'm working up a good sweat. My shirt is soaked and I'm admittedly compounding this olfactory dilemma. As I round the corner by Lowes, I think I've died and gone to Jew heaven. I can finally see the light. It's glimmering in the distance. But alas! Lo and behold! It ain't Jesus Christ who wants to take my hand. Instead it's the Wheeling Sewage Treatment Plant and they want to take my shit! Yes, I've seen Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory and his river of chocolate. But this is Wheeling and our blessed river consists of poop, sludge, murky diarrhea and Chesapeake Energy fracking chemicals. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's good and there's not good. This is not good. It's reminiscent of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, where a million Muslims discard all their worldly possession (specifically deodorant, which the application of seems historically frowned upon by Muslims and Hindus for reasons I will never be able to accurately codify or quantify) and travel to the holy Temple Mount. This is where the stampedes take place. A thousand or so of the world's holiest, wealthiest Muslims, seeking eternal peace, calm and tranquility. Instead, they end up in twisted piles of human wreckage, the result of severe compression and crush asphyxiation. The lucky ones are trampled to death. Alright, this is getting a bit severe. I should probably tone it down. But hey, it's the internet, right? I've seen and read stuff that's far worse. Probably not from a Wheeling Feeling perspective though. Unless it's that "Wrath" buffoon who always posts on the Intelligencer website. To be honest, some of his comments are meaningful. I just can't stand the "to the far right of Palin" ideological take.
Suddenly, a group of hookers emerge from an alley near the remains of the My Club. They reek of inexpensive perfume and cheap vodka. Nope, not Popov. It originates from the shelf below. It's just a generic bottle named "Vodka Alcohol." Their youthful pimp smells like Mexican dirt weed. He casually glances at me without making eye contact. He points at his squadron of crack whores and nonchalantly says, "Hey man, you want some of this? Ten for a hand job, twenty for a blow. Can't BEAT 'dem prices on a Saturday night."
Alright! I've finished the race and gulp down an ice cold water and refreshing Pepsi. I'm exhausted yet satisfied. I zip to my car and grab a fresh shirt. I'm heading into the Wheeling Civic Center for some grub, compliments of Undo's and Dominos Pizza. They did a fantastic job with the set-up and execution. The lines were long, but they flowed effortlessly. But it was the final stench that took me aback. I was unprepared for something I'd call "Frigid B.O." I think they turned the thermostat to maximum Celsius aka the never-before utilized setting of "Top of Mt. Everest." It was like 2,000 human flavored perspiration popsicles. It did feel good though. It just didn't smell that great. Not sure how this problem could be addressed, unless you force everyone to strip down and hose them off with a soapy brush... You know, like the "smell Gestapo" in that episode of Seinfeld when everyone ends up smelling like B.O. from the valet parker. It wasn't B.O. It was B.B.O. It was Beyond B.O.
So I gather my plate of food and "Sherpa Saffy" makes his final journey... the steps of Wesbanco Arena (for some reason I think it's amusing they bought the naming rights). I wanted it to be the Wheeling Intelligencer, but I suspect it wasn't part of their business model. I just like the idea of saying, "Hey, let's go catch a Nailers game at "The Wheeling Intelligencer & The Wheeling New Register Arena!" Reminds me of the HSBC Arena in Buffalo. If you didn't already know, that one stands for "Hong Kong Shanghai Bank of China Arena." Kudos on the acquisition of those naming rights. I'm sure your company made out on that one. Banks these days are such noble, venerable institutions.
Regardless, it was a great race. Great cause. Fantastic job. I just wanted to offer my unusual take. Will I run it next year? Of course! I like the course!