Not many endurance sport activities are more awkward than “running along to support someone in a marathon,” and that’s what I did this weekend in Nashville.
I’ve run exactly two marathons, both at the end of Ironman, and Saturday I jumped on the Country Music Marathon course at Mile 18 to support my friend Mark for his last 8 miles. By then, he was a veteran soldier and I was a well-rested, baby-faced-rookie dishing my new-aged arsenal of annoying cliches.
“You look great, buddy!”
“You got this!”
“Your tougher than this course!”
Most of my inspirational quotes were met with a soft grunt or groan, but I know he appreciated my company.
It’s just so weird!
Last year at Ironman Louisville I had a someone join me at the 13 mile turnaround and I literally didn’t remember who it was. I was telling this story to one of my buddies on our Wednesday night group runs.
ME: “Yeah, I was so out of it I could barely stand up and some guy was walking with me, asking me all kinds of stupid questions and trying to get me to talk about LIFE when all I wanted to do was lay in an ice bath.”
HIM: “That was me, you asshole!”
So, that’s how I felt when I was running with Mark. It’s kinda like trying to cheer up a heavy sleeper the minute they wake.
I’d been running for two miles when he hit mile 20. A spring chicken cruising at a pace just out of Mark’s comfort zone. “We’re gonna have to slow down a bit, man.”
In retrospect, it was fine and I’m sure it helped him, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I felt like a party crasher who didn’t bring a dish to pass.
Three miles from the finish line we saw a woman lying in the fetal position on the side of the road. She had her left arm in the air with a “thumbs up,” like she was in great shape. She was not.
I kneeled down to touch her shoulder and asked if she was okay. She rolled over onto her back with a thud and said, “I’m from Canada, it’s sooo hot!”
I held her hand and her body temperature was through the roof. My fingers must have felt like ice cube on hers and I told runners to send back help.
“It’s just so hot,” she said in a distant voice, then she said, “I’m gonna get sick,” before turning away to do just just that.
It didn’t look good, but she still had a sense of humor, so it calmed me a bit. She was also a little salty about bonking so close to a PR. It wasn’t meant to be.
I ceremoniously removed her race belt and fastened her watch around it. I had no idea what to do other than just be there while we waited.
Two cyclists came to the rescue with full bottles and a pack of ice to hold on her forehead. Eventually an ambulance showed up and they put her on a stretcher.
As they slid her into the van, I heard her ask, “Can you at least let me run through the finish line?”
The EMT smiled and said, “Let’s just work on standing up first, Jill.”
Her name is Jill Libby and I would love to hear how she is if you know her.
As the ambulance pulled away, I wished I had asked her to cut off her timing chip and let me run it through the finish line. Hopefully there wasn’t too much worry at home.
And Mark did just fine without me. Battling the last 3 miles to finish his first of two marathons this year. I’ll be running his next one, but it will be at the end of Ironman Chattanooga.