Monday, October 10, 2011
Good time...Sad News.
Every family needs a person like Granny around. Granny, my Grandma Gillette, is one of the strongest women you will ever have the pleasure to meet. She is a fighter, both literally and metaphorically. Growing up her nickname was, "Slugger." Her fighting nature gave her the ability to beat the odds and survive a rare disease back in 2006. I will never forget being with her at Rush hospital in Chicago watching the treatment beating her body down. She was suffering and given only a 30% chance to survive. The doctors came into the room and bluntly laid out the options, "We can continue this experimental treatment or you can give up. The person in the room next to you stopped treatment yesterday and passed away today." Granny replied the only way I could expect her too. She looked at my dad and I and stated, "I can't give up with family like this supporting me." Granny did not want to let us down and this weekend I did not want to let Granny down.
Granny is a very important part of my running career. I started doing local road races prior to being able to drive, so Granny would gladly take me to where I wanted to go. Most weekends while I was focused on running to the best of my ability Granny was working the crowd talking to the elderly men. Our family gave her the nickname of, "Granny the Geezer Pleezer." Our travels together took us to the Boston Marathon in 2002. At that point I was an inexperienced 19 year old with a 2:56 marathon personal best. While eating pasta the night before Granny failed to clean up her plate, so she urged me to eat it for her. I gladly packed it away, besides carbs are good! She insisted it would help me run my best. That was my break through race. A twenty-two minute improvement for a 2:34:11. During the race I had two focuses. Do not let Granny down and hurry to get done so that we start the trip home. Boston fell during the Goshen College Spring semester finals and Dr. James Miller gave me an extension for taking my final due to the race.
On my long drive to the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA I received a text message from Granny, yes at 82 years old Granny texts. Her message was simple, "Run your best." Did she mean to try my best effort or literally run my best time? Either way I could not let her down. Steamtown Marathon represented my 5th marathon in 6 weeks. A person would be hard pressed to find an expert or a marathoning book that states this is ideal for running a personal best, but these people do not have a Granny to encourage them.
Roughly 8 minutes prior to the start of the marathon I was hunched over puking in the parking lot adjacent to the start. A mid-pack runner asked me if I was okay. My response was, "Yeah it is just nerves." Marathons are hard, intentionally pushing a pained body hurts more, but letting someone down feels down right awful. The race started at a moderate pace. I tucked into the front pack of 5 guys early on. The first 5 miles included both an uphill and a nice downhill. We hit these mile splits:
5:35, 5:37, 5:34, 5:12 (downhill), 5:23 for 27:22 combined time.
By mile 5 the front pace was down to four guys. We kept clicking off at a solid pace without any changes until mile 8. That marked the end of the major downhill section of the course, and was also the end of our 4 person group. Peter Kemboi, a Kenyan who won the race in 2:19, pulled away from the other three of us, even though we ran a 5:17 mile split. That left three of us in the chase pack, but I had no intentions of chasing down Peter.
We past the half way point in my 3rd fastest half marathon time. This is not a shock to me as I do not race half marathons often, actually my half marathon personal best is a marathon split. At this point I was pretty confident that I could run a personal best marathon, and crazy visions of running a 2:23 starting entering my head. The group of three I was with broke up. It was a nasty split, at least from my vantage point, as they dumped me.
I was too slow for them, but I was still not too slow to make Granny happy. I could run my best. A 20 mile split of 1:49:23 gave me a little boast to push harder.
I dug as deep as I could to crank out a good last 10k. As fate would have it my body was starting to break down. Maybe it was due to the frequent marathons I have ran or the hills we were climbing. Either way those are excuses, and the newspaper does not print excuses they print results. Soon after mile 23 I came nearly to a complete stop. The body would not go further without puking some more. Darn All-Sport!! The thought of dropping out entered my mind, but shown an exit door right away. My cadence was down to a slow mans shuffle as I worked through this small problem.
I still had a shot at a personal best, but needed to get my rear moving faster. This is where Jake GunderKline came in handy. The Goshen College cross country team I help coach had a meet Friday prior to Steamtown.
With roughly 350 meters to go Jake was cranking hard. He had 3 guys from a rival schools closing on him very fast. I urged him to hold them off at all costs. He one upped me and even caught another runner. When Jake finished he too was puking, he laid it all on the course and that it was I had to do. The mile working through my stomach issue was a 6:09, my next mile was a 5:42. One final mile and I was done.
I sprinted as much as my body would allow and finished in 2:25:44, for 4th place. It was a personal best as Granny instructed me to run. Once across the line I puked a few more times, grab my medal and walked the two blocks to the car. On the way to the car I saw a mom holding a baby awaiting her husband to finish the marathon. I gave my medal to the baby. He was a cute little future marathon runner. Once to the car I changed my clothes and started the 660 mile drive home. I looked at my watch and the race clock was a 2:43. I ran fast because I wanted to get home quickly, just like at Boston in 2002.
The major difference though came with the phone call Melissa gave me. Dr. James Miller, my Human Anatomy professor in 2002 and Melissa professional mentor, had been murdered. Typically when completing a marathon I update my facebook status, but this time I decided to drive a few hours to remember the conversations that Dr. Miller and I have had. He was one of the few professors at Goshen College who was genuinely interested in my running career. A great guy and a tragic loss to the Goshen College community. I will always make the connection of my Steamtown Marathon experience to his life being taken too soon.