Crossing the finish line

RUNNING THE FREE PRESS MARATHON

Read my experience at running the

Detroit Free Press International Marathon

on 10/13/1985

A Run For Inspiration

Twenty-two years ago (1985), I ran and completed the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. It was a huge goal for me and a personal triumph of mind over matter, considering just ten months before the marathon I weighed nearly three hundred pounds. Running the marathon had other benefits as well, such as starting a weight-training program, raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis Society, and raising my personal self-esteem. In 1984, I joined a health club. At three hundred pounds, I was not feeling the best about myself. I thought it was necessary to start an exercise program to help lose some weight, and hopefully, put my life in a different direction. The health club had a moderate climate; everyone seemed to be goal oriented and health conscious. There were a number of exercise machines, I tried them all out for a while, but found our through trial and error that walking and swimming was where I’d find my niche in the club. I started fast walking, as this was something I could do. The club had an indoor track that consisted of a rubberized, slightly graded, oval running track that wrapped around the interiors edge of the club’s second level. I was told the length of the track was 1/6 of a mile; there were glass windows on the top, so someone could peer at the traffic on the street below.

On my first day, I started walking and doing as much as I could, not really wanting to do much or even impress anyone, just to see if it was something I wanted to do. I later graduated to running, and eventually running by time rather than distance. It soon became a regular habit and I was running three to four times a week.

Later in the year (May 1985), I noticed a flyer for the Detroit Free Press International Marathon in a local runners supply store. I decided I would train for the race, and make that my goal. I was not necessarily thinking that this was something I could actually go through with running it, just a goal for inspiration. The marathon was 26.2 miles long, and doing something that athletic was out of character for me. According to MedicalNewsToday.com, first-time marathon runners who drop out of training are motivated by different factors than race finishers. Dropouts were more motivated by a desire to lose weight and gain recognition than those that successfully completed their first marathon (“First Time”). I am not sure I agree with that point of view, I was totally focused on running for training purposes and running the event itself, but that is what their statistics showed.

By working out regularly and increasing my runs to four or five times a week, the weight dropped off at a consistent pace. I was very happy with the progress I was making. As the race date came closer, I decided at one point, that maybe this was something that I wanted to accomplish. I mailed in the registration form attached to the original flyer from the store. I noticed that the flyer also had information on Multiple Sclerosis, and asked that registrants get sponsors, to pledge amounts per/mile to raise funds for the charity. I decided this was something I would also be willing to do. Mary Beth Faller states on her web page, “another extreme weight loss program that is gaining popularity around the country is training to run a marathon and then actually running it” (“Running Your Ass Off”). I identify myself with that idea, in as much as, I was training to lose weight, and eventually came obsessed with the idea of running the marathon.

Prior to the event, the maximum time I had run was two hours, which for me was twelve miles. When it came to marathon day, I slimmed down to two hundred and fifty-five pounds, and was eager to go.

Images and thoughts prior to the race that I can recall that morning were;

  • Munching down a few glazed donuts.
  • Leg stretching out in the middle of Ouellette Avenue in Jackson Park; Windsor, Ontario (where the race began).
  • Being nervous as hell, for doing something totally nuts.
  • Telling my dad when he asked me, “Where can we expect to pick you up son?” I replied, “At the finish line dad.

At race time, three different groups started-off to stagger the runners, so that there weren’t too many runners on the route at the same time. I started out with the first group, because I knew I would be finishing towards the end of the race, and I would need the extra time so I didn’t finish too late.The race started, and I started falling behind, most of the runners just waltzed on by at my slower pace. This was ok, because that is what I expected. I was amazed at the experience of it all, the people that I met along the route offering candy, orange slices, ice cubes and all the encouragement. It was those bits of support, which sustained my ambition to continue along the race route. When I came to the nineteen mile marker, I hit what is known as the runner’s wall. I ran out of gas both physically and emotionally. My parents had caught up with me (near Grosse Pointe), and my mother asked if there was anything she could do for me. "Run with me," I said, so she did for a little while. My pace was slow enough at that point, for her to keep up with me for a bit. I kept going, even after my then sixty year-old mother had to stop.

Around the twenty-two mile marker, an emergency medical technician crew followed behind me in an ambulance for a few miles. My physical appearance was noticeably deteriorating. Among other things, I was bleeding from my nipples, from the constant up and down friction against the shirt I was wearing. According to BestRunningTips.com, nipple chaffing is a specific affliction for male runners, as women runners generally wear sports bras, which prevent this from happening (“Nipple Chaffing”). I looked like I was ready to collapse. The paramedics followed me for the last three grueling miles of the race.

Finally, I came to the bridge that led to Belle Isle where the race was to finish. I saw many people leaving, which made me think the island was going to be deserted. Departing runners were still egging me on to finish and keep going, as I traversed the bridge that overlooked the finish line. As I came around the last corner to the finish line, there were no cheering crowds, no one there besides

Completion Certificate

the timekeeper, the medal-giver, and the person that handed out the complimentary foil wraps to encase a marathoners body upon crossing the finish line. Everyone had gone home, and I was one of the last runners to finish the race that day (there were four stragglers after me).

My parents drove over the bridge and collected me. I crawled gingerly into the back seat and started to cry. I was so happy that I had made it, against all odds really; but at the same time, in so much pain, like being run over by a Mac-truck. The experience will always be one of those turning points in my life, when I knew the effort was worth the reward. Even though I had a long painful recovery period from the ordeal in the following days, it will remain as one of the most special moments in my life, when I was more than I thought I ever could be. I did get a completion medal, and thankfully my parents took pictures that day which I will cherish forever. My final standing was 2,209th place; it only took a mere five hours, thirty-seven minutes and twenty-two seconds.

Unexpectedly, I had a duty to perform after the completion of the race; I had to call all the people who pledged for my run. I raised over $500.00 for Multiple Sclerosis and attended an honorary dinner function some time after the race, where I also received a medal for raising so much money. Most of the people I had pledges from for the race did not anticipate my completion of the event and had to reluctantly divvy up their cash for the cause.

Running the race was something that I never really felt I could accomplish. Other than my parents, neither my remaining family members nor friends showed up to support me, because they did not believe I could do it either. For one moment, I was more that I thought possible. I did what should have been impossible.

In the humorous story “26.2 Miles of the Runs”, similar accounts of the events that I endured that day are graphically illustrated. The story is told with caricature images and a story line that show the pains involved in running a 26.2 mile marathon. It reminded me physically, of my experiences of pain that day (Trey Garrison).

Among the most marvelous, most frightening and certainly most unbelievable possibilities suggested by psychic folklore, is that human beings may be able to exert an observable influence upon the physical world -simply through the power of conscious intention; or unconscious intention, or; by some accounts, through the assistance of spiritual intelligences; or as a result of a mysterious principle known as synchronicity (“Unusual Powers”). As I apply this philosophy to what I have experienced, it is easy to see that a greater power within me was at work. Mind over matter is a principle that I have experienced up close and personal. Believe it.

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