Your proudest day to date…
At first I was going to write about some my proudest moments because I didn’t think I had a whole day that I was particularly proud of. I was all prepared to talk about how most, if not all of my proudest moments came about without me knowing those moments would happen. I was ready to write about the Coaches Leadership Award that I won for football (yeah, I’d mentioned that award in a previous post); the time an acquaintance of mine mentioned that I told her my “football story” and how it inspired her to not give up playing basketball (and she subsequently made the varsity team); when I was ‘inducted’ into the Mary McLeod Bethune Society in college for all of the community work I did on/off campus; and even recently getting notice I was going to get my first royalty payments from Amazon and Smashwords for the books I wrote.
My whole theme was going to be about doing your best because you never know who is watching. Yeah, it’s corny, but true. But before I got to tap it all out on the keyboard my youngest started to fall asleep, so I took him upstairs to put on his pajamas. And on my way up the stairs, it hit me! There was a whole day that I was proud of, and ironically, in this particular instance, I was well aware that people were watching me…thousands of people to be exact.
That day was October 26 2003, the day I ran, and finished, The Marine Corp Marathon.
I ran the marathon on somewhat of a challenge by my friend Stephen. Mind you I had never ran anything longer than a 600 yard dash, and that was for the Presidential Physical Fitness thing they used to do in school. So a marathon was unheard of in my mind, but I still took on the challenge with the goal of finishing around 4:30:00. So I signed up for the “AIDS Marathon”, which basically meant that I was signing up to run the marathon and I had to raise a certain amount of money which would go towards HIV/AIDS organizations in DC. Running for this cause also allowed me to be a part of a certain training program which took place on a weekly basis starting in early May.
The training program was every Saturday morning, and we were grouped by our speed. I fell into the 6:1 group, which basically meant we would run for 6 minutes and walk for 1 minute. We started at 3 miles, and each week we went up another mile the next week. When we got to 8miles, the following weeks we jumped up 2 miles, so we went from 8, to 10, to 12, to 14. Every week I was setting new personal ‘records’ and it felt great!! But some where around 12 miles my left leg started tightening up. I thought it was just cramping because I was getting so high up in the mileage. I went to the doctor, and as it turned out, I had hurt my IT Band. I didn’t know I had an ‘IT band’. It was mid-July, three months before the race, and my marathon dreams were in jeopardy.
When I started rehab, and I could barely walk, so running was out of the question. For about a month or so I was rehabbing, getting better as time went on, and then I got approved to do pool running! So every week for about another month, I ran in the pool for 3-4 hours at a time. I was feeling so good, that I rejoined my training group. It was about one month out, I came to the park on a Saturday morning ready to run! But unfortunately, while running in a pool was fine, running on a course wasn’t…I suffered a setback. Back to running in a pool and on a treadmill I went.
I was diligent about re-rehabbing, and then the day of the race. Well, actually, let me go back to the day before the race…
So on that Saturday night I was chilling, getting mentally prepared for the next morning. After all, I was making a huge jump going from only 14 miles (in mid July) to 26.2 miles in late October, with mostly pool running in between. So there I am taking a bath, listening to Stevie Wonder. As I’m getting out of the bathtub, I hear our dog barking like crazy. My housemate Dario and our friend D-Jerzu were in the basement, and I was wondering why they wasn’t addressing the dog. As I open the door to the bathroom, a thick cloud of black smoke was hovering above the entire ceiling in the kitchen, dining room, and living room! I look over to my left, and I see that there was a fire on our stove!!! As it turned out, my housemate was cooking something on the stove (using cooking grease), forgot it was there, and it caught fire! Talk about mad! The day before a marathon I had to deal with a grease fire, which could’ve burned down the house!
I moved past that, and the day of the race, there were thousands of people ready to run, and even more cheering us on! Talk about a buzz!!! I find my place in the crowd, and then we are off!!!
I was cruising the first half of the race. I was on pace to make my goal of 4 hours 3o minutes (I figured I could beat Oprah’s marathon time!). But then I re-aggravated my IT band injury, and it was torture from that point on. I was stru-ggl-ing the entire last 14 miles of the race. I gave in and stopped at one of the stations to get some aspirin to try to ease the pain. Didn’t work. And the 6 minute run, 1 minute walk was out the window. It became more like 1 minute run, 6 minutes walk. Then it became more like “I will run to that tree over there before I start walking”. My ego and pride took a serious hit as I watched people who had absolutely no business in the world passing me, pass me. I felt like one of those Benny Hill skits where old ladies, women with baby carriages, and people on crutches was passing me by. And no lie, there was this one guy, who was literally dragging his leg. I swore to God he would not beat me!! Every time I stopped, I’d see him hobbling along long. But he was NOT going to beat me…I hoped. It was brutal.
But the wonderful thing was that I had friends in the crowd who I would see at different points during the race, and they would cheer me on. And there were complete strangers in the crowd who saw the pain I was in and was cheering me on. And there were people in the race who would cheer you on. There was this older white guy who I held conversation with at one point during the race. We had a good conversation about something, but after I got my energy up, we parted ways as I ran ahead. Well, about a mile or two from the finish line, I thought I would pass out. I was bent over a railing, thinking about how I was just going to give up, and then I felt a hand on my back. It was the old white man. He didn’t even say anything to me, but just that act alone gave me the strength to press on.
As I rounded the final corner, and heard all of the people cheering, the finish line got closer, and closer, and closer….and then…I crossed it!
Through all the trial and tribulation, the pain, and the passion, that was certainly the proudest day of my life…