There are times on a run that I want to quit, just give up, go home and call it a day. But I don't. I don't give up and quit because I know that the only way to achieve the impossible is through perseverance, hard work and dedication. This is not a secret, many people understand this. I was fortunate enough to see, in person, SEVERAL people with this attitude last Friday night at the Ozark County Relay for Life. The passion and commitment displayed by everyone involved, made me very proud to be a part of such a great community and AWESOME event. Without the support of everybody involved, I don't believe my “little” run would have been successful. Thankfully, it was, and many people carried me through the night.
Usually when I run a big event or a long distance, it has an early morning start time. This was just a little different with the Relay scheduled to kick off at 7 pm. Because I would be running for such a long period of time, this event was treated as a race. Most runners have a “race-day” routine and I am no different. The late evening start made this difficult and I spent my day doing “normal” things- a trip to the recycling center, in an effort to save the world one piece of plastic at a time, only revealed just how hot it was outside. Not a good sign but a little late to back out. Finally, around 6 pm. I ate my normal pre-race meal. Oatmeal. Much easier to eat in the morning but I needed to stay with the same routine.
At the track, I changed into the shirt with all the names wrote on it. Front and back, very cool. After setting up my “aid-station” with water, Gatorade, some candy and food, it was time. I thought. Never having been to a Relay before, I didn't know how things worked. The Survivor lap started and was pretty awesome to watch but I was a little disappointed because this meant that I would not be running the full 12 hours. My friend, Charley, showed up and we started running about 7:30. It was very warm and humid still but we kept the pace very slow to start. His mom, also a runner, joined us for a few miles before she had to leave.
I did wear a pink tutu for about an hour. It got a few looks and comments but that's okay because I know I looked like a beautiful princess or ballerina. Not sure how Charley felt about running with a dude in a dress but he is a great friend so he stuck with me. We ran together for about 3 hours before the track was cleared for the Luminaria ceremony. Again, I felt a little disappointed but Charley, who always makes the best of things, gave me some great advice before he left. Just enjoy the Relay, take it all in and focus on running the event, not a specific time or mileage, just run until the Relay ends. Great advice from a better runner- I'll take it every time.
After the ceremony, which only took about 15 minutes, I was back on the track. Things were still dark and it wasn't long before I found out why. Fireworks. Lots of them. Loud and bright. They were really cool but it made running difficult. Between the noise, flashes of light and the humidity, I was starting to feel rough and, just a little, cranky. I thought about quitting then, only 17 miles into the run, but decided to press on. I told myself to shut up and quit complaining, this was not about me. The run was to Honor others and not about me. The challenges they faced were a million times tougher than a little noise and some hot weather.
The lights came on and I was lucky enough to get a new running partner. Billy is 12 and as we circled the track together he told me about his mom. She passed away from cancer when he was in the second grade and we were running together in her memory. He surpassed all my expectations and even his own as we ran together for 3 ½ miles. We passed the time by talking about the world, the universe and everything in it. I can't explain how much those few mile meant to me, they are miles that I will always treasure. Thank you, Billy.
About 12:30, I was close to 25 miles in and starting to wonder. This is when the reinforcements arrived. Another friend, Tom, showed up and pushed me along for the next 10 miles. I know this was tough for him because of the humidity and the late hour but this is his nature. As we ran, the miles got easier and I managed to get my mind focused on finishing. Thanks for the help, Tom.
There were a lot of activities going on all night and it looked like everyone was having a great time. My wife, who is my biggest supporter and the greatest aid-station worker of all time, skipped all the fun and games to attend to my needs and track each loop around. I was afraid my GPS watch would not have enough battery life so, as a back up, she was marking each lap. She kept me hydrated and made sure that I was eating to keep going all night. I couldn't have made it even half the night without her help.
Around 4:30, the miles were getting hard. I had started walking a lap about every 1-2 miles and this was helping but mentally it was getting hard. Two more great people showed up to run with me. John and Norman, both had been at the event all night, changed into their running gear. They pushed me through the next hour. Bad weather started blowing in and they had to quit in order to pack up tents that were starting to blow away. Thanks to both of these guys. They kept me going at the loneliest time and I appreciate their help.
The last 45 minutes were solo miles and this gave me time to reflect. After 50 miles and almost 10 hours, I was an emotional mess. I choked back a lot of tears as I thought about all of those that have battled the MONSTER, from the many survivors that have fought and won to those that fought and lost. I was tired and hurting but the knowledge that, because of the dedication of so many, we will win the battle one day, I pressed on.
The Relay closed out a little early because of the weather and after one final lap, walking with everyone that stayed all night, it was over. I thought it would be cool to show my gymnastic skills as we finished. The cartwheel felt like Olympic caliber but I have watched the video and realize that I need to work on it a little, well, a lot.
The final numbers were 10 hours and 33 minutes (exactly, if you can believe that) and 54.08 miles. The pace was perfect and just were I had wanted it to be. My original goal was to reach 60 miles and I was on pace for 62. Oh, well there is always next year, get the checkbooks ready.
I also want to thank Alyssa, Wayne, Randy and Jodi who ran some laps with me and to Lisa, Melinda, Kay and my wife, Gayla, who walked with me when I needed it most. Thanks to everybody that donated and helped. Karla, Karen and the Brantingham Cattle team who helped bring in over $1300 in donations for this run, I am very proud to be a part of the Ozark County Relay for Life. There are so many dedicated and hard working people involved- they truly make a difference.
There will always be people that say something can't be done, make excuses why you shouldn't even try and outright laugh at your ideas. Ignore them- they are liars.
This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........