No, the challenge is all mental. Throughout the training, you're building mileage, feeling stronger and hungrier with every week. Then, with the big day less than a month away, you slow down. Your appetite slows down. You have more energy than you know what to do with. You start to worry: will I really be able to finish? What if I twist my ankle walking down the street? What if it snows on marathon day?
The good news is you have plenty of time on your hands, especially on the weekends. Easter fell at the end of the first week of tapering, so the brunch offered an ideal outlet for my excess energy.
The marathon of cooking began Saturday morning, after my uncomfortably short run. My parents were still at their hotel, and I'd never made a ham before, so I knew I'd want my mother there to guide me. So I started with dessert, mixing up two trays of my favorite brownie recipe and two dishes full of banana pudding from my favorite Southern cookbook. After a few hours of creaming butter, melting chocolate, and stirring custard, my parents arrived and we tackled the hams.
I'd bought two varieties: one classic ham I'd ordered from a pricey mail-order company a week in advance and a spiral-cut one from the grocery store I'd rushed out to buy after I realized the brunch had ballooned from a small gathering to a feeding of the masses. The fancy ham needed longer to cook, so we got it ready first: we covered it in foil, placed it in a roasting pan, put it in a 425-degree oven, and set the timer for an hour and 20 minutes.
When we went to the living room to wait, I was reminded of the afternoon I'd spent months earlier waiting for a pork shoulder to cook. The day outside was beautiful and springy instead of snowy and wintry, but waiting affected my parents and me as it had affected my friends during the snowpocalypse. My dad read aloud from the New York Times and we discussed whether public displays of affection were really as offensive as one columnist thought. My mother took out her sewing supplies and repaired the hem on one of my dresses. I briefed them on the guests who would be coming to brunch. In other words, we didn't do much of anything except sit, talk, and wait.
When there was an hour left on the first ham, we removed it from the oven, cut hash marks in the fat, stuck cloves into the meat, and brushed it with a glaze made of brown sugar, honey, and yellow mustard. Then we covered the second ham in foil, lowered the oven to 325 degrees, and put both hams in. Then we returned to waiting.
The hams came out about an hour later, and they looked and smelled wonderful. I let them cool on the counter while we went out to dinner, then wedged them into the refrigerator alongside the banana puddings, the egg, cheese, and spinach casserole my roommate Caitlin had made in advance, and the ingredients for the roast potatoes Amber planned to cook in the morning.