“The person who starts the race is not the same person that finishes the race”Unknown
September 25, 2022 happened to be the Berlin Marathon and Chicago Half Marathon day for some of my friends and athletes along with athletes running their last 20 Mile long run. I thought of them while I was home preparing for my own race at Kensington Metro Park. Some of you may or may not know, but my Dad passed away from ALS after a 2 year fight back in February 2018. Since they we have spend our last weekend in September participating in the Walk for ALS at Kensington which soon included a 5k in 2019 that we ran as a family, missed 2020 because COVID, but back at it in 2021, and now 2022.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It has come to be known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. When voluntary muscle action is progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. it can be hard to diagnose as it is more of ruling all other things out. It was no different for my dad. For him it started with him slurring his words and tripping and falling on his runs due to muscle weakness. From the onset of symptoms in November 2015 to diagnosis in March-ish of 2016, it took 4 months of testing to come to the conclusion that he had ALS. It was tough journey seeing him get weaker and weaker. He lost his ability to talk and struggled to swallow first. He had a feeding tube put in January 2017 which was so hard because my dad loved food. He ate everything in moderation and lived a healthy and active life to see it all fall apart for him. He was able to use an iPad to use text to talk for us to communicate. He luckily could still walk around the house but he just stayed on the main level to sleep or watch TV most days but he would trek up the stairs to shower if he could. We had in-home Angela Hospice which was a God-send and come and check in on him each week and provide any equipment my dad needed. They were such a great support for my mom who was his primary caregiver. In the end it was too much for my mom to try and lift him up to do basic necessities like using the bathroom that he went into Angela Hospice care one day and passed away that night, February 1, 2018. I am grateful my dad hung on for as long as he could and was able to meet my son, but it wasn’t a life to live and he was really depressed in his body that would not function for him. My dad had run nine 5ks, three 10ks, six half marathons, and two full marathons (wanting so hard to break 4 hours!). It was so much fun to get into running together, even though he ran the same 3 mile loops around our house most of my childhood, it was fun to get him to go farther with me. So that is my reason to continue to run, to be able to carry on what he wasn’t able to do.
The morning started off with a 5:18am alarm wake up so I could have my breakfast of Brown Sugar Pop Tarts, honestly they work so well for me now. I finished gathering my gear in order to get to Kensington Metro Park for packet pick up. Rose had hopped right out of bed with me that morning, must have known it was race day! I almost drove off without having her leash though and would have been so upsetting for her to be stuck in the car during the race. We made it early for packet pick up and it was just dark and wet already. We seem to be missing umbrellas in our house so I luckily had my daughter’s in the van for me to use.
It was a quick and easy grab for my bib at packet pick up. I needed to use my phone flashlight in order to see where I was going though because there are NO lights at the park. Rose was getting anxious now so with 15 minutes until race start I took my Maurten gel and decided to warm up for 5 minutes with Rose before walking over to the race start.
Luckily it was just starting to get a little bit lighter out to see the others around me at the starting line at 7am. The rain was still coming down but I have learned to accept that it will always rain for this event as it has since I started coming in 2018. My dad seemed to have bad luck of getting rain on a lot of his races so I guess it is pay back for me and I’ll take it as good luck as I run faster to get out of the rain!
The race went off with the sound of a bull horn and I tried to find my place amongst the runners. There ended up being a large gap right away. I tucked in behind 4 men and tried to hold back for the first mile or two. They all seemed to be doing the same for the first mile before starting to pick up the past and I also started to increase. By mile 2, I passed one of the men and tried to keep the three other guys in view. I’m pretty sure two of them were high school kids doing a nice and easy lap around Kensington for them. Rose does not like to be last so we were hauling it. This course has a fair amount of hills but luckily we were racing in the clockwise direction which meant we got to go down the big hill around mile 5.5!
The first 4 miles felt so smooth and went by so quickly. I was having fun and feeling so good. My legs were fresh from the taper week I had plus I used the Normatec twice on Saturday to really get the blood moving. It was comfortable running weather despite the rain. Once mile 5 hit though I started questioning keeping on pace and if I could make it the last 5k. I quickly pushed those thoughts aside telling myself just to keep the three men in my line of site and attempt to chase them down. I do love a good chase though.
During the last mile a blue jay flew by on my right side. My dad seems to visit in the form of a blue jay so it was such a nice sighting to allow me to finish the race with a good push, knowing my dad was by my side. He and I had trained in the past at Kensington, though we would run in the clockwise direction. Of course memories came back up during the race which were touching.
I never caught the men but I turned into the finishers shoot not too far behind them. Rose and I ended up being top females. It doesn’t seem like the two high school boys signed up for the race because I ended up being 2nd overall despite being 4th to come in but I’ll take it.
My average pace was 6:47min/mi with each mile pace below:
It was faster than last year’s race so I was happy to be able to see improvement. I had a 6:55 min/mi average pace last year.
Nothing like enjoying a large Costco muffin when I got home from the race! Plus a warm shower. I really do not like wet socks so it was nice to warm up. Now I recover this week before I start the build back up for marathon training. I am pacing the Detroit Half Marathon to finish at 1:45 holding 8:00min/mi pace then I have my Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina in hopes to BQ! My quads are pretty sore this morning and would have loved an excuse to stay in bed all day to avoid the stairs but alas family and work life must go on!
What is your next race?
What is your favorite pre-race and post race food?