Today I ran the Cash Store Financial Freedom Run for Diabetes Research half marathon here in Winnipeg and did very well – training and improvements continue. But I got a reminder lesson today near the end of the race from another runner about making sure you are running your own race to your own abilities (and if your body is telling you something bloody listen to it).
I woke up this morning at 223 pounds and was hoping for between 1:45 and 1:50 for a race speed – frankly I look huge compared to other runners shooting for that time frame and it can confuse or sometimes even upset other runners. It shouldn’t though – I’m still not quite back to where I was in 2002 (1:46:11 personal best on the half at 215 pounds) but I have done some really slow and awful races since then – I have been near the 3 hour mark on a half and closer to 6.5 hours for a full – so I have been the guy getting passed before and while I might not like it I understood in those races that I hadn’t trained properly and I learned that you can never judge how well you are doing by what you see someone else doing – everyone is different, everyone has trained different, everyone had something different for breakfast, etc – You can’t be concerned with other runners – maybe you can be a bit envious if that will help you train harder but in a long distance race like a half or full the whole deal is about what you can do in that moment on that day. I learned that lesson pretty solid back then and now on race day I can actually appreciate when someone passes me – it is either another lesson for me to learn or highlights something maybe I can improve. It is all about getting better now and I will take just about any source for info (even if it stings a little sometimes).
So all that being said I saw a runner today that I think might have learned that lesson rather harshly right beside me.
This was a pretty small race with the majority of the runners lining up to be a bit slower (something like 130 halfers in the race) so there weren’t a huge number of people lined up in front of me. Being a bit of people watcher I took note of folks who really looked like solid long distance runners that I could watch on the course to see if I could learn something. I noticed this one gentleman who definitely looked like a long distance runner who quickly distanced me at the start – I took notice of him though because he seemed a bit twitchy or nervous and I wondered why someone who obviously looked like a long distance runner would be so nervous at the start of a half.
I did see him again later on the course when he was on a bit of walk break and I passed him momentarily and I figured he might be a high speed run / walk interval runner or he might be partially hurt pushing through the race. But either way he easily distanced me again – this was probably mile 8ish.
I saw him walking again around mile 11 and almost caught up with him but he started running again but was definitely moving slower and he took a water stop around mile 12 which I bypassed and I was probably ahead for about 10-20 seconds before he was running again and was out ahead of me.
From here we were going pretty close to the same pace with him about 10 strides ahead of me – I could tell he was struggling but still moving so I thought “good for him” and then put him out of my mind as I wanted to steel myself for a final hard push.
I like to push hard and finish races hard (it just feels better to sprint across the finish line instead of staggering like I have done in the past) – it is never about passing anyone or anything like that – when I do this I am usually just solidly in my own head and I’m not looking at anything but the finish line. I rarely even notice the other runners or the crowd lining the home stretch when I do this.
So with about 0.1 miles to go I pushed – which put me close to this gentleman but he looked over his shoulder, yelled something at me (it was passionate whatever it was – I had headphones on and did not understand – it could have been a shot at me or it could have been an encouragement to push hard – I will probably never know) and then he really unloaded – at this point his top speed was way higher than mine and he was easily pulling ahead of me. I just kind of shook my head and kept going with what I had.
Just before the finish line though he started jumping up and down on one leg and I thought maybe he was doing a bit of premature finish celebration but he crossed the first timing pad and collapsed on the ground grabbing his leg.
I registered this as I was slowing down as I crossed the line (when I get moving I have a fair bit of momentum and it takes me a bit to stop safely) so I started asking him if he was ok and he wouldn’t respond. A volunteer nurse and then some course paramedics came to help (seemed to take longer than I would have expected) and the gentleman was swearing loudly and was in obvious pain. I think he might have damaged something in his thigh.
I watched to make sure people way more qualified than me had him and I wandered out of the finishing chute and got my medal.
I had to ask myself the question – “did this runner really just hurt himself to cross the finish line ahead of me?” Even just looking at him it was obvious he was a long distance runner (you would never guess that looking at me) but as an observer I could tell he was having trouble – so what made him push himself over the edge instead of letting a stranger pass? Why was beating me more important than his own physical health?
I don’t know the gentleman and I will never know the mindset he was in when he made his push or why he singled me out to compete against. All I can do is think about what happened and try to make sure I don’t make that mistake myself. I can never forget that as long as I am pushing myself to my limit then what others are doing doesn’t really matter on a long race.
A long race is the me built by my training versus the miles. Nothing else matters – other runners are not my adversaries they are my allies – those slower remind me where I was and faster show me that is possible to be a better me.
In all honesty I hope the gentleman is ok – he obviously was pushing through something physical or mental and he finished his race – there is honor in that.