Sometimes, Running is Not About You (Part 1)

By: Brad Deel

I freely admit to stealing this title from something that W.K. Munsey said to me the other day.  The story behind it is a bit long so I'm going to break it into two posts. 

This past July, I completed my first ultra - the Kanawha Trace 50K Trail Run.  I was excited to finish but came out of the race with a sore right Achilles tendon that sidelined me for six weeks.  I was finally able to resume running in early September but knew my goals for the Marshall University Marathon in November were shot.

Running is a self-centered activity for me.  I can count on one hand the number of times I run with others throughout the year.  I don't go to races to socialize; I go to race.  Don't get me wrong.  I love meeting with and talking to other runners after the race but before and during, I'm focused on moving my body as fast as possible from Point A to Point B.  Still, this story isn't about me.

Joanne lives in the Philadelphia area and I'll apologize in advance if I get some of the details wrong.  Like many older runners such as me, she decided that she needed to do something to lose weight and get in shape so she started running.  She wasn't fast.  A mile might take 20 minutes but she stuck with it.  Until her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Then, she spent all of her time taking care of him until he died.  She quit exercising and gained back much of the weight she had lost.  Then, something clicked.  She knew she had to do something or join her husband in the grave.  So, she started running again.

Her progress wasn't linear.  She had good times and bad times and awful times but she stuck with it.  Gradually, ever so gradually, she started building her endurance.  After a time, she completed her first 5K.  It took over an hour but she stuck with it and she kept working.  She did many 5K's.  Then she did a 5 mile race.  Then she finished a 10K.  Then a 10 miler.  Her pace was just over 20:00 but she finished and felt like she was ready to run a half marathon if one had a 4 hour cutoff.  The Philadelphia R&R did.

Unlike many slower runners, she didn't line up too far forward.  She lined up in the back.  Unfortunately, that meant that the trail vehicle was immediately behind her during the race.  She was told on several occasions that she was behind pace when she wasn't.  That was tough to take and had a negative effect on her morale.  I think any runner can imagine how tough it would be to be in a race if someone was telling you over and over that you won't make it.  At Mile 11, they forced her to get on the trail vehicle.  The vehicle took her and several others to within 100 yards or so of the finish line, let them out, and informed them that they could walk across and get their medal.  To her everlasting credit and much to my admiration, Joanne refused.  She would not take something she didn't earn but she was devastated by the results.

As the Marshall University Marathon was out of the question for me, I had decided to run the half.  Then, while on Healthy Huntington's website, I noticed that the marathon was now a double loop so the cutoff for all events was six hours.  As soon as I saw that, my objective changed.  I sent Joanne a message stating that if she came to Huntington, I would run the half marathon with her from start to finish.

I'll leave it there and post the rest in a future blog.

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