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Worst Race EVER, So I Kept Going Anyway

The start, where it’s always okay.

Forty-Four years ago, I placed 14th in the Florida Relays Marathon. 2:58:24. Today, amazingly, I ran roughly the same time for a half marathon. And I’m not sure which makes me prouder.

In 1972, I had just run a very comfortable 1:50:00 twenty mile tune-up. It meant I was ready to run under 2:30. So, while 2:58 is an okay PR to have in my basket, I was neither proud, or happy about the race. Today, while I am embarrassed; borderline humiliated, I am also proud. Cliche time: proud that I finished.

It didn’t begin well at all. Last night after a day in flip flops I noticed my left arch was bugging me. Not wanting to risk further issues, I contemplated not starting. But I did anyway. Upon arrival, I had wild stomach cramps. Hadn’t noticed it when I awoke, it just sort of evolved. Two puke stops prior to the start and I thought I might be good to go.

But there was something just not right. Standing around, my heart rate was 115-120. Should have been 65-70 pre race. Immediately after what seemed like an easy enough 9:30 ish first mile, my HR is north of 170. Not a good sign. But I kept going anyway.

Me, #125 Circa 1972

I thought I settled in a bit in miles 2 and 3. Stomach still bugging me, but hey, my foot was alright. Then, it hit. The stomach went all off and any semblance of energy left my legs disappeared. I had bonked at like 3 miles!!!!! NO way! I could run through this. I hear about people who literally pull a Lazarus in the middle of a race. Why not me?

At mile 4, I took some water and immediately could not keep it down. “This is going to be a long ass 9 miles from here,” I thought. So I decided to pack it in. I stepped off the trail and began walking back. I would do that two other times.

“Where are you going, stupid? You’ve felt plenty worse than this before? AND did you notice it’s a long ass way back AND it’s not your car, it’s Brian’s car and he won’t be back for a long ass time.” Argument 1; won (or maybe lost – ask me again tomorrow). So, I kept going anyway.

I thought the next four miles sucked. I mean, I never felt completely dead, but never got back anything close to a decent feeling. Some where around mile 8, my calves felt really tight and my right hamstring was cramping. “Really? Are we at the 22 mile mark of a marathon, here?” I began to look for every opportunity, to leave the course, catch the Light Rail and call it a day. Problem is the train is at least a mile away. So, I kept going anyway

Then it set in: the walking. My hamstrings didn’t cramp when I walked, my stomach felt okay when I walked. So I would walk for roughly a minute, run for two. I began to notice that my mile splits were in the high 13’s AND my heart rate was still sky high. It’s going to be a long ass way. So, I kept going anyway.

Me, Angela and Brian. I am so blessed to have
wonderful family.

Somewhere after ten, I began looking for friendly people that might give me a ride to the finish (never actually ASKED anyone, I was just hoping someone would offer). Brian and Angela have surely finished by now and who really needs one more medal. I should just stop. So, I picked up the pace anyway. 

What I also noticed was the people running near me were not my usual racing cohorts. It was a much different crew. As each person passed by, I thought, “I will never not appreciate the back of the packers again.” Each had their own saga, their own pain.

At 11, I was done. Completely. I could run some going downhill, but the ups seized and cramped my hamstring WAY beyond what was comfortable or even tolerable. But, there was only two miles to go AND in a mile, I would hit twelve and at that point, as my Mom used to say, “Anyone can run a mile.” See? Sometimes math and a Mother’s advice are counter productive. So I kept going anyway.

I couldn’t drink, cuz I couldn’t keep it down and I was now working on 2 and a half hours with no fuel. No wonder I was cramping, no wonder I was a little dizzy. And at twelve miles comes the big uphill, a bit more than a half of mile of nastily placed elevation. BUT anyone can run a mile, right Mom?  So I kept going anyway.

The finish was uneventful, except that I made it. Didn’t look at the time, didn’t stop my watch (and had removed my heart rate monitor back when I decided my HR was never coming down no matter how slow I ran/walked).

After finishing I must have looked like hell. I could not eat because I couldn’t keep anything down. I couldn’t drink for the same reason. I just wanted Scottie to beam me home. The train ride back to the start area was a dizzy, crampy, nauseated journey. Angie and Brian were patient saints. Several times a nice guy named Michael asked if I was alright. “No, but I’ll be okay.”

No comment.

I was given a medal at the finish. At the time, I was embarrassed to take it. Now, I’m kind of proud of it. This was my worst race EVER!!!!!!! (can’t over exclamation point that). But I was kind of proud I had fought through and made it till the end. 

Please understand, what runners go through out there sometimes is often referred to as suffering. We don’t suffer. People in third world countries suffer, people in the inner city suffer, military prisoners and people with cancer suffer. I never confuse the pain and discomfort of what I CHOOSE to do with suffering. 

I could rant about all of the mistakes I made, how I let 6 months of great weight loss go down the tubes during the winter. I could complain about a lot because I brought this on me. In August I will celebrate 50 years of being a runner, I’ve run over 108,000 miles and these 13.1 were some of the worst. Yeah, I could complain, but I’m not going to.

I’m going to keep on going anyway. 

Hug a back of the packer today. They deserve it.