195.5 miles raced in 2012
Race: Green Bay Marathon
Place: Green Bay, WI
Miles from home: 1493 miles
Weather: 80s, humid; awful
Will it or won’t it? As I begin this recap, the question remains whether the Green Bay Marathon will count as an official marathon in my own personal standings.
|Lookie here. Yowsers.|
As you may have heard, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon was given black-flag death sentence status a mere two hours and 25 minutes after it started. Unprecedented heat and soaring humidity closed down the course before any marathoner officially completed the course. As of right now, only 5 male and five female finishers have been given official times and those coincide with the prize money being offered for those places.
To begin, I agree with the decision by the race to shut down the race, ostensibly, for the reasons of safety. It is no big surprise that many of those who run a marathon today are doing so to cross it off a list, to simply complete it, and in many cases, more or less shuffling along. Lest there be confusion, I pass no judgment on those people. I merely state a fact. As such, when weather conditions present themselves in such a way that even when planned for, an emergency response team, paramedics, firemen, hospital staff etc, are being taxed and not a single marathoner has finished a decision must be made to protect the health and well-being of not just the back-of-the-packers but those in the front of the pack as well.
|Runners gladly adding mileage to get cool.|
You see, even though, starting around mile 19, I was told by race officials, volunteers and police officers that the race was either canceled, I would get an official time but was warned not to go on or they would be closing down the clock and I was advised to get on one of the shuttle buses to take me back to the finish, I pushed forward. I did this because I had already thrown in the towel for this race as early as mile ten. Continuing on was simply me plodding forward at a much slower pace, with tons of walking thrown in. As I was no longer running, I was barely putting myself in any more danger than I have in any other hot run. In fact, I was in pretty good hands.
The race may have been over/canceled/black flagged but the volunteers were still out in force. The cones were still on the street. The signs telling runners where to go were still up for us to know the route. The citizens of Green Bay and its environs, who were asked to support runners by turning on hose and sprinklers and the like were all out there doing just this for us runners. The impeccable planning that went into the race was still in place. The community showed up to make sure we didn’t go down.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with Dave McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon, on numerous occasions. Once I ran the Boston Marathon with him, long after the race had started, as he does every year for the past 40 years. I inquired why he felt he could run while the race was still running. I mean, this is Boston – doesn’t he have to be all hands on deck until the last runner crosses the finish? Dave’s answer, in a paraphrasing way, was that come race day he has done all he can do. If he has done his job, all things will go right even when all things that can go wrong, do. I am not implying he is not reachable on race day or is still not involved. But his point was that get the right people around you doing the right jobs and once the gun fires, most of what you can do is done.
|Sean in white hat behind Dave in red.|
It is no coincidence that Sean Ryan, the RD of the Green Bay Marathon is a friend of Dave McGillivray. Undoubtedly, Dave’s own planning have been a good influence on Sean and what he does with his races. As such, as I began to run then jog then walk along the course of Green Bay’s marathon I had no reason to be surprised that even with everything going wrong, everything was still going right. In fact, while I appreciated the passion of one man on a bike, who I saw numerous times throughout the course, berating a volunteer for the fact that “These people are out here busting their asses. How dare you cancel the race!” his ire was misplaced. I took it upon myself to thank him and tell him so. The volunteer was simply following orders of a well-planned plan. And, for the most part, us idiots who were still running when it was approaching 90 degrees were being too stubborn for our own good.
It is quite coincidental that I wrote an article about DNFing just a few weeks ago. Believe me, I had plenty of time to think about this article from mile 21 on when the vast majority of my walking began. I wondered if I was pushing the boundaries and would “do nothing fatal”. But realizing that a 15 minute per mile pace would get me under four hours for the marathon and that sitting on a shuttle heading back to the start might even be hotter and causing of more cramps than moving forward on my own, I chose the latter.
Earlier in the race, right around mile seven, I had been running with a Canadian friend of mine named Kevin. We were clipping along at a 3:10 marathon pace. We passed a guy who was just absolutely dripping in sweat. He looked like he was hoping this was a 12k race and not a 42k one. I slid up to him and asked him what his goal was and he answered “To PR and hopefully go under 3:10.” I told him “Not to be Pat Pessimist here but there’s little chance of that happening. Can I unsolicitedly suggest that you call today a long-ass training run and find another marathon a few weeks from now?” When we left each other a few yards later I think he decided that might be a good idea. I did not do this to cast doubt in his mind about his performance but rather call upon 139 previous marathons’ (and numerous other races’) experience. I wanted this guy to do nothing foolish.
|Team Beef rocks.|
When I realized this day was toast (almost literally) at mile ten I bid Kevin goodbye. He asked if I was all right and I told him it was a pre-emptive strike. I kept him in sight for the next 6 miles until we crossed the Fox River and started heading north upon what is usually a gorgeous bike path. Partially shaded by bushes and trees, with views of lovely homes to your immediate right, I bet this is a great training area. It is probably even more lovely on race day- ya know, when it is 40 degrees cooler. As late as mile 20 I was still on a 3:24 pace but that was mostly because I was on a 3:15 pace 5 miles before. I had seen the 3:15 pace group leader tear off his pacing singlet and give it to a friend/family member at one point. He was done for the day. Many others began to follow suit.
My own real concern began around mile 23 when, in spite of constant and vigorous hydration, my urine indicated I was severely dehydrated. Even more disheartening was now my belly was rebelling. Fortunately, I had eaten a delicious steak dinner the night before which had quickly nourished me and passed through my system. I had taken in nothing the morning of the race foodwise so there was nothing to come up. The ab workout I received from this dry retching, however, was something I could have done without.
With less than a mile to go, and Lambeau Field in sight (oh, how I was wishing for its “frozen tundra”) I simply began to wonder whether this marathon would count. Which leads back to my original thought. I do not envy the decision which needs to be made by the RD and staff of the Green Bay Marathon. I know the clock was stopped but I also know that I received split times for my race all the way up to the finish. I do have an official time after all. Chances are I will support the decision of the RD either way. Having a small asterisk by my Green bay Marathon, if declared a non-race, will just make for good story telling. To be honest, the fact that it had not happened in 139 previous marathons is quite remarkable, especially given the conditions I have previously ran in. If it does count, my time of 3:47:33 will be 132nd slowest marathon ever. Only two Leadvilles, Pikes Peak, a marathon I ran in China with food poisoning, my first marathon ever, a similarly hot and humid marathon in Maui, a trail marathon (where my time of 4:04 made me 6th overall!) and the first marathon of 52 in 2006 where I ran a half the day before are slower. That ought to put it in perspective for you.
|Angie on the right. Punk.|
More over, the perspective should be that it is simply a race. There will be another one. As serious as I understand many, including myself, take their times, there will indeed be another race. We run to be healthy, to challenge ourselves, to push beyond our boundaries and to clear our minds. None of that can be done if we do something so foolish to keep us from running again. To all of you who made it through the Green Bay Sufferfest of 2012, congratulations. You will have a story to tell which will be far more interesting to anyone than if you had set a PR there.
Although I will admit, that my one friend, Angie Zinkus, who ran a 3:05 AND set a PR, might have us all beat in the story-telling department.