O.K., Honolulu is in the books and looming on the horizon is the Arizona Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. I didn’t blog the Honolulu Marathon this year – I guess I could make up a lot of excuses for that but the reality is that I’ve had a lot of things going on in my life and just haven’t had the enthusiasm for it. For those of you who missed that race report, I apologize. For the rest of you, you’re welcome.
I do want to tell one story from Honolulu however…
As many of you know Honolulu Marathon is not really about me. By that I mean that I don’t really care what my time is – I ran three other Marathons in 2008 and those were races I was running for me. Honolulu is about my group and getting my hearty band of mostly first-timers thru their Marathon. So, there I am approaching Mile 24. I’m moving very slowly because I’m waiting on one or two of my gang to catch up after a recent stop. Every few yards I’m glancing back over my shoulder to see if I can spot them. Suddenly…I spot one of my OTHER runners. A veteran marathoner who had just returned from a trip abroad and was clearly struggling. In fact, she was waving and calling out to me. As I acknowledged her I heard her say "Not good. Not good."
I quickly trotted back to her to see what was the matter – at this stage she was walking and seemed a little unsteady. She said she was dizzy and was afraid that if she stopped she might fall over! Now I’m no doctor but I’ve done and seen enough sports medicine in my day to be able to make some educated guesses. As we walked along I asked her how she was feeling and what she’d been doing. She seemed pretty lucid and she had a cup of water from the last aid station that she was nursing. She said she’d been drinking water pretty steadily so I wondered if perhaps she might be suffering from hyponatremia which is a condition that can happen when you have TOO much water (or more precisely not enough sodium). But she said she’d taken "a lot" of salt pills as well.
She also had a wet sponge from one of the aid stations which she was using to help herself keep cool. The weather conditions really weren’t bad (for Honolulu) and I knew she was used to running in the heat. Still, I couldn’t rule out a heat-related condition so I encouraged her to keep the sponge damp and keep cooling herself.
To further complicate matters she broke Rule #4 ("Never do anything for the first time on race day"): She had taken a Tylenol offered to her by a fellow member of our group earlier in the race. She’d never used Tylenol during a race before and thus couldn’t really be sure how it would affect her body.
So we kept walking and talking, pretty soon we were cresting the top of Diamond Head and nearly to the 25 mile mark. I kept giving her encouragement, she kept walking steadily. We were actually making pretty decent time all things considered. At the bottom of Diamond Head we made the turn into the park; there’s an aid station there and we got her another cup of water and I took a spare cup to douse her sponge with.
And this brings us to the point of our story…
Just past the water aid station was a first aid station. She glanced at it and commented on it. I asked her if she needed to stop as she was clearly still feeling pretty dizzy. She thought about it for several strides. I said to her "If you need to stop, we can. But the finish line is just .5 miles ahead and it would be a shame to come 25.7 miles and not finish this thing if you think you can. What do you want to do?" She gave it another moment’s thought then, without looking up took a deep breath, quickened her pace very slightly and said simply: "Let’s try." I couldn’t help but smile. She’s a tough lady. A lot of people would have folded their tent and gone home but not her.
That last .5 was a study in focus. She never lifted her eyes from the road, always focusing on a point just ahead of her. She said she was afraid she’d fall over if she looked up. I walked right beside her, holding a spare cup of water for her, occasionally dousing her sponge with fresh cold water and ready to grab her if she started to topple. But she never faltered. She held that pace, stride after stride, all the way to the finish line. As we entered the chutes there were a lot of cheering people, including a number of our group, but she never even raised her eyes…all the way thru that finish line.
As soon as we crossed the line we made a right-hand turn and I took her straight into the first aid tent. They gave her some more water, got her on a cot, and checked her blood pressure and pulse. Within a few minutes she was starting to feel a little better and by the time I left her it was clear that she was going to be fine.
That was undoubtedly her toughest marathon and she was determined to finish. I was inspired by her shaking off every excuse. She was going to cross that line or be carried off the course. Some part of me feels like she earned that t-shirt and medal even more than I did.
One Last Comment…
One of the smiling faces greeting us as we strode down the finisher’s chute belonged to Jana who had finished some time earlier. It was the first time she’d ever been there when I finished a race and there aren’t enough words to tell her how much it meant to me to see her there. She flashed a smile as we came in that made me remember why I do these things. Thank you Jana.
O.K., I’ve got a lot to say about Arizona Marathon training but that will have to wait until later. At the moment there is a small white dog who is excited to play with his daddy and so I need to go chase him about some.