As many of you might know I am an avid runner and just love to participate in all kinds of road races. Just yesterday, there was another road race I had the great fortune to participate in. The Fifth Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan, touted as the largest 25K in the country.
There were 11,847 participants who ran, walked or rolled in the 25K, 5K Run, 5K Walk and Junior events at the 29th Annual Fifth Third River Bank Run! An army of about 2,000 volunteers kept an eye on the course which was draped under cloudy skies and drizzle throughout the race. The murky weather certainly didn't keep Fernando Cabada from setting a new unconfirmed 25K American record with his first place finish time of 1:14:20. Truly a great day for runners and our appreciation goes out to the organizers, the many volunteers, and sponsors for making it not only the nations biggest 25K, but also one of the best organized running events in the nation. Thank you.
25K. The event I participated in.
The latest count confirmed that 5,212 participants of both genders and of all ages, sizes shapes and capabilities participated in the 25K run. To put 25K into perspective. It is a little further than half a marathon of 13.1 miles, or 15.5 miles. The winner Fernando Cabada ran it almost exactly one hour faster than I did. I finished in 2:14:18 which translates into a pace of 8:40 minutes per mile. I have to tell you up front, the slowest pace I ever ran any race in my running career. I could make many excuses contributing to this fact but this is not what it is all about. Most certainly, a time like this is disappointing for me personally, I learned the most ever of any race I ever participated in. They say one learns from defeat. I have to tell you that this is absolutely true.
The race started with light rain which persisted mile after mile. In my opinion, perfect running weather. Not to hot, not to cold. No wind at all. A dream come true. I finished the first four miles the pace I did set for myself for the entire race. 7:40 per mile. Then came the crash. I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden I felt really tired, exhausted and was somewhat perturbed. I trained for this and just two weeks earlier I was able to run half a marathon with great success. But such is the life of a runner. One day performance can be out of this world, and then the next day it can be totally abysmal. The latter happened to me. I kept on going, and the reason for this was the energy one can suck up from other runners during such an event. The sounds, of the other runners breathing, the crowd cheering, loud music playing at aid stations, all of this will get your adrenaline flowing.
At half way it was pretty clear that I was unable to come close to previous performances and decided, instead of focusing on the defeat, I should take in the energy of the crowd and other runners and make it a "fun" run. I had a great time for the next maybe four to five miles until mile 13. At mile 13 something happened I will never forget and I will use this as inspiration should I ever feel inclined to feel self pity for myself.
OK. I finished in 2:14:18, which placed me at rank 24 of 178 in the clydesdale division. Yes, for all you non-runners, they have division for heavier sets. Hey I am 6"5 and weigh ca. 215 lbs. We need to make it fair somehow! 24th is still a respectable result when measured against 178 people of similar abilities. Last year I finished 12th in the same division. Anyway lets get to the point.
As I am huffing and puffing my way across the wet asphalt all kinds of people are cheering me on to keep on going. All of them reminding me that I have only a "couple of miles" left. They must see the pain I am experiencing with each stride in my facial expressions, since for some reason, they seem to be cheering me on louder and harder than other runners around me. "Only two miles" left guy, they scream. Well, the longest two miles in my running career ever, literally. One might think two miles are two miles. Not really, two miles can be run for example in 14 minutes or they can be run in 24 minutes. Clearly in the second case the two miles are "further" than the two miles in case one. But that is getting into the psychosomatics of running. Thoughts of just stopping an dropping out of the race ran through my mind when this lady, my Heroine of this race, just swept by me. Lets call her Jane Doe.
Jane was on her way to a great finish. The pace she was going was surely to ensure her a time of about 2:05:00 to 2:10:00. As a matter of fact, she was running about the same pace as I was a year previously. Amidst my thoughts of utter defeat, this angel comes to rescue me. How so?
Well, Jane's left leg was transfemoraly amputated (above knee). She was able to stride gracefully with the help of a prostheses, which looked like an awkward ski-like contraption. At first I had to wrestle with my thoughts of adding insult to injury. Being beat by a women is cool, hey I am metrosexual, I am down with that. No problem. Getting my keester whopped by a woman with one leg… In a 25K road race… Totally different story. Ouch!
Upon further examining the situation and putting my severely damaged ego aside, I started to become overwhelmed with joy. The joy of seeing somebody overcome, what must be great personal trauma, which I don't even can start to grasp. The perfect proof of how capable humans really are to deal with the most adverse situations and the fact that the "spirit" can greatly contribute to healing or defeat. The proof, that with any injury, disease, or illness, the patient's frame of mind can set the tone for recovery, or worse, the patients untimely departure from this planet. This is especially true in alternative and complimentary medicine, as these modalities directly relate to the mind/body connection of disease. No Cartesian split here.
This post shall be dedicated to the many people who overcome immense suffering both physically and emotionally as part of their disease, and to the unbreakable spirit and inspiration they provide for all of us "able bodied, healthy" people. The fact, that if I should encounter great despair, that there has actually somebody been before me, probably experiencing the same thing and that they made it through a difficult time in their lives, surely helps me put things in perspective. It is something I will be able to draw from, should I ever encounter such great difficulties.
Jane Doe, my Heroine, wherever you are, thank you for helping me through the last two miles of what seemed a lost cause, and for providing all of us with the inspiration necessary to overcome great personal difficulties. I salute you!