Sunday, June 6, 2010
That's Just How We Roll
Where to start?
The woman who fell on her face and mumbled “I gotta finish!” even has blood poured from her mouth? The woman who puked right in front of us, or the one that obviously barfed just before and hadn’t bothered to wipe her chin? Or how about the gal who cramped up and just collapsed in the street, screaming in pain? The countless men with blood-soaked shirts? Or, the talk of our table: this one runner on course for a 3:45 finish who was literally foaming at the mouth?!
Actually, there were several mouth foamers, but this woman’s was like none I’d ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot in my 35 years of running.
Such were the observations from the Mile 25.4 Aid Station during today’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. The San Diego Track Club was in charge of seeing all runners were properly hydrated for the last .8 miles to the finish at Sea World. At the very end, we even offered our leftover turkey rolls, which all went to some very hungry stragglers.
Yes, we got everyone at their worst, but there was also a deep, reciprocal appreciation between the marathoners and the race crew at this point in the race. And I loved the crews I worked with, most of whom were fresh recruits with a great sense of humor – and humility. We served many Achilles runners, most in wheelchairs; one young man who ran by us with an artificial leg and prosthetic arms drew especially heavy applause.
The elite all seemed to move effortlessly, while the pain showed most prominently on the people shooting for a 3:30 to 5:00 finish. This is when all kinds of crazy things started to happen from the people who went out too fast or began to bake in the mid-morning sun (which returned to cool and cloudy for the last to make the cutoff onto Fiesta Island.)
The tears of frustration from the mid-pack eventually gave way to tears of joy from the back of the packers, of which there were thousands in this race. We all stayed to the very end to make sure the last received the same treatment as the first.
This also made for a very long day for the track club members and their friends and family who spent hours soaked in sticky Cytomax and went home sunburned and hoarse from yelling encouragements the entire morning. I also went home with far less photos than intended, having lost battery power just as the elites were coming through.
In our marathon training program, we’re encouraged to tell someone running next to you, “You make a difference in my life.” Today, we think we truly did.