Running is, obviously, a selfish endeavor and typically a lonely one as well. Even when there are opportunities to run with friends or a group you are often left to try and explain the joy, the sights, sounds, smells or emotion of a run to your non-running loved ones and that is difficult at best. To pay back on the selfish scale we volunteer at an event or run for a cause. On this one day, I believe I managed to connect all of those dots in a most memorable of ways.
My 45th birthday. For more than a decade I've desired to "run my age" on my birthday but it was not to be, until this year. With a 100 mile Ultra Marathon goal in September, it seemed the perfect year. I scheduled the time off work, and with it being the Thursday before the Memorial holiday weekend, figured I could tie it in with our typical camping trip or perhaps with the Thursday night run club. Beyond that, however, I figured I'd just be out traipsing through the area for hours on my own. And I was good with that - looked forward to it actually.
As I shared the 45/45 idea with friends a few expressed interest in running some miles with me. Sure thing! Figured some company would be great.
The Ultra journey grew into a "run for a cause", and my friend Lorrie with RA (her struggle, my cause), started sending letters to the paper, TV news, talk shows, etc. Several days before my birthday the local paper contacted us and wanted to do a profile. Cool, spread the word!
Then the big city paper called. Then the TV news.
Then I started getting anxious. This was beyond what I had imagined, and I was excited that we were getting a platform to share our vision, but I also found myself thrust onto something of a stage, suddenly feeling like this 45/45 was a performance, with a pass/fail test.
I shared this with my sister and she helped straighten me out and settle me down a bit, but come 11 a.m. on Thursday, the scheduled start time, I was anxious to get started and even left 5 minutes early, thinking I might need that extra time later. I had markers to hit - friends that were meeting me, the photographer from the paper, and I had to be at the church for run club at 6:30.
The first 2 miles I went out at 8:30 pace and knew I had to settle myself down and slow myself down. After all, my targets were all based on an 11:00 minute/mile goal. At 6 I saw my wife and Lorrie for the first time and had an average pace of 9:10 at that point. My legs were heavy and my hips were tight but I tried to appear calm and confident (not sure I pulled it off).
At the 10 mile mark my average was 9:27.
At the 15 mile mark my average was still under 10 and I was going to try and keep it there for as long as I could, knowing the final miles would likely be much slower. Thankfully, I had managed to find a way to stretch out the hip flexor that had been bothering me. Most important though was that somewhere after 10 miles I finally relaxed into the run. I embraced all the other aspects of this day instead of worrying about them and then just enjoyed the running. Pam and Lorrie were checking on me every handful of miles or so and I found myself excited for the next time I saw that little white car and benefited from my wife's awesome support and the smiles and words of encouragement from Lorrie. They even put out Happy Birthday signs and balloons at a number of corners.
At about 12 miles was a right turn onto Read Rd, the first of a number of roads I'd never been on before. That's when the "I am so blessed to be here" moments began. Rolling hills, lakes, historic homes, and the smells, oh the smells. It has been raining for days. It was rainy on this day, too. But that just made the grass and leaves so much greener and the brown tree trunks vibrant. The flowers were pungent. The rivers and creeks were rushing powerfully downstream with evidence of where they'd been over their banks in recent days. Despite the weather, even partly because of it, it had become a great day - and I was so pleased that Pam and Lorrie were sharing in a way that non-runners seldom do!
A random highlight - meeting Bentley. A dog twice the size of the PJ plaid little girl trying to control him. "He won't bite" she yelled as he came bounding my way. He looked like he was fresh off a swim - 80 lbs or more of sloppy, wet, puppy love heading my way. "...but he will jump on you..." she continued. I just tried to stay the course, but ended up getting tattooed with two giant paw prints on my backside. Bentley was friendly, but didn't want to get caught. He'd come within arms reach, but then pull away. I spent several minutes trying get hold of him for the little girl so we could each go our own way (when I tried to just run away he'd go with me). She finally dropped a treat and when he went for it grabbed the collar. Good plan! And I was off again.
At 22 I was supposed to meet Christina. I called her to tell her all was well and I was ahead of schedule, "meet me further down the road." I got off the phone and everything started to fall apart (of course). Fatigue was sudden and overwhelming. Then a searing pain shot through my knee on a climb. So bad was it that I was unable to lift my leg to push up the hill. No, no, no, no, no. This can't happen. Lord please! I walked the next couple of hills and ran where I could - the downhills and flats - and the pain subsided.
At 26 Christina found me and joined me for "6 or 7 miles, I don't know, maybe 90 minutes..." 14 miles later :-) we arrived together at the church. Christina and I met at a club ride last summer and had a couple of chats on the bike over several weeks. This was a great way to get to know each other a bit more and I cannot tell you how much the company helped. Pam later told me that the longer the day went the better I started looking. Thanks Christina, you were a great motivator!
Random highlight #2 - "Do you have a cellphone?" she yelled from across the street. A woman, sitting on a pillow, on a curb, with small bag next to her. We stopped and she explained that she had been kicked out by her sister-in-law. She was homeless. "Do you have someone to call?" "Call 911, please." "Is that a 911 emergency?" "Well, yes, I'm homeless!" I gave her my phone and Christina urged me to keep moving and that she'd get my phone back and catch me. Which she did. 911 explained to the woman there was nothing they could do. I felt bad. That was strange. I wish her well.
At about 32 miles (I think?) the photographer from the local paper found us. A brief chat and a few "action shots" and we were moving again. Great guy. Felt bad he had to come out in this weather :-)
36 miles - McDonalds! No, had to pass on the Value Meal :-) Just picking up a pair of gloves from the "support crew" and a couple more friends - Cathie and Sue. Apparently my guy friends were afraid of the weather (or had to work) or something :-PPP
The rain was harder and I was cold. One block down the road my knee pain flared again. Not even a hill this time. I was barely able to propel my leg forward, even walking. I stopped. The ladies prayed for healing in my knee. We walked a minute, then we were off running again. Yeah God. I could smell the finish line!
We arrived at the church, the 40.5 mile mark, at 6:10 pm. 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Christina made a dash for her waiting ride and the dry, warm clothes that awaited. With 14 miles banked, she flashed a big smile and was off for her family weekend. I decided to do a 1.5 mile out-n-back instead of waiting around until 6:30.
When I arrived back at the church a number of brave souls had shown up and donned a birthday hat (thanks Jocelyn!) and hand made "race bibs" (thanks Coreena!) with everyone as #45 for "Chuck's Birthday Run". So cool.
I took a minute to share my vision and to say thanks to the group for coming out on such a crummy day. Lorrie and I both shed a tear. Then we took to the streets, with the bibs, and the hats, and the rain and cold, and I felt like the most special person on the planet.
3 miles later, it was done. Mission accomplished.
At the finish we enjoyed home baked cookies and birthday cake (thanks Cathie and my daughter Stephanie!).
Hmmm...dinner anyone? "A table for 12, please." Warm breadsticks and a huge plate of Ravioli. Yum!
Think it's time for bed, after all, we need to get up at 5am to get Pam to the hospital for shoulder surgery. The journey continues...
Press on friends.
p.s. Surgery went well. Pam will be in a sling for a few weeks. Phone interview with the Detroit Free Press on Friday afternoon went well, I believe. Humbled. Excited. Ready for more.
Stats: Miles - 45, Pace - 10:47, Time - 8:06, Method - 5/1 (5 minute run, 1 minute walk)
My day, in photo's...
|Team "Seriously?" at the start|
|Shirt Pam made for me...|
|And we're off!|
|Sometimes it's the little things...|
|I thought I was smiling. Now I know what Pam means when she says I "looked rough"|
|Yeah, that's the spot!|
|Christina had to endure the less than beautiful sections of the route...|
|The photographer by the pole. Christina trying to stay out of the shot :-)|
|40.5 Miles! Cathie and Sue, in the back, had stopped to fix one of the birthday signs|
|36 miles! Time to refuel, put on some gloves. Push for the finish...|
|The group. I donned the jacket to fight off a nasty chill...|
|The final 100 yards.|