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Running Stories -- 2002


Pittsburgh Marathon - May 7, 2000 - Seth

First, let me preface this story real quick with a little history of my running career. For all of those who think they can’t run or can’t run fast, it is simply not true. I started running in 9th grade to lose weight. At first I couldn’t do one ten minute mile and hated every minute of it. In September [2003], with the help of Sarah W, who ran almost the entire race with me, I finished the PDR at a pace of under 8 minutes per mile. And I did Broad Street at under 7:30/mi last May [2003], probably my best race because it was not only fast, it felt completely effortless.

However, this story is about a race that went really wrong. I write this to show that even good runners have bad days and hope that others reading this will find inspiration in the fact that I could have such a bad day but still find happiness running. In fact, running is what keeps me sane and happy and I would not trade all the money in the world for my running.
Ok, the time is early May 2000, same day as Broad Street actually, except I was out in Pittsburgh doing their marathon. The expected high was 86 degrees and at 8:30am I already was too hot without having run one step. Interestingly as I write this, today is the Boston Marathon and it is way too hot, although not 86 degrees.

This was my second marathon (and last as it turns out). The first one was Philly six months earlier and it had also gone really badly for whatever reason. So I was hoping to redeem myself but the weather was not cooperating. The day before at the expo I bought my first pair of Thorlos socks and first cool-max shirt. It amazes me the junk I used to run in. I also signed up for the “Heinz Ketchup Pace Team”. I picked the 4:30 pace group and managed to stay mostly on target for the first half of the race. It was hot as hell, bright and sunny and very humid. There were about 8 other people in this pace group with one leader.
I generally don’t drink a lot during a race and prefer my own Gatorade so I arranged to have friends at miles 15 and 22 with fresh bottles. I started the race with a bottle too. As I was running along, I got really worried that my normal habit of not drinking wouldn’t work on an 86 degree day. So I started drinking everything in sight at every water stop, water, Gatorade, whatever was available. The first half of the race was relatively uneventful; the fact that I made it even that far on such a hot day still amazes me. By the time I got to mile 15 though, I was feeling pretty bad and have some great pictures of me looking really bad. My friend Patrick came running out to give me my fresh bottle. He asked me how my calf muscle was doing because it had popped out two days before the race. I said something like “dude, I’m dying but it’s not the calf muscle that’s the problem”. Actually at that point, it was more like a moan than actual speech.

Shortly after I picked up my new bottle I started walking some and also pulled over to pee for the last time of that race. I think I also stopped sweating at some point, a sure sign something was very wrong, but I was barely paying attention. Somewhere around mile 18, I started zig-zagging across the road while walking and at least two people asked me if I was ok. I got to mile 22 about 45 minutes late and saw my friend Hyun waiting for me. I moaned out “Hyun!” to get her attention because she didn’t see me coming, or perhaps didn’t recognize me. “Oh my god Seth, I thought we missed you,” she said as we exchanged water bottles.

I don’t know exactly how long the last 4 miles took but it was an awfully long time. At some point I ran into the woman who was heading up my 4:30 pace team, she was apparently doing no better than me. I lost track of her though, but later ran into another woman named Liz. Liz and I walked/jogged/limped in the last 3 miles or so together. Somewhere around mile 24 I got some motivation and asked Liz if she wanted to run it in. Sure, why not. So we started running... and my stomach started churning. This lasted about half a mile before I told Liz I had to stop, so we went back to walking. Then I had to stop altogether and I sent Liz off to finish the race without me. A few seconds later I was throwing up gobs of lime green Gatorade on the sidewalks of downtown Pittsburgh. And some guy was up on the curb screaming “Hey buddy, you’re not gonna give up, are you?!!!!!!” At that point, I had no intention of giving up, I was so close, I would’ve finished no matter what. But I needed a few moments to myself, which I clearly wasn’t going to get.

I finished throwing up and jogged in the rest of the race. Actually I felt much better without several gallons of Gatorade on spin cycle in my stomach. Total time: 5:18.

I keeled over at the end of the race and lay in the grass for about an hour. Then I tried to get up and go back to Shirley and Patrick’s place. Well, I stood up and almost fell over again. I sat back down and tried again after half an hour. Much better. Until I got home, where Summer the dog almost knocked me over greeting me as I came in the door. I took a shower and an hour nap. I went down for dinner and discovered I could not unscrew the cap on my Gatorade.

Training for my third marathon I ended up with a stress fracture by running 18 miles in old sneakers when my favorite shoe was in between model years. At that point, I gave up on marathoning. After the stress fracture healed up, some electro-stimulation and ultrasound done by a chiropractor at my gym helped with some inflamed scar tissue. Since then I have done my best running and am much happier running shorter races.

Morals of the story:

1) Don’t run a marathon in 86 degree weather.

2) Don’t drink more during a race than you have in training.

3) If you are drinking a lot and you are not sweating and not peeing, something is very wrong.

4) Carry a few business cards to hand to cute women.

5) Watch out for large dogs after a hard race.

6) Make sure a friend is on hand to open your bottle of Gatorade.

7) And finally: Don’t let one lousy race get you down.




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