Very casually last week, almost as if he didn’t want me to hear it, my son-in-law Todd dropped the news that he was going to run a 50-mile race. That’s not 50 kilometers, which in and of itself would be insane, but 50 miles. Think San Francisco to San Jose.
In this instance it was an “Ocean-to-Sound 50-Mile Relay” from Jones Beach on the south shore of Long Island to Locust Valley on the North Shore with a lot of meandering along the way. Todd, however, was not running the race as a relay with a team. Of the thousand runners, he was one of only three people, including someone in a wheelchair, who signed on for the whole grueling adventure to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I was not an immediate support system, a rah-rah, I-know-you-can-do-it fan. “Have you put in your order for new knees?” I asked. I thought that after months of training in his five-toed “barefoot-feeling” running shoes, after two 50-mile races in the past four months, he was done. Apparently not. With five guys from his office there to run different legs of the race with him, he set out on a too-long race on a too-hot day (already 70°F before 8:00 a.m.)
His post-race blog tells a story of hard-core determination. Or insanity.
Leg 1: Beautiful views of the ocean at sunrise . . .lots of horn-blowing and cheers from all of the other race crews.
Leg 2 – Elite runners who started an hour after we did were passing us. Long slog ahead.
Legs 3 & 4 – Feeling the heat, heart rate high enough to get me in trouble if I didn’t get it down.
Leg 5 – The pain begins, my mind starts to play games. Only half way done. Had two cups of chicken soup my stomach did not like it one bit. I was conflicted: Hold down the food I knew I needed or throw up so I could feel better. I opted for the former.
Leg 6 – The wheels come off. Completely shot. Met up with my crew and laid flat on my back contemplating how I could run another 13 miles.
Leg 7 – Barely capable of running. Quads throbbing.
Leg 8 – Felt like garbage but in the home stretch. An officer from the local police department finds out I am running all 50 miles and gives us a police escort. I’m still not sure if he was protecting us from the passing traffic or waiting for me to pass out. Approaching the finish line, I heard the encouraging cheers of my wife, Liza, and I could see my two older children waiting to run last 50 yards to the finish with me.
Out of town for a few days, I was not able to be at that finish line when Todd and the kids came running, hands in the air, over the finish line. But he told me later that evening that he felt great, and that he could not have made it the whole way without the incredible support of Liza and his friends.
As someone who could not run around the block without needing water, a bathroom stop, and a rest at the half-way point, I am in awe of Todd’s accomplishment. “Did you ever think you weren’t going to make it?” I asked. “I wanted to stop a few times,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t have to stop, so I just kept going.”
“Are you done now?” I asked, thinking that at 43 he would say, “At least with these long ones.” “One more,” he said. In South Africa, there’s this 100-mile race between . . .
Non-runners interested in getting started in marathon or half-marathon training, can get a wealth of how-to information at: http://www.marathonrookie.com/.