Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cleveland Marathon - The Battle Between Disappointment in Yourself and Being Proud of Someone Else

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself. – W.C. Doane
I really was not sure how I wanted to go about writing my experience for the first ever attempt at a full marathon.  There were points while I was running where I didn’t want to write anything, there were points where I felt there was so much to say and there were points where I understood people were interested (for some reason) in hearing about the day…..But I came to realize while what happened was an accomplishment, for all 20,000 or so that were involved, the day was not about me.  It was about a great friend of mine…...I was just along for the ride, 26.2 miles to be exact.
Before I start, for those reading I need to clarify the story for those that don’t know Jodi.  Jodi and I know each other back from our college days at Ashland .  She ran her very first marathon last year in Cleveland .  She had originally asked me to run with her, but I had just started back into running and completed my first half marathon and well, after finishing, could not run for almost 2 months.  There was no way.  She ran it with her cousin and to make a long story short, she collapsed at mile 25.52 exactly and ended up in the hospital. (Yes for anyone curious that would be 0.68 away, so you can imagine her frustration)  The reason she knew the exact mile marker was because the bill from the ambulance had to mark where they picked her up.  Jodi however had NO memory of it and though she went down at mile 22.  She had hyponatremia.  She was devastated to say the least, but she picked herself back up and after a few weeks off started back up again….She convinced me to run this time and I said I would try.  She had also come down to pace me earlier this year and got me to break 2 hours in the half marathon, so the least I could do was help her finish her first marathon.  There were other reasons as well, which will be explained shortly.
Race day comes early – Wake up call 4:30am
We all get ready, grab a quick bite to eat and drink, make sure we have everything and head downstairs.  Jodi had made signs for both Jenn and I with our names on them and our favorite quotes (without our knowledge, very thoughtful)  She had made one for herself as well, but she put that on the front of her shirt, while we put ours on our back.  Jodi already had something on her back.  She printed up something saying ‘2010 finish line’ and a picture of her in the hospital and below it, ‘2011 finish line’….”26.2 miles ahead”.
Jodi's back bib for the race

While getting ready I notice Jodi quickly leave the room.  This seemed odd so I went to check on her.  I had thought she had an upset stomach but it turns out she was having a panic attack.  The nerves were getting to her and the thoughts of last year were creeping in.  Not that I was expecting it, but all week she was the calm one, she seemed to have no worries, while Jenn and I were the one’s of uncertainty.  Jodi’s response was always, “hey, I’ve done all this before, it’s the finishing part for me”.   While in the hallway a guy from Canada was waiting for the elevator and I thinking chatting with him help calm her down.  On a side note, it seems every random person I’m meeting at this race is Canadian, not that there is anything wrong with that….LOL
We made plans to meet Morgan in the lobby with her friends at 6am. 

I met "Spike", Morgan's boyfriend who just completed the Boston Marathon and all of the other girls.  Two of them mentioned they had just run a marathon the week before.  My only thoughts were that I want to be able to WALK the week after.  But that was impressive.  Took pictures and started to head off down to the Browns Stadium for the start of the race.  That’s when I look and see Jodi bent over in pain.  Out of nowhere her heart started racing.  It was then that I realized the nerves hitting and I knew then it was more important to me than ever that I help her stay strong.  She got settled down and we left.  The start line was only a ½ mile away and there was no rain in sight, an awesome sign.  Of course we mingled with the crowd, shocker I know.  While at a crosswalk we met a guy who needed safety pins and Jodi graciously gave one of hers.  Chatted as we got closer to the stadium about Ohio and different races we have done.  We were about 20 minutes to the start arriving in the packed crowd and I need to use the restroom, not what I planned.  The look on Jodi’s face was pure worry when I told her I had to head into the stadium and said to me that I better make it back.  I told her it should be no problem and promised I would be there…..or so I thought.  Everyone and their mother was up there, lines everywhere.  I tried to wait but knew if I waited any longer I more than likely would have missed the start……Failed
The start – Browns Stadium
I headed back down to find the 4:15 pace group.  I saw the sign and also saw Jodi and Bill’s head pop up looking through the crowd of people.  While they saw me, there was a small problem.  No one was going anywhere.  Come to find out, a lot of those people were spectators, not even letting runners get into the corrals.  I started to get worried, not for me, but for Jodi.  The plan was to stick with the 4:15 pace group, run with them and not have to worry about anything.  Not have to worry about speed or time.  The last thing I wanted was for her to add something to her plate.  Well, I failed miserably as the gun went off and the sea of people started to move.  I never felt so bad in my life.
Mile 1-3:  I finally crossed the start line and weaved in and around people to catch up with the group.  The thought of disappointment ran through my head and I quickly realized that things were not going to go as planned so I would have to adjust.  I hear Jodi yelling my name and I caught up with her.  She had fallen back from Bill and the pace group and was running with Jenn.  Then we headed to make up distance with the group, keeping them in sight.  The first mile went pretty smooth, despite it being mostly uphill.  The second mile I could sense something was not right.  I may have apologized once or twice for not being at the start.  She starts taking off her clothes, saying she was too hot, so off went the long sleeve.  Once she finally got adjusted, I still felt bad and kept feeling as if me not being there messed with "the plan" that was laid out.
Around this time the ‘Cleveland 10 Miler’ girls ran by us.  Mellisa, Deb, Kim and their friend Nell all were running the Half, while Bridgett was cheering everyone on throughout the course.  Their attitudes and smiles are incredible and are a great group of girls.  I thought they were long gone and was bummed that we could not meet up before the race.  I also had hoped and planned to be with them at the start line and have them run with us, since their pace was similar to our expected pace.  I gotta be honest, them showing up really helped, me at least, because it put me back into fun mode, something I would need for this whole thing.  Mellisa and Deb were trying for a PR so they headed off.  We saw Kim and Nell on the course a few times early on.  Kim I think was just happy to run and just finish after dealing with injury issues over the last few months.  At one point she snuck up behind us and mentioned how “it’s quite rude for people to walk in the middle of the road during the race”.  Knowing it was her voice, I got a chuckle but I was not quick enough to give her a smartass comment back to her.
Mile 4-6:  Jodi had mentioned that she had to go to the bathroom.  Looking through the crowd my main focus was finding a bathroom since I knew the port-o-pots on the course were not for another mile or so and she was feeling worse.  I spotted a Burger King, as did a few other people and told her to go there.  I waited outside for awhile and figured now was as good of time as ever and might as well go too since it just hit me I wasn’t able to  Gathered ourselves in the parking lot and she asked if I was mad at her.  Here I am disappointed and feeling bad for the things going on and she starts being silly like asking if I’m mad.  I just laughed and we headed onto the course.  At this point, I know there was another thing that may have been bothering her, which was not something I had hoped.  We set off running and made it about a half mile and she just stopped and for some reason could not get her breathing down....I got her calmed down and we walked for a bit.  We saw the 4:45 pace group and I could tell she saw that and we started to run.  That lasted for a minute or two and we alternated running and walking.  We then saw the 5:00 pace group and she immediately yelled "oh, hell no" and I could tell she got some spunk back and wanted to stay with them.  That last for about 2 minutes and at this point, something in me realized that she was starting to clock out and thinking of calling it a day.  She was still in "finish time" mode and now all I wanted was to get her into "finish" mode.
Mile 7:  May have been a tough one.  She had battled issues for the last few miles, anxiety attacks, a few tears, stomach problems, realizing a respectable marathon time let alone our goal time was lost, along with one or two new things, which I sort of knew at this point what they were…..but this time she lost it.  We stepped to the side of the road and she hugged me and cried and let it all out for what seemed like an eternity.  People would stop and give encouragement or ask if we needed anything.  She had made the comment that she didn’t know if she could continue but that wasn’t good enough for me.
I was not going to let her quit….There were a lot of reasons that I felt HAD to make sure that she crossed the finish line. 
The obvious was so we could set out and finish what we started, which was to FINISH the marathon, no brainer and it’s what everyone who does this wants.  Yes, our goal time would have been nice, but at this point on the course, who cares about time.  But she had other obstacles than just your average runner because of last year….Another reason was that she needed to battle those “demons” inside of her of her collapsing last year.  To do what she did, on the same course, her next time attempting a marathon was nothing short of amazing.  By finishing, she would have won the battle which she needed to get her to the next step, which I know for her is breaking 4 hours in the marathon….Only after finishing one first.  There were so many of her friends and family and acquaintances that I’m sure were worried and wondering.  Most knew she would do great, since they know what type of runner she is.
But most importantly…….I was not going to have her daughter be devastated again with having to see her mom in the hospital after last year.  After that happened she looked at her and begged her to never run a marathon again.  So I truly felt if it happened again (her not finishing) she may have never run again because of her daughters fears.  Jodi is too good of a runner and loves it too much that I was sure not going to be the reason that could happen.  Especially if I could do something about it.  There was obviously only so much I could do.  But in my mind, she was finishing…..
At this point she asked that I call her husband Jason and let him know that we were not going to finish when we thought we would, not even close.  I grabbed my phone from the belt and as I open it up I notice a few texts.  Two of them were from Jodi.  These were from before the race while I was in the stadium.  “Are you coming” and “You are starting to freak me out.”  At this point I feel even worse and the guilt was coming back since she did not mention she called and now it’s just more what ifs.  I call Jason and as the phone is ringing she also says, “Oh and tell him I’m fine”.  Ya, because everyone always makes random phone calls to chit chat while running a marathon.  I left a message and put my phone back in my belt loop.  I never EVER run with my phone, but something told me I should and I guess I now know why.
Miles 8-9:  Shortly after the mile 7 meltdown during a point of walking, Jodi said to me the 7 words that may have been the funniest to me….”You can go ahead if you want”…..4 words came out of my mouth pretty quickly (in a sarcastic and funny tone)  ummmh, ya, f**k you….I was laughing when I said it and it froze her up and got her to smile….Told her nice try , gave her a hug and said that because she pulled that stunt, we’re now going to run.  She gave me the “I deserved that look” and off we went.
Mile 10-13:  This is what I like to call the entertainment part of our race.  Not because of the bands playing but because of the interactions, so to speak, with people.  It started with Jodi giving the crowd another free show, this time taking her clothes off so she can put the long sleeve back on, since it was getting cold.  She got some funny looks probably wondering why this girl is undressing in the middle of the road, but still funny.  We then made our way across a bridge towards downtown.  I notice an older woman wearing a red Canada shirt and I see her asking people things as they pass her.  As we approach, she asks “Do you know what the name of this bridge is?”  Before I can respond Jodi barks out “HELL”.  The woman didn’t know how to respond to that and I said I’m not sure, but it may be called Ontario .  The woman quickly says, “No, that is where I am from and THAT is hell”.  Thought it was pretty funny and glad she had a sense of humor.  I later (as in after the race) find out it was the Lorain/Carnegie Bridge.
We pass Jacobs Field (I still call it that since that is what it was named when I worked there) and Tower City ….This is obviously near the end of the race for the Half Marathoners and the 10k runners who joined back up.  I have said in the past that I would really need the crowd and the runners to help us throughout the whole race.  What I forgot about was this part.  The crowds of people all yelling “You’re almost done” and “Keep it up, just a little bit left”.  Normally I love it, since I’ve always been “Almost done” at that point and needed the boost.  At this point we were back to walking and the runners were also cheering people on.  I knew what was coming, just didn’t know who would be the lucky one to receive it.  Finally, after about the 20th person to run up beside us to tell us we are “almost done” and “finish strong”, Jodi turns and just yells…We are NOT almost there.  The guy looks at our bibs and realizes we still have a LONG way to go and quietly keeps running.  But Jodi and I were able to crack a smile, since it was pretty funny.
Shortly after that we got what Jodi REALLY needed.  We saw Morgan and Jen B. on the side of the road with a megaphone, dressed up in crazy outfits and bright wigs. 

Jen B, Spike and Morgan cheering us on
We missed them at mile 7 (or so we thought, you can read her recap here)  After a brief hug and quick pep talk, we got going.  They may have no idea how much she needed that, but it was a huge boost that helped her a lot.  As we headed down the street, Morgan yells in the megaphone, “Dave, smack that butt”, so we both laughed and I obliged.  I want to thank Morgan and her “family” for driving down and making the best of the rain and the cold and cheering everyone on.  If everyone in the world had her positive energy, bubbly personality and outlook, the world would be a better place.
At one point Jodi turned to me and point blank said “You realize we are doing another one, since we are taking a mulligan and this doesn’t count”.  I laughed because I knew this was coming, but I figured it would be AFTER the race, not before we were even halfway through.  Of course, in my head I already had this plan, since I would need her to help me break 4 hours, just like she helped me break 2 hours in the Half.
We came across Morgan’s boyfriend Spike and her best friend, B.o.B. aka Beth.  They both gave her advice on his experiences and a quick pep talk, Jodi touched his “Boston Marathon Finishers” jacket and got the extra kick she needed.  A big thanks to both of you as well and congrats to Beth on her race.
Mile 15:  This may have been a tough one for me.  It was around this time where it maybe started to get to me mentally.  One top of being out there for over 3 hours already, mind wandering, going over the race, what I did wrong, what I could have done different.  Normally, I realize that the past is the past, but there was nothing normal about running 15 miles in the rain with having to do more on top of that.  I have NEVER run more than 14 miles…..EVER.  So doubts about the little things creeped in.  I started thinking about the race, thinking about my legs, thinking about the finish, keeping Jodi focused to get her to the finish line.  Emotions crept up and I may have started to shed some tears (yes, a grown man crying)  I figured I was good because my glasses were mostly fogged up with rain on them, so maybe I could compose myself without Jodi realizing this.  Well, I was wrong…..It was all good, and thankfully for me, she let it go.  Of course this would also be the time where we pass the course entertainment.  Some woman singing this slow song, something you’d hear at a wedding during a father/daughter dance.  The runners around were baffled and sort of laughed at how we ALL need some pumped up rocking music and this was NOT the time for this.  To make matters worse it started to rain harder…Jodi and I may have looked at each other and close to the same time blurt out….REALLY???...
Ahhh……To think it only gets harder from here.  The next few miles were sort of a blur.
Mile 19:  I could tell something was off with Jodi around this point.  She was starting to focus, and by focus I mean worry.  She told me she was worried since we were closing in on the 20’s.  While I was prepared for this, I didn’t think it would be until mile 22.  We crossed mile 19 with the cop cheering everyone on letting us know there were only 7 miles remaining.  Of course being the smartasses we were and it being a minor detail, we had to let him know there was actually 7.2 and he quickly smiled and said “good point.”  Shortly after, we reach another water stop and after refilling our bottles (and almost getting hit by a car…..ok, not that close, I’d say within 20 feet, but the lady was not paying attention to the cop or the cones and went through them) we kept running and a women was holding a sign and yelled out “#1718 we have been waiting for you and proceeded to do the same for Jodi.  I laughed and replied, thanks I guess you can get out of the rain and go home now.  Headed toward the bike path area of the course next to the shoreway.
Mile 22-24:  I thought a lot about how to handle this mile with her, since this is the last one she remembers from last year.  So as we approach the flag I ask what it says…She says “Mile 22” with a bit of a smile.  I ask if she is sure and she says yes.  I then ask what her name is, she gives me this weird look and says “Jodi”.  I ask what my name is and she giggles and says “Dave”.   I said, well alrighty then, I guess you remember everything, how about we finish this thing.  I still have not told her this, but at that moment, when she smiled, I saw something leave her body.  Like a white mist.  Ok, so maybe it was rain or smoke in the background or whatever.  It was like those “demons” in her body just floated away and she was finally coming back to being herself.  It was the weirdest thing, but the only way I can explain it is “peaceful”.  Or maybe I was just slightly delusional from 22 miles in the rain, but either way I know I saw something.
After that she looked at me and said, let’s run to the 3rd set of lights….then we would walk.  Then again, “Let’s run to that red building”.  She was picking out landmarks and things to run to.  Instead of me trying to get her to do it, SHE was doing it.  I could tell she was gaining confidence, even cracking jokes about certain things not being in the same place as last year.  Of course it was around this time that I really started to feel it and with Jodi now herself again, she noticed things that I was trying to hide, which was my limping.  I had been hiding it well until this point, and it really was not bad, despite me being stubborn.  It mainly hurt in the transition of us running to walking and then it would be fine.  But I was not letting anything bother me at this point, we were going to finish.  We joked around a bit, thanked each person and worker on the course for being there in the rain and could feel the finish.  I remember laughing when a woman was in the street walking around with an umbrella telling us all we only had 2 miles to go (when there was less) or people saying it’s “just around the corner” when it really wasn’t.  But it was all good….
Crossing Mile 25:  This was going to be the toughest in my mind but she did something that shocked me.  She looked at me and just said “Let’s run the rest of the way”.  Now, I can tell you that we didn’t, but that’s not what matters.  To me it showed that she was mentally strong to battle what was THE worst mile of her running career. (or worst 0.52 miles)  We turned the corner and headed down the homestretch and saw the mile 26 marker up ahead on the right and the Browns Stadium on the left.  The wind was crazy at this point, but it didn’t matter.  We came up to a woman who looked like she was struggling and as we got next to her we gave words of encouragement and really only said “you can do this, we’re almost there”.  The girl looked at us and immediately starting crying.  We asked if she was ok, if she was in pain.  My only thought was, “Oh great, I made someone else cry, way to go Dave”  LOL….Made it to the turn and there was Deb and Nikki, two of Jodi’s friends, who they so happened to make a pact a few years ago to run a Half Marathon in every state.  They joined in with us, only .2 to go.  Jodi saw the clock and noticed it was close to saying 6 hours and just sprinted.  She said there is no way in hell that there would be a 6 in her time.  Granted she knew that would not be our time, since we didn’t cross the start line for almost 10 minutes, but I think it was just out of principle. (Despite maybe promising there would be no sprinting at the end…lol)

Cleveland Marathon "Sprint to the Finish"
Since the start of training she has always said that she pictured crossing the finish line and that “you do realize I’m grabbing your hand and we are raising them in the air”.  I said do what you gotta do.  So as we neared the finish line, I noticed her holding her water bottle and sarcastically ask how she is going to grab my hand….LOL  She tosses the bottle to Nikki, grabs my hand and raises them over our heads and we finished the marathon….Finished, completed, done.  After a big hug, I quickly reminded her about her learning how to swim now so she can do a triathlon, since fair is only fair.  I saw her husband and kids and pointed her in that direction.  She was spent, exhausted and happy at the same time she just bent over to catch her breath.  I knew she was fine, but the moment she bent over, her daughter did not see it that way and I had to get her standing up.  She just realized what happened as well and ran over to hug her family, saying “I’m fine, I’m fine”.  I almost started to cry watching their little moment. 

Jodi hugging her family
Sort of made everything complete and that chapter is now closed.
Jenn was at the finish line for us after finishing her marathon and gave her a high five.  I finally got to meet her husband before they started off back towards the hotel.  We grabbed some bananas and chocolate milk and headed back as well since we were wet and freezing and just needed to get inside.  Made it up the hill to the hotel and looked for Jenn.  In the meantime Joanna, who we had met last night, text Jodi to let her know she was in the lobby.  The speedy little lady was already dressed and packed to head to the airport.  Granted she finished almost 2 hours ahead of us so had a slight headstart…LOL  She had set a goal of 4 hours “with a zero in it” and she rocked it out finishing in 4hr and 16 minutes.  Short of her goal, but still her BEST time by 11 minutes.  Very proud of her and I could tell she was extremely happy, considering the weather on the course.  She took some pics with us and off she went.  Check out her blog here to see her experience of the race.
Me, Joanna, Jodi, Jenn
The rest of the day was spent relaxing at Jodi’s with her family and some friends before it was time to make the trip back to Columbus .  Ended up getting back around midnight and was trying to figure out why I was so tired (sarcasm)  As I do after every long run, the very first thing I did when I got home was finish about half a bottle of my Monavie, which does wonders for me, then tried to stretch before calling it a day.  A day that may have been one of the longest ever.
I stated in the beginning that this was never about me and that’s how it should be.  Life is never about you.  You need to enjoy your life, yes.  But to enjoy life in my opinion is all about the people around you.  It’s not about what you can do for me, it’s what I can do for you.  I know some don’t agree and some say you should care about yourself more than others.
I wasn’t sure back when I started this little journey what would happen once the race ended.  The blog was about me stepping out of my comfort zone, holding me accountable and making it to the start line and ultimately the finish line.  It all happened….with lots of stories, experiences and lessons along the way…..I think writing these blogs were harder for me than the training.  Not necessarily the writing part per say, but the putting myself out there part.  Now of course the injuries were not fun and training wasn’t the easiest thing, but still.  I’m not comfortable with the “spotlight” part of it and the possible failure that comes with it….
For now I am going to rest and look forward to the next stop, the Ironman.  Ok, it’s not the immediate next stop, gotta work my way to that, but that’s the ultimate goal.  But knowing I could finish a marathon helps and may be the hardest part.  In the end while I was disappointed in myself for how things started, nothing can change how proud I am for what Jodi overcame.  THAT is inspirational.
Check one off the bucket list….
And for anyone of you reading this that think YOU could never do this, all you have to do is look in the mirror.  I will tell you right now, no you can’t….BUT…you COULD.  Everyone sees it as an unreachable goal.  Of course it is right now, because no human being can get up from the couch this weekend and just “run” a marathon.  Anyone that does a marathon or half marathon or even a 5k, just doesn’t go out and do it.  Baby steps, it’s a process….Never say never, unless you just don’t want to.
Take some time to do something for yourself and you will find yourself helping others along the way.
Until next time……which I believe there will really be a next time


  1. Dave! Why in the world would you be disappointed in YOURSELF??? Things NEVER go as planned. That's a given. It's what you do with it when it doesn't go as you planned, that counts!

    Great job for giving support to Jodi! I remember first reading about Jodi's marathon last year (a little while after she posted) and was amazed!!

    And rain?? Like running a full marathon wouldn't be hard enough, then you had to deal with the rain?

    I remember when I helped a friend run a marathon. This was before I ran my first half (before I even thought of it) and was just going to "jump in" and help her run a few miles in the middle of her marathon. Instead, b/c she was hurting so much, I ran the whole second half with her (that would be my very first half marathon, unplanned!!). And she is a very strong person, never shows emotion and here she was at mile 19 breaking down in tears saying she couldn't finish. But we got her through it and she finished!

    This is exactly the reason I'm trying to build a team of support people to cheer me on through the run. I'm not running with anyone so I need people to keep me going!

    Great job again Dave!!

  2. I will be forever grateful to you and your selflessness on Sunday. I could have never made it to that finish line without your support. You had my back for all 26.2 and thank you will never be enough to explain to you the magnitude of what you did for me. Thank you for blogging about the experience. I needed to see it through your eyes as well and if you are serious I will totally get you to your sub 4 hour marathon! Just let me know when you are ready. It's the very least I could do! I'm so proud of you. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed by your compassion, spirit, and friendship. XOXO