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Strides and Struggles
12 humorous stories of running marathons.
By Kurt Herron
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2013 Kurt Herron
All rights reserved.
RC Cola/Moon Pie 10 Miler Bell Buckle, Tennessee June 2004
The whole purpose of writing this story is because I am not competitive anymore. And if I'm going to pay all this money to run a race, then I had better remember it. Since I probably won't remember it next year, then I guess I had better write it down. So here it goes.
I ran the Country Music Half Marathon in April, my first race in 4 years. I used to run to win my age group. Then I got married and quit running. This year, I decided to get back into running. So Willard Bond a DCS co-worker talked me into running this race with him. Now I am not any more ready to run this race than the man in the moon. We started moving into our house the afternoon after I ran the Country Music Half Marathon in April. Phyllis and Paul moved back to NY and has had their house up for sale. And ours hasn't sold yet. This is June. So for 2 months I have basically been taking care of 3 houses. Needless to say I probably haven't run 10 miles total since the CMM. How in the world am I going to run 10 miles today?
I meet Willard at the "fair" and we walk about a half mile up a hill to the starting line. There is a daylong county fair and so our wives came with us to shop while we run. Willard instructs me that the first part has rolling hills in it. There's one big hill and the last half of the race is pretty level. They get us lined up. Now Willard is 66 years old and still runs competitively in his age group. I am 42 and hope to finish the race not lying on a stretcher. They start getting us lined up for the start. Now I don't want to get run over, so I tell Willard to go on up front, don't wait on me, and I will see him at the finish line. Well, that philosophy lasted until "Runners take your marks" is announced. Everyone starts getting antsy and push towards the starting line. I am dead center second row of 350-400 runners. For the first time in my running career since 7th grade I AM AFRAID! The gun sounds. The stampede is on. I feel like I'm standing at the Wal-Mart door on Black Friday. I try desperately to get to one side or the other. It's no good. Willard is striding right along with no problem. I know I'm going to regret it later, but I keep up with him.
We make it down the hill, about half a mile, and I finally make it to the left side of the road. He is striding along so effortlessly and says, "You OK?" Pride controls my answer as muster up an "of course". He says, "Now that it's thinned out, you ready to pick it up a little?" WHAT? We are three quarters of a mile into a 10 mile race and I am spent. He is wanting to speed things up? He is not going to beat me. He's going to smoke me! With my blessing he takes off. I get to the first mile marker at 8:14. He's about 20 seconds ahead of me. I watch for the next quarter mile or so as he gets smaller and smaller. I think back to my 8th grade year. You see, back then I was so competitive. This not being competitive is killing me. But I'm getting off track. I was a sprinter in school. My brother was the distance runner. I was asked by my coach in one tri-meet to run the mile. I argued because I knew I could win the 100 and 220 yard dash. But he wanted me to run the mile since there were only 2 entrants in the race, Bob Williams, our star distance runner and one from another team. His instructions were to pace myself, just finish and pick up the third place points. I start off like gang busters and blow Bob and the other contestant out of the water in that first lap. Bob kept yelling to slow down. But I didn't listen. So I am about 150 yards ahead of them after 1 lap. Before I run another 150 yards, I was in 3rd place out of 3. Bob finished in first place somewhere around 6 minutes. I finished 3rd somewhere around 8 and a half minutes. In other words, HE LAPPED ME! Some lessons are never learned. That little story is free of charge. Now back to this race.
A guy running with his dog passes me up on my right. As soon as they pass me, the dog takes a 90 degree turn left to sniff some road kill. I nearly trip trying to avoid them. I mumble under my breath something I would rather not repeat and moved on.
About 2 miles into the race I start up a hill. I say to myself, "Willard must not run the hills I run in Antioch. It's challenging but not that bad." So I truck on. I get down the other side and the guy with the dog runs by me-again. What the heck? They get about 50 yards in front of me and the dog takes another 90 degree turn left. This time he finds a tree and pees. I pass them up-again and move on.
A little over 3 miles into the race I hit another hill. This one is a little bigger. I struggle to the top and start back down. This has got to be the hill Willard was talking about! It has tired me out. But we hit a water break. I grab a cup and decide to walk. The guy and his dog pass me up once again. But this time, the guy, pulls his dog to the left. He lets the dog drink and I pass them up-once again.
About 4 and a half miles into the race I start up a hill. I cannot see the top because of all the trees shading the road. I run to where I think the top should be and find that I still can't see the top. So I decide to walk. The guy and his dog RUN by me. Thank the dear good Lord this turns out to be the last time. I'm tired of dodging them. They run out of sight and I am enjoying the walk. I look over to my left and see two women and a guy "running". I sort of laugh inside. I am walking faster than they are running. I actually pass them up. I finally get to the top of the hill. Now I am pretty sure this is the BIG hill Willard was talking about. But I am not betting my life on it. I had this same thought two other times and was wrong. I run down the hill to the check point and another water break. I take a cup and drink-while running. Something I didn't even do in the Country Music Half Marathon. But I look at my watch and my 5 mile time is 59 minutes. That's way slower than I had anticipated. I've got a lot of time to make up if I'm going to make my 1 hour and 40 minute goal (a 10 minute average).
I meet up with a guy wearing an orange UT shirt. We talk a minute and off I run. We get to the highway and take a left. We have about 2 miles to go. The UT orange guy passes me up. I just can't keep up with him. So there's another one I wave goodbye to. We get about a mile from the finish and start up a hill. It's not a bad hill. But at this point, a ramp on my pickup truck's tail gate would be too much. I look about half way up the hill and see UT orange guy. He's walking. I think I can take him. So I start running. He gets to the top of the hill and starts running. I am about 10 yards behind him. I still think I can catch him. We run by the fire station and I can hear the crowd at the finish line. Adrenaline kicks in plus determination to beat UT orange guy. But as luck would have it, I just didn't have enough track or speed or a rock to throw to catch him. He beats me by about 10 feet. I see Willard already drinking his RC and eating his Moon Pie. He finished 10 minutes ahead of me. Cindy, my wife actually got worried and thought she might need to get the paramedics out for me. She saw Willard finish and thought I would be coming right behind him. But then a 72 year old woman came in 5 minutes after him and still no Kurt. Willard calmed her concerns and then finally I came in at 1 hour 49 minutes. So not only did I get beat by Willard (quite expected). But I got beat by a 72 year old woman and a dog who kept stopping to sniff road kill and pee. Guess I had better get my RC Cola and Moon Pie before a first grader beats me.
Victory Lap Thought-Competition
There were times during this race and the 2004 Country Music Half Marathon that I really struggled with myself. I have been very competitive all my life. I played football, baseball, basketball, wrestled, and ran track in school. Even in band, there was competition to see who would be the section leader. In my adult life I face constant competition with people trying to take my position. If everything is handed to us, we don't learn and we don't get better. God wants us to get better. Even the disciples were competitive, see Luke 9:40. The struggle I had during these races was facing the fact that I am no longer competitive in running. But that's ok because for the first time in my life, my focus during a race was not on a clock, it was on the journey of the race. I experienced the race in a different frame of mind and actually enjoyed it (Even though I was in much greater pain). So now that I have faced both sides of competition, people wonder which side I think is better. Is it better to have competition with people facing failure and defeat? Or is it better for no competition and everyone win?
Competition reveals so much about us. It teaches us so much. If we get beat, or fail, we work to find ways to better ourselves. It teaches us to not quit. It teaches us to appreciate everything we get. The bible is full of stories about competition. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. So that tells me to be a warrior. A warrior is all about completion. One of my favorite stories is found in Genesis 32:22-32. It's the first recorded wrestling match. This is where Jacob wrestles with God. Let me say that again, Jacob wrestles with God. There are no ties in wrestling. So God knew there would be a winner. Jacob's prize for his fight was a limp. He also won a new name-Israel which became the name of His people. There are also stories of bad competition such as Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4:4-8. So my opinion is competition needs to be kept in check. Be the best you can be. But be gracious in winning and be gracious in losing.-and always learn.CHAPTER 2
Marine Corps Marathon Washington, DC October 30, 2005
Let me start by saying that I knew I was in trouble somewhere around Roanoke Virginia when a double wide mobile home passed me. I was doing about 80 and got passed by a double wide! I didn't see, but it was probably a 70 year old driving.
There are many strategies to running a marathon. That is, if you don't plan on running with the Kenyans or Russians. One strategy is to run 10 minutes and walk 1. Another is the one I usually do, run the course and walk during the water breaks which is usually every 2 miles. However, this race was different. My strategy was to start off slow and taper off. If that didn't work, I was planning to run from 1 monument to the next, get my picture taken and then move on. Milton (Hager) had suggested that I carry a lighted candle and if it blew out, slow down because I was moving too fast. Plus he helped me with big words so I could read the monuments as I went by them. It was reasons like these and the fact that he got a team together(The Baked Beanie Weenie Boys) to help me that I made him my trainer. He commissioned Harvey (Joiner) to experiment with Baked Beanie Weenies for extra propulsion during the race. John (Cowley) volunteered to be my treasurer. He scoured McDonald drive through and pay phones for change. I think he even went to area car washes. He confiscated a whopping $2.49 in 3 weeks time for Harvey's extensive research efforts. I thank all of you for your uncounted hours of work. All kidding aside, I really did train for this race because I figured I would be running about 28 miles instead of 26.2. My plan is to get my picture taken running by all the monuments which means running ahead, giving my camera to a spectator, run back and get my picture taken while running by it a second time. Maybe I will need those baked beanie weenies after all.
Let's move on to race day before I get teary eyed. Oh how God blessed us. Beautiful sunshine and 50-60 degree weather at gun time. It is perfect running and picture taking weather. 30,000 people are at the Pentagon to start the race in the wave format. My excitement is off the charts! I briskly walked the "town" last night to sight see. But this is a dream come true. You see, this race does their entry by lottery. However, since this is the 30th anniversary of the race, they allowed the first 10,000 an automatic spot into the race. I jumped on that deal!
The race starts at 8:15. I reach the starting line at about 8:50. The first 2 miles are all uphill. This makes the Moon Pie Race hill look like a mole hill. I am a little over a mile into the race. It is still really congested and I am getting tired of dodging wheelchair racers, so I decide to walk. A little past 2 miles, we start going downhill—and fast. It didn't take long for me to decide that I liked going downhill a lot better than up. This is probably the most beautiful part of the course with trees on both sides in their fall colors. I am holding back a bit since this is such a steep downhill and my knees are starting to hurt. This is what running is all about—until. "Wheelchair right! Wheelchair left! Wheelchair up your ass!" You see, all those wheel chairs that I passed going uphill are now coming down—and at a faster rate than me. I pull over to the grass and start walking. I can better serve my country men by just getting out of the way for right now. I begin to run again as we get to the bottom and cross the Key Bridge over the Potomac River. We are leaving Arlington and entering D.C. I walk a bit to get some pictures. So much history surrounds this river I just want to imagine for a moment. I get across the bridge and begin running again.
We are running through Georgetown and enjoying the historical buildings when I see a group of 10. I can tell they are military because they are running to a cadence. I catch up to them and see they have Navy Seals shirts on. I pick up their cadence. "Here I am running down the street. Here I am running down the street. There's a lot of people in front of me. There's a lot of people in front of me. It doesn't matter if I win or lose. It doesn't matter if I win or lose. I'm gonna finish in front of you. I'm gonna finish in front of you". And then they would point to someone. I thought that was funny and quietly joined in with them—until they pointed at me. I thought, "Uh uh. Not me. While I respect and appreciate the services you do for our country—we'll just see who will be pointing at who when we get to Iwo Jima"! With that I took off. The next 5 miles are very scenic but pretty uneventful. I keep seeing signs that say "You are all heroes. Semper Fi". Now I don't know who or what Semper Fi or Semper Fidelis is, but I figure as long as I keep seeing these signs, I am in front of someone. (I later find out it is Latin for Always Faithful or Always Loyal. This is a perfect motto for our United States Marine Corps.)
We are now coming up on the Lincoln Memorial. Photo op! Photo op! I think of some of his quotes.
"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts". Oh how far away our media and politicians have strayed from these words. Neither gives the truth or facts anymore. But I question them, do they really think in this day and age of internet and information, do they really think that we are that stupid we can't eventually find the truth?
Another quote is, "It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him". So many other quotes I can't think of right now.
The Gettysburg Address dominates my thoughts—November 19, 1863. "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, UNDER GOD, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." A moment of sadness overtakes me. I had to memorize this when I was in school. I had to write a paper on what it means to me. Of course it means much more now. The sad part is that it barely gets mentioned to this generation and some have never even read it. Maybe that's why our republic is diminishing.
Excerpted from Strides and Struggles by Kurt Herron. Copyright © 2013 Kurt Herron. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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