I just got back from running at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning NY with four running buddies. As usual, we had a great time reminiscing about old runs and good times. Plus there was a good amount of picking on each other. That is why we try to go to a race every fall somewhere away from home for the weekend.
This year’s race brought some new memories to last a lifetime. First of all was the fact that it was around 33 degrees to start the race. This was the coolest weather we had all fall. But the sun came out pretty quickly and warmed us up.
Foremost memory for me is the fact that my son, Nate, ran a Boston Marathon qualifying time in only his second marathon. He needed to run a 3 hour , 5 minutes or less time to make it (that is around 7 minutes per mile for 26.2 miles). Nate had a plan and executed it perfectly. He looked great and finished in 3:01.23. Being there to share it with him was awesome.
Matt Kaiser was smart enough to run the half marathon with me. He beat the time he expected to get by about 5 minutes. Best for Matt and I was after finishing we could go back to the hotel, relax for a few minutes and each get a warm shower. Amazing how great a hot shower feels sometimes.
We went back to cheer on Nate and Paul Glass, who gutted through the full marathon in 3:26 after having a lot of health issues that hampered his training. While waiting for them, we cheered along many of the slower half marathon runners/walkers.
Mark Miller provided some stories that will live in our lore of running for as long we all can remember them. For a number of reasons, Mark’s training was not what is recommended for a marathon. When he told us his longest run was “10 miles on a treadmill” (remember, a marathon is 26 miles long) we all had a mixture of laughter (we knew he was going to suffer) and trepidation (might we have to cart a dead man home?). To his credit, Mark gutted out a 6 hour marathon. He spent 6 hours on his feet!
But Mark’s stories were the best. As he was coming down the finish stretch, we could see Mark carrying something in one hand. We finally figured out they were the shoe inserts for both of his shoes. Because his feet were hurting, he took the inserts out at mile 8. That means: a) he carried those inserts in his hands for 18 miles and b) he stopped at mile 8, sat down, took off his shoes and socks, pulled out the inserts and put shoes/socks back on. Twice during the race Mark stopped at medical tents. The first time he got two Advil’s (like that is going to help). I don’t know what he was expecting at the second stop, but one kind soul said to him, “would you like the spray?”. What spray? If you have ever watched a professional soccer match, you have seen a soccer play fall down and act as if they are dead. The medical crew runs out and sprays the injured part of the body. The soccer player miraculously springs up and is ready to play. Well, Mark got that spray and said it works!
But his story is not done. He took his phone along and texted Paul with an update at mile 17. But we never heard from him again. Was he dead? Nope, just his phone battery died. Mark also stopped at mile 23 and got two small beers from some guys who were offering free drinks during the race. I guess he figured he was suffering enough that he deserved a beer. Probably best of all was his quote “I hit the wall at mile 2”. “The wall” is the time in a race where you feel like you ran into something and have to slow down considerably. Anyone who has run a marathon has hit the wall. But most people hit the wall at 20 miles – NOT 2 miles.
There was a silver lining to Mark’s time. Nate was the first to do it, then the rest of us joined in. Since we had a long time to wait, why not cheer on the runners coming in? I have never stayed around to watch people running a 5 hour marathon. God bless them, that is a long time to be on their feet. So we cheered on people for almost an hour. As the crowds dwindled, our cheers became some of the loudest. The absolute joy on many people’s faces after completing 26.2 mile journey was pretty awesome. For many of them this was a major accomplishment that they did for some reason unknown to us. Many of them are not athletic at all. I have never seen so many finishers so happy and proud. It made me reflect on the fact that people can accomplish very amazing feats if they choose to. The feat may not be a world record or even something as good as I could do. But it IS the best THAT THEY CAN DO. They pushed themselves way out of their comfort zones. That is a great memory to carry for every race. And that is a testament to the human spirit.