Running Isn’t Always About Running
Sometimes the best race is the race you can run, not the race you wanted or planned to run.
The marathon is a fickle beast. The distance doesn’t change, but each experience over those 26.2 miles is different. I’ve finished 14 now, and I’ve run some with friends, some alone, some fast (for me), some slow. I’ve cried at the end, been mad at the end, and whooped with triumph at the end. September’s Akron Marathon, while my slowest, was in some ways the best.
Akron was going to be a great trip – 4 gals and our great buddy Mike. With my training not going as planned, I switched up my mindset and decided to complete the race with Mike. His goal after a hard year was just to finish, because it was his birthday, and last year his birthday sucked since he’d spent it in the ICU with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in his leg. At registration, the night before the race, our friend Deborah decided to “upgrade” from the half marathon and complete the full with us. Now that’s a true friend!
As Mike’s “pacers,” Deborah and I did our best to keep him on the 13:45 pace needed to finish before the course closed and to keep his spirits up. Which I think we did until mile 17, when a fairly brutal hill, heat, and dehydration started catching up with Mike. By mile 20.5, Mike’s race was over. As we sat in the medical tent for 10-15 minutes, the SAG wagon went by, followed by the police chase car behind the last walker and the trucks pulling up the cones marking the course. After getting checked out and arranging for his son to pick him up, Mike, being the guy he is, told us he was fine and to finish the race. So, with quite a bit of guilt and sadness we started back off on the now closed course.
Deborah is a 4 hour marathoner, I’m about 8 minutes slower. So, keep this in perspective, but with the day’s slow pace, we had pretty fresh legs. So Deborah shoots off at a 8:30/mile pace. We eventually tone it down, so she won’t kill me and after we discover that a closed course is a course with no water stops. Still, even after slowing to a more manageable pace for running on uneven sidewalks, dealing with traffic, and the now high noon sun and heat, after two miles we managed to catch up to the SAG wagon and finally, blissfully, the police chase car. We were back on course and in the race!
The next three miles were filled with us passing the walkers at the end, shouting out encouragement and singing. We received quite a few odd glances and many cheers from the awesome volunteers surprised to see two rather fresh looking runners.
Deborah is a stronger runner than me, and she could have finished more quickly, but we decided it was not that kind of day and stuck it out together, the way it started, finishing in the baseball stadium with a leap across the finish line well ahead of the cut off time.
We were greeted with texts letting us know that Mike was OK, and by Sandy and Jenny who had completed their own races hours earlier. The guys in the Michelob beer tent ate Mike’s birthday cupcakes and we headed home.
So, this was not a race anyone planned. Kudos to Mike for starting and kudos for finishing his race that day. And thanks to Deborah for an entirely memorable day. I’m prouder of this marathon than I am of my PR run thanks to great friends who are there for each other on the good days, and especially on those that don’t go as planned. So, each time, go out there and run and finish your race, no matter what distance and what time.