Atlantic City Diaries, Chapter 13: The Atlantic City Marathon

Posted: October 20, 2013 by rorypatrick in Atlantic City Diaries
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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The BEST AUTUMN EVER begins in Atlantic City with something completely unexpected.  This entry contains a shocking lack of both gambling and alcohol abuse, replaced with a startling amount of healthy activity.  As you may have guessed by reading the headline, Keith and I participated in the 55th annual Atlantic City Marathon!

Well, to clarify, we ran the half-marathon, but together, we ran the full one.  Whenever I had to clarify that, it always reminded me of the “very proud, minus” line from Arrested Development.  Conversations went akin to this: “Oh wow, you are running a marathon, what an accomplishment.”  “Well, actually, I’m running a half-marathon.”  “Oh… what a half-accomplishment.”

Now, Keith is a regular runner.  He is the only man I know who has woken up from a night of drinking and gambling and immediately went on a jog on the boardwalk.  He is even participating in the New York City Marathon in two weeks.  Yours truly, on the other hand, am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination.  I mainly disliked running because I’m both slow and easily distracted.  Doing one thing over and over for two hours would, on paper, drive me crazy.  In fact, as I write this, I am taking breaks every 15 minutes to either check football scores, play games on my tablet, practice the guitar, or stare at the wall.

Furthermore, I also hate “running culture.”  If you look at any running website, you’ll find corny positive-attitude slogans posted everywhere.  “You are lapping everyone on the couch!”  “You have a strong spirit!”  “You’re the best…AROUND!  Nothing’s gonna ever bring you down!”  While these cliches may inspire others, they just make me roll my eyes.  They seem desperate, insecure, and delusional.  Here’s my motivational phrase: running is putting one foot in front of the other at a quick pace, and it will make you healthier.  That should be all the information you need to make the choice of whether to run or not.

I signed up for the half-marathon because a family member signed up for the full one, and stupid old me thought: “How hard can 13.1 miles be?”  I started training this June, and immediately regretted this decision.  I intentionally made no references to it in the previous AC Diaries because I was not sure this post would ever be written.  But, without a running partner or a specific training plan, I eventually built up my distance (but not my speed: my first mile run took me 10 minutes, and my 10 mile run took me 100 minutes).  Training gave me these two breakthroughs about humanity:

1. People walk strangely.  In my training, I was running from my apartment, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and back.  I can’t count the number of times people will just randomly stop walking in front of me, or just drift to the left when I try to pass them.  Seriously, pay attention to your walking some time, and you’ll realize how hard it is to keep yourself going in a straight line.  Also, I ran over the Brooklyn Bridge about eight times during my training, and I’m sure I appear in roughly 2,376 tourist photos.  Sorry, couple from Australia, but I can’t break my flow!

2. Fat people are amazing.  First, imagine your dream life.  Are you sweating, with your knees and feet aching like hell?  Or are you relaxing on a beach, eating ice cream, and surrounded by beautiful women?  Fat people may not be at the beach or surrounded by beautiful women, but they have the “eating ice cream” part down.  They are closer to living the dream than you are!  And imagine the guts it takes to be fat.  Everywhere you look, people are demeaning you, saying you are not only ugly, but you’ll die soon.  And these brave lardos ignore all medical advice and go for the ice cream!  It’s damn impressive.

Anyway, this is the longest amount of time I’ve spent in Atlantic City consecutively (from Friday to Monday), so let’s begin this journey:

Friday

4:30PM – You know, every one of these diaries start out with a bus journey, and I figure it is all old hat by now.  Nothing new would happen.  Well, I was mistaken with this one.

My girlfriend and I grabbed a late afternoon bus, knowing that there would be traffic due to the bad weather and the fact that it was a Friday.  However, the man next to me seemed stunned by this turn of events.  The whole way down, he muttered to himself, with the same catchphrases over and over so that you’d think someone was pulling a string on his back to make them say them.  “This is brutal!”  “Fuck!”  “I can’t take this!”  He would frequently take deep breaths, run his hands through his hair, and pace up and down the bus.  It was like sitting next to Bill Shatner’s character from “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” – I expected him to start screaming out the window claiming there was a gremlin on the bus.  I cannot condone people complaining about the poor service of Greyhound’s Lucky Streak bus line.  Buses to Atlantic City are not where you go to be treated like royalty, they are where you sit and contemplate all the terrible decisions you’ve made in your life that have caused you to take a bus to Atlantic City.

Aside from this panicked passenger, the bus is fairly uneventful… until we got to the Atlantic City Expressway.  Here, the bus driver made a two-minute detour to drop off another Greyhound employee, and all hell broke loose.  The passengers started screaming at the bus driver for making a stop.  A man decided he was a stand-up comedian, and started telling jokes to the whole bus.  A small boy tried to keep the sanity of the other passengers by pointing out a McDonald’s we could all go to.  It was too much to handle in such a short time.

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7:30 – My girlfriend and I departed the bus as fast as we could, still unsure if the madness we witnessed was real or not.  I grabbed my running packet from Caesars, and headed down to Revel, where we would be staying.  I met up with my mom, her fiance Dan, and his son David, who would be running the full marathon (AKA the man who started this whole crazy ordeal).  We ate dinner the American Cut restaurant, which had excellent meat cuts.  David was having his “first steak ever,” and looked as happy as a pig in poo.  He did not think it would be enough for him, as the steak looked small, but it proved a challenge to finish.

After dinner, we met up with some of Dan’s friends and drank wine in one of Revel’s random seating areas.  My mom and girlfriend sat back and made fun of every girl going out on the town in the same little black dress.  They were right – it was almost more of a uniform than a style choice.  After a bit of wine… I went to bed.  That’s right, I went to Atlantic City, and on the first night there, I did no gambling.  I don’t even know myself anymore.

Saturday

9:00AM – I’m awake, non-hungover, at 9:00AM, in Atlantic City, on a Saturday.  This is easily shaping up to be the strangest trip to Atlantic City, ever.  It is a drizzly, gray morning, and my mom and Dan are ready for their 5K.  The 5K was just a short jaunt down the boardwalk, beginning and ending at Bally’s.  They are both in their early 60’s, and have done no training, so we’re all expecting a respectable finishing time of just under an hour.  My mom is standing out from the crowd by being the only participant to wear jeans.  When I question the practicality of this idea, she claims that the jeans are “stretchy.”  My girlfriend and I wish them good luck, encouraging them to stroll their hardest as the race begins.

Shortly after that, however, my girlfriend and I made a mad dash to the casino.  We still had our $25 bus vouchers in our pockets, and the gambling itch was taking me over.  I tried to print out a few free bets I had ($15 and $20 direct bets for Bally’s), but the kiosks weren’t working properly.  This doesn’t surprise me – when it comes to taking your money, casinos have the highest technology at their fingertips – the casino floor is monitored by thousands of tiny security cameras, the slot machines are tracked to see how much they are paying out, etc.  However, when it comes to giving away said money, suddenly they are using computers that still run on AOL 5.0.  After fiddling with the kiosks and waiting on a never-moving line at the Total Rewards center for about 20 minutes, I say “screw it” and just go to play my $25 voucher.

We scour Bally’s casino floor searching for the legendary Kiss slot machines, but sadly, it looks like those slots have gone to the great casino in the sky.  Fortunately, we were able to hop into a X-Wing Fighter seat and take down the Death Star with the Star Wars slot machines!   With fantastic graphics and fun mini-games, these slot machines will be my new go-to whenever I have free slot play.  We ended up breaking even with our bus vouchers, and went back down to see my mom and Dan finish the 5K.

However, they beat us!  Those two finished in under 46 minutes, or roughly about 10 minutes faster than I expected.  After celebrating with a post-race beer, my mom elucidated the important lesson learned during the 5K: “Never wear jeans.”

Keith Stone: You remember that episode of Mad Men when Don and Megan went to the Howard Johnson’s while Roger dropped acid and everything was happening at exactly the same time except it wasn’t? This was just like that except much, much more lowbrow.

While Rory’s mom was making a fashion statement, OB and I were taking our own bus ride down. We must’ve made quite a pair. Knowing I was facing 13.1 miles the next day, I was drinking a gallon container of Gatorade and reading the newspaper. OB had more mini bottles of liquor in his jacket than a hotel mini-bar and was blasting Kiss in anticipation of a night playing the Kiss slot machines. He was like a magician pulling a handkerchief out of his mouth with these mini bottles — every time I assumed he was done, he pulled a few more out of his pocket.

Naturally, the more OB had to drink, the more animated and graphic he became when we were talking. The little old lady sitting across the row from us went from mildly displeased by his loud talking to utterly disgusted by the explicit descriptions of his, um, exploits. She covered her eyes with her hand as if to say, “What has happened to society?”

But as he always seems to do, by the time we reached our final stop, OB had our bus full of little old ladies engaged and laughing in the aisles as he complained about his friends from college not wanting to make the drive from Philadelphia to AC. I think it’s the disarmingly polite way he called them “ma’am,” but these grannies were ready to give him their granny panties.

2:00PM – The reason David was down here was not only to run the Atlantic City Marathon, but also to celebrate his college graduation.  We had a family lunch/dinner celebration at Carmine’s at the Tropicana, which specializes in family style Italian food.  So, we basically sat back and carbo-loaded on penne alla vodka.

Towards the end of the dinner, Keith makes his grand entrance into the party.  We leave Tropicana and head back to Bally’s to try to use my free bets.  Fortunately, the Total Rewards kiosks are working at this time, and my $15 bet ends up hitting.  Up a couple bucks, we head to Revel to meet up with the other main character in the Atlantic City Diaries: your friend and mine, OB.

MKS: Where… are… the…Kiss… slot… machines??? Nooooooooooooo!

7:00 – We meet up with OB and two of his friends from college, who are staying in a room OB has comped in Showboat.  (They had ordered 3 surf-and-turfs for dinner, as well as a dozen beers, and the bill came to nearly $400.  After talking with his handler, however, OB only had to pay the tax and tip.)  At Revel, OB is also comped with a free suite, very similar to the one from chapter 4, except with a TV in the corner of the room partially blocked by an oddly-situated pillar.  Furthermore, OB has $500 in free slot play, which is a fortune to others, but just enough to get the ball rolling on OB’s night.  You see, like Keith and I, OB is partaking in an Atlantic City marathon as well.  But, whereas ours are of the running variety, OB is going on an all-night drinking and gambling marathon.

We follow him to the Revel casino floor, and cheer him on as he gets multiple big wins on the Wheel of Fortune slots (and we get multiple free drinks just by standing in his vicinity).  He turns his $500 in free slot play into $500 in real money, and hits the craps tables.  He begins a meteoric rise, hitting multiple hard fours, and takes his winnings to a blackjack table.  At blackjack, I decide to get in on the action as well, as we sit with a charming dealer named Jean, who goes along with all of OB’s crass humor, comparing him to his hero, Andrew Dice Clay.  Unfortunately, she leaves before even dealing us a hand, but that doesn’t stop OB’s winning.  I, unfortunately, lose $60 in a brief amount of time, taking my losses to roughly $20 overall.  My main issue, I believe, is that I was gambling sober.  When you gamble sober, all you do is realize that the games are rigged against you.  However, with a little liquid courage, you can get the irrational confidence needed to beat the system (or, at least, think you can beat the system).  OB decides to take a little breather from the blackjack table….only to sit down at another blackjack table 45 seconds later.

This blackjack table, however, is where things get rocky.  OB, whose betting style and strategy has always baffled me, appears to be wagering similar to the Martingale system, where you double your bet after every loss.  Also, he seems to be trying to count cards, which plays out just as you suspect.  There’s a hand where the dealer is showing either a 7 or 8, and the person next to him ends up drawing a bunch of low cards – a two, three, four, and two fives.  OB, stuck with a 15, senses that a big card is due, decides to stay.  Sure enough, the dealer has him beat, and sure enough, the next card out is a four.  “Ah, your sister’s a whore!” shouts OB.  This dealer, unlike Jean, doesn’t take too kindly to OB’s Dice Clay-esque antics, and brings over the pit boss to try to kick him out.  You could see the wheels turning on the pit boss’s face as clear as day: on one hand, he has to stick up for his employees, on the other hand, OB’s losses may end up putting the Revel back in the black.  OB gets a timid warning, but it is clear that everyone in this situation needs a time-out, so we head back to OB’s room to relax (and drink).

MKS: The dealer was a gorgeous Asian girl who couldn’t have had less of a sense of humor. Obviously, OB didn’t really think her sister had sexual intercourse in exchange for money, but she looked like she was on the verge of tears. If you’re gonna be a blackjack dealer in Atlantic City, you might want to have a little thicker skin, especially if you’re going to deal with the Diceman, toots.

10:00 – Keith and I are beginning to check the clock, as we both know that our night will be ending soon.  We have to get to bed early, as the race starts at 8:00AM.  However, OB has reached the point of drunkenness where he becomes “Storyteller OB.”  Rather than sitting down and chit-chatting as friends are wont to do, OB is standing up, pacing the room, and delivering loud, drunken sermons about his past exploits.  It is both hilarious and totally engrossing.  Alas, I couldn’t stay long and went to bed shortly after.

MKS: OB and his boys wanted to play blackjack at the Showboat so we headed out. As we rode the long escalators at Revel to street level, OB loudly yelled rock lyrics and did his Diceman for all the Snooki impersonators heading up to the clubs. At the main entrance, a gaggle of young ladies were emerging from a taxi van. OB stopped to welcome them. At first, I thought he was doing this by exposing himself to them, but he was merely helping them out of the taxi. The last one was wearing a tiara proclaiming her to be the birthday girl. OB wanted to wish her a happy birthday and luckily she may have been the second most drunk person in Atlantic City that night because their conversation started like this:

OB (helping bday girl get out of the taxi): I almost saw your vagina.

Bday girl: Ohhhhhhh noooooooo… well, I hope you didn’t.

They talked for a bit before her friends grabbed her from danger. Then, we made the short walk to the Showboat while OB lowered his pants to moon us and the unfortunate souls who were walking behind us. Rory and I saw a supermoon once in Atlantic City, but this was really something else.

At the tables, OB treaded water for a while. On one hand, he bet big and ended up with a soft 15 against a face card. He must’ve been feeling lucky because he decided to double down. The dealer ended up with a 20 and OB made a charitable contribution to Caesars Entertainment Corp. I decided I need to rest for the race.

Sunday

5:30AM – As a Seinfeld fan, I kept having visions of being Jean Paul:


I was supposed to wake up at 6:00AM, but seeing it was 5:30AM, I decided not to risk it for another 30 minutes.  In fact, I went to meet up with OB, who was in the home stretch of his Atlantic City marathon.  He was winding down, but still regaled me with tales of losing it all, winning it all, and having the whole casino chant his name.  What was fact and what was fiction didn’t matter at this point, as it was great to see the guy still going strong.

7:00 – I meet up with David and Keith, and we head to the starting area.  While yesterday’s 5K only had a couple hundred people, today we are dealing with thousands.  Not only that, we have fantastic weather – not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny, not too cloudy.  We couldn’t have asked for better conditions.  Keith is running back and forth to warm up, but as a novice runner, I opt not to – the first two miles will be my warm up, no need to add extra wear-and-tear on my body before the race.

MKS: My favorite part of the pre-race festivities involved Rory and I comparing playlists. While his skews more towards rock and mine hip hop, we both somehow manage to have “Die Young” by Ke$ha on there.

8:00 – And we’re off!  And I’m feeling pretty good.  I’ve got a nice running playlist (with “Rebellion (Lies)” by the Arcade Fire kicking it off), and I’m comfortably ahead of the 2:10 pacers.  I average 10-minute miles, so as long as I’m ahead of them, I feel great.  There are a few hills in the beginning of the course, but I’m glad they are early on rather than later.

As I trot along past miles three, four, and five, I find the course fairly boring.  It isn’t as scenic as I hoped, as you are mainly going around highways and casino parking lots, and there aren’t many fans cheering you on.  But, I was very much looking forward to hitting mile eight, where you get on the boardwalk.  Little did I know that is where the real challenge arises.

9:20 – As I am about to hit mile eight and the world-famous boardwalk, I decided to bust open one of those “energy gel” packets.  I never had one before, and didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I’m not sure if it was the coffee flavor or the texture, but it felt like I was eating the inside of Stretch Armstrong.  Never again.  Also, once I hit the boardwalk, I got pelted by wind blowing sand into my eyes.  Not a great start to mile eight.

9:30 – It’s mile nine, and I see my family!  Hi, guys!

(Side note: My mom and girlfriend were sitting at this marker, people-watching and making fun of the strange running forms some people had.  My mom said she was surprised that I actually looked composed when running.  There you have it: even my own mom doubted I could do this.)

9:35 – I pass Keith on his way back to the finish line.  I try to get a “YES!  YES!  YES!” chant going for him, but he doesn’t hear me.  I guess he had his headphones on and was cranking the Ke$ha pretty loud at that point.

MKS: I was flagging a bit at this point after getting blasted in the face by sand for miles like I was Alexis Texas. Seeing Rory really did get me fired up although I didn’t get the Daniel Bryan reference.

10:00 – I’m past mile 10, and mile 11 seems to never be appearing.  I had thought that the turn was just after the Atlantic Club (no pretenses!), but you keep going down the boardwalk into Ventnor City, a town that is 3.5 square miles large.  Not only that, but now the big buildings along the boardwalk are gone, and the wind is getting fiercer.  The 2:10 pacers have passed me, and my will is weakening.  I’ve decided I hate wind more than I hate hills.  At least with hills, you can see it coming and know when it will end.  With wind, it is totally unexpected, and you never know if it will ever stop.  After the turn, and about 11.5 to 12 miles in, I decide that it is time to walk for a bit.  I walk/run the last mile, and finish with a time of 2:16.  Not exactly what I wanted, but a decent showing for my first, and last, half-marathon.  Plus, I have a medal that both lights up and can be used as a bottle opener, so it was totally worth it.

1:45PM – After a shower and a nap, I’m back at the finish line, waiting for David to complete his half-marathon.  Keith gets choked up watching the determination of these people as they cross the finish line.  What a girly-man, right?

MKS: Seeing fat people try to run gets me emotional. I still cry every time I think about Eddy Curry in a Knicks uniform.

2:00 – Still waiting for David.  My mom and Dan are there.  Dan predicts a 2:20PM finish.

2:20 – Still….waiting.

2:30 – And….David finishes!  He was running with a knee injury, and made it to mile 18 before he had to give up and walk the rest of the way.  He didn’t finish in last, however, as there were 6 more runners, with the last one finishing just after 3:00PM.  Despite the injury, he’s still a marathoner, and gets the medal and free beer that he definitely earned.

3:00 – My girlfriend, Keith, and I hit the French Quarter Buffet at Showboat, and I chow down on roughly 87 crab legs.  We then steal beers from the hallway (the maid was throwing them out – don’t worry, they were sealed!) and watch the Saints-Patriots game in Keith’s room (which is really OB’s comped room, which my girlfriend and I will also be staying in tonight).  Nobody has heard from OB since I saw him at 6:00AM earlier today.  It looks like we are all recovering from our respective marathons.

MKS: Thank you to whoever left a six-pack of Miller Lites in the hallway on the fifth floor of the Showboat. I drank two in about 20 minutes and by the time I was working on the complementary wine at the buffet (tres classy!), I was ready to pass out. When there’s a full plate of General Tsao’s chicken in front of Keith Stone and he doesn’t want to eat it, you know he is exhausted. I still ate it and a slice of pizza and potato salad and a brownie, but boy was I tired.

8:30 – OB and his college friends meet us at the House of Blues bar to watch the Redskins-Cowboys game.  We are all trying to rally and go for a full-blown gambling and drinking night, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.  The atmosphere in Showboat is dead (the House of Blues bar had last call at 10PM), and OB’s buddies and my girlfriend tap out around halftime of the football game.  Keith, OB, and I head to Revel, as OB still has some free slot play to use.

10:30 – The atmosphere at Revel is no better.  Even though it is a holiday weekend, it still looks like a typical Sunday night in Atlantic City.  OB used his slot play on the majesty that was the aforementioned Star Wars slots, and won a couple bucks there, but immediately gave it back on blackjack.  Tapped out for the night, we went to chill in OB’s room, where he tried to order up some liquor, only to find that room service had also been shut down for the night.  It would re-open again at 6:00AM.  So, I laid out the game plan to OB: let’s take a nap, wake up at 6:00AM, and then order a bottle of Captain Morgan.  OB okay-ed the plan, and went to sleep.  Spoiler alert: the plan was shelved in order for more sleep.

Basically, post-race Sunday turned out to be a dud.  I still had roughly $100 in my pocket that I was ready to donate to the casino, but decided that there was no need to chase a cheap thrill playing with half-asleep drunks gambling at 2:00AM on a Sunday night.  I went to bed shortly, while Keith went to do some exploring.

MKS: How dare Atlantic City not come alive on the Sunday night of a holiday weekend! It was freaking Columbus Day — a holiday celebrating Italians in the most Italian place on Earth: New Jersey. The air should have been flammable with the fumes of hair spray and fake tan, but noooooooooooo. And what kind of hotel closes down room service before midnight? All we wanted was booze! It’s a good thing the Revel isn’t struggling financially. Oh wait, it is!

Monday

10:00AM – My girlfriend and I started the day off with some greasy food at Johnny Rockets, OB made an appointment with the Earl of Sandwich, and Keith grabbed some delicious boardwalk pizza.  A solid start to the morning for everyone around.  We then took a very quiet bus back from Bally’s, and ended this chapter of the Atlantic City Diaries.

So there you have it: my most unique trip to Atlantic City to date.  Not much gambling, no concerts, not much drinking, and definitely way more physical activity than any man should ever do in Atlantic City.  While I am satisfied with myself that I completed the half-marathon, I can easily say I’ll probably never do it again.  I’m not very competitive, so I don’t really care too much about improving my time; I’m in fine physical shape, so it isn’t like I need to do it to lose weight; and, ultimately, I never got the “high” or “bliss” that many runners claim to achieve when running.  That being said, it is important to go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to try something you’ve never done before.  I would encourage everyone to try a running competition once (not necessarily a half-marathon, but a 5K or 10K if you are less experienced).  Or, if you are already a strong runner, try doing an OB marathon – stay up all night drinking and gambling!  It is more physically and emotionally taxing than you could ever imagine.

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