The 2006 Run for the Ranch Marathon was about what I expected. Here are the details:
- 1362.4 miles run
- 0 miles to go
- Race: Run for the Ranch Marathon
- Place: Springfield, MO
- Miles from home: 1088.5
- Course Difficulty: 3 out of 10
- Course Enjoyability: 3 out of 10
- Weather: Rainy; 30-40s; brisk wind in places.
- Finishers Medal: 3 out of 10
- Donations To Date: ~33.5k
- My research has shown that I am only the third person ever to run a marathon every single weekend in one calendar year. No one has done them faster.
- While the last two flights happened in January 2007, the Fiddy2 excursion had me touch down at an airport 125 times, while flying over 85,000 miles.
For the first time in almost two years I approach a weekend where I do not NEED to do a single thing. No flight to catch. No reason to carb load. No marathon to run. Wait. No marathon to run? It is even odd for me to write that phrase. Ever since the idea hit me to run 52 consecutive weekly marathons in one calendar year in March of 2005, I have been planning. Air travel. Hotels. Rental cars. Looking at weather maps in places I normally would not even know existed. I know why people ask me if I know what to do with myself in 2007. I have been ensconced in a weekly routine for the better part of 22 months now and it is now done. Just like that.
I am pretty sure it will take a few weeks for the reality to set in. The fact that I am writing this recap and will send out another press release this week, coupled with how I will continue to fundraise until I reach my goal of $52,000, means that the finality of it all is hardly final at all. But the largest part of the excursion is now complete. Having only run 6 marathons in my life when the idea germinated in my head to do Fiddy2, I have now done something which I had no idea if I could possibly do.
I feel a sense of relief. Not overwhelming relief, mind you. Being a confident person (not to be confused with arrogant) I never would have undertook Fiddy2 if I did not feel it was a possibility. So I am not entirely surprised I have completed it. I am surprised, however, with just about every other aspect about it. Those who have supported me. Those who have not. How fast I eventually ended up running the races. How the most tiring and exhausting part was not the marathons but a tie between the constant travel and the endless fundraising. I have forever had my viewpoint changed of those who work tirelessly to raise money for causes that mean a great deal to them. There is never a rest period. Anytime where a donation is not coming, it feels, in a small part, as a failure.
Luckily, whoever designed human begins gave us the ability, perhaps for self-preservation’s sake, to not only remember the good times over the bad but to rationalize the bad times. As time passes, memories will fade (but not disappear, mind you) of the atrocity which is air travel.
(Addendum: In a fitting ending of one year and beginning of another, my flights were messed up on the way to the race, leaving me in Dallas contemplating a rental car and an 8-hour drive to Springfield. Then on the way home, my flight was lacking pilots [how in the name of all that is good and holy does a plane NOT have a fricking pilot?!] leaving me with the option of taking two different flights. One got me in around 2am to DC when I was originally landing at 5pm. The other was to fly into Philadelphia and make the drive home. I opted for the latter, only when my good friend mentioned she would pick me up and take me home. The epidemic of the absolute deplorable state of the airline industry borders America's obesity problem as some of the most pressing issues that sorely need to be dealt with. If you were looking only for a race recap and no social commentary, then you are reading the wrong recap. I make no apologies for my opinions and you are welcome to speak with me as an adult if you do disagree with them. They are my opinions alone and reflective of no one else's. But as I have sad before, Life is hard. Grab a helmet.)
Disappointments will be forgotten, as successes will become amplified. The enormity of this accomplishment will possibly hit me as I become distanced from the year. As it stands, I remain generally unimpressed. This is not false modesty. This is just me. I generally feel that if I can accomplish something, probably many other people can as well. However, what I do know that even if they can, few ever try.
I was quoted earlier this year as saying "There are many things in this world we cannot do. Trying is not one of them." Chances are someone has said that before and with far better eloquence than I. However, it is one of the things I am most proud of having said. I do not believe that we can do anything if we try. That, to me, is a wonderfully sunny view of the world which I do not subscribe to. We have limits. We all have hurdles, which, for one reason or another, we will never reach or surpass. I have absolutely no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is accepting those absolutes and allowing them to deter us from, at the very least, attempting to achieve. I think humans have been blessed (not often enough however) with selective memory and a sense of distorted reality when it comes to what they can achieve. Without that, we would still be using cave tools with no electricity.
People fail many, many, MANY more times than they succeed. Failure is good. We know we often learn more from failing than from succeeding. We are NOT good at everything we try. We tell little Johnny and Suzy that they can do whatever they want if they work hard enough because telling them the harsh reality is not something we should tell them. But as we grow older we are able to more clearly see what can be accomplished. The lucky few put on blinders, ignore the facts in front of them, and forge on regardless.
I am not even beginning to attempt to compare running 52 marathons to the great accomplishments of science, business and a plethora of other fields in this century or any other. However, I feel Fiddy2 is akin to so many other great achievements because I refused to let the fact that at any point, one tiny mix up somewhere could have derailed the whole project. Nothing could go wrong for 365 days or Fiddy2’s premise would be compromised. And as I have well-documented, MUCH went wrong!
Am I special? Let someone else decide that. What I do know is that if someone wants to say something nice about me, all they need to say is: "He will find a way to do it." I said I would run a certified marathon every week in 2006. No treadmill marathons, no early starts, no marathon race courses not run on the day of the race but a marathon with participants every single week. Positively no exceptions. And I did it. To me, it is simply saying something and following through on it. It is too bad that something as easy as that is so rare.
So Fiddy2 comes to a close. I had one last race to run. I would like to set both a personal best and set that personal best by a large margin. Do I have the energy left to do it? Will I be able to get out of the mindset of "Oh, I have another one next week" and give it all I have while reserving nothing? I am unsure. But I assuredly know I will not fail from a lack of trying. Yoda may have been right when he said : "Do or do not. There is no try." You do indeed either do something or you do not. Then again, Yoda never ran a marathon. He was also a puppet. Who spoke funny.
1st Half Marathon: 1:29:30
Anyone who told me that the 8 plus laps of this 5k course would be monotonous immediately clued me into the fact that they obviously knew very little about Fiddy2. Having done almost every conceivable course design this year, including last week’s 106 laps of a track (which, much to my surprise was FAR more enjoyable than I could have ever hoped), eight measly laps were going to be a cakewalk. That is, of course, if those 3 miles were enjoyable to begin with. If, for example, the course had a monster hill I can pretty much guarantee, repeated runnings of it would be far from my cup of tea.
So, one of the few times his year, I decided to scope out the course beforehand. My friend Jenny joined me as she had come to run the race as well. Even though we left virtually the same time from the same airport, we took different routes and landed at different times. I went for the longer route as it took me through Dallas instead of Chicago (a prudent choice I felt in order to avoid any late December snow storm which may have hit the Windy City. Turns out both airports were relatively unaffected by weather.)
As we drove the course we realized it was not just 8 laps of a circle. Rather it was eight laps, with a few uphills and tons of turns where you would be able to see other runners constantly. We wondered on which lap those hills would stop looking like molehills and erupt as mountains.
Grabbing some pasta the night before the race we went back to the hotel and settled in. With the 3pm start, we were unsure of when to fall asleep, when to get up, when to eat and what to eat. So we climbed into our beds and decided to wake up when we woke up. Morning broke and I fielded both my interviews with a local paper as well as a television affiliate and recounted my story for probably the 10,000th time this year. I never tire of telling it. I am sure my friends get tired of hearing it!
Much to our chagrin, the forecasted 40-50s temperature range ended up being 10 degrees cooler and gusting winds were whipping around Springfield making it even chillier. Jenny and I debated long sleeves, pants, hats and gloves constantly. I think we both made wise choices by buttoning up.
Gathering in the gym of a local church I ran into some old friends, made some new friends and was flattered often, especially by the one gentleman who was running his first marathon and drove all the way from Kansas City because he "wanted to run a race with you". I told him too bad he drove so far to run with a normal guy!
While the course was supposed to be 8 laps we knew there was a little beginning jaunt that marathoners would have to add to get the full 26.2 miles. So .7 of a mile we ran out and .7 of a mile we ran back to get to the start again and begin our loops. It was then I realized if I was going to try and calculate my pace I was probably going to need a slide rule. With no expressly visible mile markers, we would simply have to take the first lap around (4.5 miles) and add the 5k every lap (7.6, 10.7, 13.8, etc.) and then extrapolate.
As we made the loops I could not decide how I felt. Internally I felt like I was pushing it and with only 2 other marathoners in front of me who were pulling away only slightly with each lap, I felt my pace was good. Moreover, a fellow runner who I had run with several times this year (and who had beaten me in every race but the Marine Corps Marathon) was right on my heels, so I knew I was not going too slow. And damn it Brad, I could not shake you!
So the 13.8 mile marker hit and I was well over the pace for a half marathon. It was here that the math really kicked in and I figured out the 1:34 was actually a 1:29. Unfortunately, doing the math made me miss a turn and I had to backtrack to get back on course. I only lost a few seconds but now I was angry. Where had the course volunteers gone?
Still unable to shake Brad, I figured he would be passing me at any point. He had been inching closer every lap and we had exchanged salutations every time. I love the fact that in running you can be so competitive and so friendly at the same time. I have run many races this year with people who you knew it might come right down to the wire and neither of you wanted to lose but neither of you was going to be angry if the other one bested you. It is an amazing dichotomy. And if you ever found someone was holding back for any reason you would be livid!
As we passed the turn-around to begin the last two laps, darkness had set in and the volunteers were completely absent, save for the hearty souls manning the water station at one turn around point in a parking lot. (I do not entirely blame them. The wind and rain was bitter cold. There were cones to mark turns but sometimes you can fly right past those and not even notice them). On my first trip through this lot I had slipped on the wet pavement rounding a cone and did a split. Sure did loosen the groin that is for sure. To their credit, someone must have seen this or someone else doing the same thing, as the cone was moved about 5 feet to the right on a less slick part of the parking lot. Greatly appreciated for sure.
Brad had fallen back a step. With first and second place solidly in front of me, it was now a battle for third between Brad and me. My legs were hurting as they have since July but I figured if I had anything left in them I might as well use it here. There were no more races to run in 2006. Up one hill, make a left turn, down a straightaway, making another turn and back up another hill. Every other lap I had been able to see Brad as I made a turn. This time, I could not see him. Granted it was dark but I felt sure he was closing in. I think this made me press harder.
Up the straightest, most steep portion of the course, I knew I had about 1.5 miles to go. Around the slippery cone I grabbed my last Powerade from the lone supporter who had been out there since the beginning and saw Brad was further behind than usual. As we slapped hands again he said, "She’s all yours. Go get her." Not that I did not believe him but I decided to leave nothing to chance. Down the hill, make a right, around the park for the 8th time and I saw the church and finish line in sight.
One last look behind me showed a clear street and I crossed the finish line in 3:07:42. Four seconds slower than last week but my 6th fastest time of the year. A volunteer tore the tag from my bib number and I quickly ran to my car. My shirts were drenched with sweat and rain and were beginning to ice. I tore off the wet shirts, threw my race t-shirt on, grabbed my fleece jacket and cell phone. Checking messages, I strolled to the church area. Into the basketball court where people were warming themselves, I was met by a reporter walking out to watch me finish. I told her she was too late, with a laugh. Beginning to ask me a few questions I told her she had to wait. My parents needed to know I was finished.
Speaking to my mom and a select few friends, I finally was hit with what I had done and it got a little dusty in the back room of the rec area of the church. I answered a few quick questions, said hello to some friends, ate a bowl or two of chili and ran back outside. With an incoming call from BBC radio being routed to my hotel room, the original plan was to field the call and head back out to pick up Jenny who expected to finish about an hour behind me. Well, as nice as the BBC is, I decided they too would have to wait. Running back onto the course in a stilted hop-walk, I found Jenny about half a mile from the finish. Midway through the race I told her I would probably wait for her. She smiled as much as her frozen lips could when she saw me and we headed towards the finish together. To her credit she left me in her dust, so I cut across a field to cheer her on at the finish. As she crossed the line, under an hour after I did she barely looked winded.
We hopped into the car and drove back to the hotel. Jenny thawed out in the shower and my phone rang. After confirming with the reporters in London that 2007 surely did exist (it was 1 AM there) I exchanged a few pleasantries with the Brit folks letting them know how Fiddy2 was all about raising money for L’Arche Mobile and hoped a few pounds would make their way over the big pond to L’Arche Mobile’s coffers.
We rushed back to the church in hopes of grabbing some more chili and saying hello to some more friends. With most of the participants absent, we feasted on the warm food and sat there saying nothing much. Jenny found out she was 6th overall woman and received a nice little boot trophy (it was the Run for the Ranch) for her efforts. Big smiles were abound as we headed back to the hotel again to settle down and watch the ball drop. Having never experienced a New Year’s Eve in any time zone other than the East Coast I found the situation a little surreal.
Soon after "our" midnight, our beds called. I laid there for a very short time before I fell asleep. I have never had trouble in that aspect. But before I fell asleep I am pretty sure I smiled.
I was done.