In mid February, a month before what I intended to be my first marathon, I strained a muscle which sidelined me for what I expected to be two weeks. I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, I’d rest and then get in two short tune up runs then run all 26.2 miles of the LA Marathon. I had to do it; I had been training for months and I was running in honor of my friend the late Dr. Lisa Kelly who helped get me started on running. The muscle strain was in my abdomen which put pressure on the muscles in my left hip making it very painful to walk or run. Two weeks turned to three and then four. I spoke with runners, I consulted professional help and I rested but I didn’t run. A week before the race I was finally able to walk without pain so I decided that I was going to go to the starting line and just go as far as I could just to get a piece of the marathon experience. I made it to the starting line and got in the runners corral. I was planning on taking it very slowly. I normally run at about a 9 min per mile pace but I put myself way in the back so I could just go at my own pace. The race started and I was running for the first time in a month and it didn’t hurt.Despite the fact that I felt great I kept it slow, at about an 11:30 per mile pace for the first three miles. There would be plenty of miles ahead of me to speed up. Shortly after passing the mile three marker I ditched my sweatshirt. The weather was clear and I was feeling good…and then I started to hurt.
You should go read Will’s race recap. Remember that Will is a guy who had special ed gym. He’s a guy who didn’t lace up a pair of sneakers until 18 months ago, when he ran 23 seconds. (In a row!)
I knew he was hurt. But I knew he wanted to run.
I wasn’t worried when I saw him at mile 12. He looked good. As my friend Lisa drove us from Hollywood to Santa Monica I saw this:
Mile 15, break. Hurt. Not stopping.— Will Stegemann (@BeTheBoy) March 18, 2012
I was concerned but not overly so. We got to the finish line (or as close as we could get to the finish line - about 3/4 of a mile away.) We hoofed it through the crowds to the corral where the runners come in. A short while later I got a text from Will that said:
Mile 19. Hurt. Trying to make it.
I don’t know what happened but a switch flipped in my brain. I turned to Lisa and said:
“Stay here. I’m going to find him.”
He was at mile 19. While I knew he had to be in excruciating pain, I also knew that in a week that pain would go away. What wouldn’t go away would be the disappointment of not finishing the race with just seven miles to go.
I had been smart enough to wear my running shoes that day, but I wasn’t dressed to run, wearing a leather jacket and a turtleneck and carrying a giant bag filled with clothe for Will to change in post-race (we thought it was going to rain.) I swam upstream against the racers, following the course. I was lucky enough to spot Shane who I cheered on like a crazy person before I continued up the course.
Our friend Corrie Greathouse hopped on Twitter and took up the charge.
@slackmistress where is he? I’m going to try to find him in Brentwood over on San Vicente and 26th. If I recall,it’s around m 20 or 21— cgreathouse (@cgreathouse) March 18, 2012
I scanned the crowds and counted down the miles. 25…24…23…I don’t know what I was going to do when I found him, except promise him that he could do this.
I found Corrie and together we found Will. He was hobbling, but moving forward.
Just keep moving forward, I told him.
Corrie and I escorted him to mile 26, where we met up with Lisa. Together we watched him cross the finish line.
I don’t know if he’ll do it again. But it doesn’t really matter: he did it.
*An all-about-me aside: between the trek to the finish line, the trek up the course and coming back, plus the trek to the car, I did 10 miles yesterday. Which makes me think maybe I should train for the marathon next year. Although that could be crazy talk.
Nina is awesome, too.