As those of you who follow me on Facebook already know, I finished my last Half Marathon on Friday, in a race where sadly, one young man lost his life, and many others were hospitalized for heat related injuries. A few posts ago, I predicted people were going to get hurt if the forecast was correct and I described how we runners were being encouraged by local coaches to change our pre-race prep and our plans for the race to just run a relaxed pace, watching ourselves and those around us all the time, for signs of heat stroke. The race organizers postponed the full marathon to next week on a changed course off the main streets. They were unable to postpone all the races scheduled because of Obama’s visit to Israel next week. But moving the full marathon assured that no one would be out in the heat too long and enabled them to move all the other races up an hour. The first half marathon heat began at 5:45am. I was in the 6:00am group.
I ran the course from 6am – 8:40am and although the heat was rising quickly in the last hour or so, it was really not THAT hot. And I am someone who is totally sensitive to the heat! There were a couple of problems from my perspective: First of all, they ran out of electrolyte drink very early on. I’d actually love to know how many of the sickened were suffering from hyponatremia rather than dehydration. I had electrolytes in my pocket so I felt comfortable guzzling back large amounts of water. I also didn’t feel like there were enough water stations. Yes, they were every 2 kms, but they were manned by kids – hot and suffering volunteer kids – and there were times I had to actually stop running and ask to be poured a cup or two of water! Finally, we were promised sprayers with hoses and by my count there were only TWO. I could have used 50!! At every water stop, I took 4 cups: drank 3 and poured the 4th over my head. Oh yeah, and there was no food, or at least none by the time I rolled through. Again, I had my own supplies, but if I had been depending on what had been promised, I would have been in big trouble!
Despite these rather minor criticisms - and I know plenty of other runners who do not share my opinion or experience – I don’t think you can lay blame on anyone for the tragedies. I don’t know what happened to those people so how can I say? The man who died was apparently the epitome of fitness and health and nearly 20 years younger than me. How can you explain such a thing? I was running with 50-70 year olds and we were plodding along just fine. I did not see a single person weave, trip, or show any signs of distress where I was at the back of the pack. I was also, for the first time in my life, completely willing to take a DNF (did not finish) if I started to feel unwell.
As you can see from above, my finish time was 2:40 – a far cry from that 2:15 I had been training for!! But I must tell you that this is by far my proudest finish of all the races I have run! I am proud mainly because I got SO many emails and texts from people who said they ran on Friday because they had been inspired by me. I mean, does it get any better than that?! But I’m also proud because despite the string of very valid reasons to drop out of this race over the last few months, not only did I stick with it, but for the VERY FIRST TIME, spent the entire race thinking “I’m OK ! I can totally do this!” I wasn’t worried or wondering. I wasn’t gasping for air or feeling at all hopeless. Other than blisters and toenail trouble, I felt absolutely no pain! I was tired when I crossed the finish line, but I actually forgot to stop running for a minute until someone said “You can stop now.”
Lastly, I am proud because my husband went from non-runner to successful half marathoner who finished a few minutes before me. When I flew into his sweaty dazed arms in the finish corral, he said “I did it! YOU inspired me and I did this!”
You know what I am going to miss the most by not competing in long-distance races anymore? Being an inspiration for people, yes, but I will endeavor to do that in different ways now. Yes, the high of accomplishment and the bragging rights too. But more than that, is the energy of a group of committed people who are out there pushing their physical limits because they want something MORE than the ordinary in life.
There were 35,000 people out there running on Friday. That is 35,000 people willing to put in the training, say no to months of desserts, get out of warm beds on cold days when everyone else is snoozing cozily on, run in rain, get splattered with mud, skip the late night drinks with friends, lose our toenails, (sacrifice our Achilles in the case of my training partner!), stay committed, stay on track. We all have our own reasons for being out there, but I believe we all share the desire for something more. Something greater.
I gave myself one day off. One. Then last night, I sat down with my calendar and my journal and mapped out my next goal. I hope I always have this desire to grow, to better myself, and to make the most of what G-d gave me. I hope I never settle for just OK.
I hope you won’t either. It doesn’t have to be running – it can be any area in which you choose to push the envelope and to stop accepting “good enough”. You will get a calendar, make a plan, check off your day by day goals, and before you know it, be standing at the pinnacle of your achievement, knowing that every single drop of blood, sweat and tears was worth it. Amen.Pin It