For a year I imagined this race. Even when running other races I was imagining this one. The 2017 Patrick Henry Half Marathon. The race that owed me one. Actually, I'm the one who owed something here. I owed this race my best effort. One worthy of staying on the course past mile 10, which I couldn't do last year.
Less than 48 hours before the race I felt my best effort rising to the surface. I had strength like I was already standing at the starting line. Adding to that strength was a weather forecast calling for perfect running conditions.
Then completely unforeseen, my personal condition went south fast. One minute I was coaching my son's flag football team and giving it all I had, a half hour later I was giving up a week's worth of hydration and nutrition to whoever it is that dishes out stomach bugs. I woke up the next morning 6 pounds lighter than the morning before. I no longer felt like I was standing at the starting line. In fact, I felt like I'd never stand at one again.
I reached out to friends on social media to let them know what I was dealing with. When I did, I'd resigned myself to the reality the Patrick Henry Half was about to put another notch in its belt at my expense. There was no way I was going to be able to run.
Many of my non-runner friends agreed. They replied with comments that my health was much more important than a race. There will be plenty more races, they said, but there's only one you.
The responses from my runner friends were a bit different. Oh, they shared an equal amount of concern for my health, but they also allowed for a way to the starting line. Drink coconut water. Eat pretzels. Get lots of rest. They shared stories of how they bounced back from their own stomach issues and like superman or wonder woman found themselves at the starting line. In other words, they weren't convinced I should be thinking about other races. They were still pointing me down the road to redemption.
death and the destruction of food in favor of a craving for a way to line up and run a half marathon.
Add that to the strangest but truest thoughts of my life list.
Saturday morning came. Two hours before start time. One final examination: can I make it to the starting line? Do I have what it takes to finish this race? Less than two hours later I found myself standing beneath the starting line I'd been dreaming of for a year.
hadn't found a way to outrun my lack of nutrition. I shifted thoughts and gears and settled into a pace that would get me safely to the finish line. I reminded myself that's what I came for. Redemption only required one thing: the finish line.
Coming up on mile 12 I saw my family handing out water. Then I saw my friends Solomon and Pam coming to greet me and run a few paces with me. I was reminded some days we're as strong as the people who run beside us - no matter how weak we might feel. Those two, and then the gatorade my boys tried to hand me, and the pictures I saw my wife snapping - that was the fuel and nutrition that carried me through to the final mile.
My neighbor Art Bedard showed up at a couple of key spots over that final mile. I'm convinced God planted him in strategic locations. Art has always cheered me on virtually, but seeing him in person on the side of the course helped me discover a few ramining drips of adrenaline. Then my friends Rebecca and Chuck showed up to run me through the final chute. They kept saying you've got this. You've got this. It was the only stretch longer than a few feet that I'd actually run the previous two miles. Their voices were my strength. Their voices were voices from God.
Life is like running.