One of my dear friends was my first Team in Training coach, Rebecca. Since my first marathon back in 2007, we have trained and run many races together. We have shared all sorts of experiences over the years, the vast majority are very amusing (at least to us) but not really things I can write about and still maintain my goal of a PG-13 rating for my blog.
Rebecca’s husband, Rich, joined us a few years ago. Rich added more fun to the mix and the three of us continued to make running memories. Two years ago Rebecca decided she needed a break from marathons. I still had races to run and so did Rich. Rich jumped in where Rebecca had been to become my running partner. I guess you could call Rich my running spouse. (In case you are wondering, my husband is unable to run due to knee and ankle issues.)
We make an odd couple. Rich is a 6’ 3” former Marine; I am only 5’ 2” so he towers over me. Rich’s height is always useful in races when I need help finding a path through a crowded field of runners. As we pound out the miles, Rich endures my endless chatter on all sorts of topics – my dogs (both dead and alive), documentaries I have watched, anything that pops into my head. I know he is actually listening to me because he will chime in with a witty comment about something I have said. It all helps keep our hours of running from getting boring.
Our big year was 2013-2014. We ran the Marine Corps Marathon together in October then we trained together for the Dopey Challenge in January. I have to say that there has never been a year quite like that one before or since.
Although we didn’t train much together for the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), we both wanted to finish the race in under 5 hours and get PRs (personal records). On race morning we both felt we were ready to do it. Although it started out chilly, the weather was great. We saw Rebecca along the course a few times, cheering for us. Rich tolerated my chatter and my crying (long story that I will save for another post). Things were going as planned and we were staying on track for our objective of a sub-5 hour finish.
John Bingham came up with the term “the Bite Me Zone”. This is the point in a marathon where you are tired, frustrated, just want to be done already. In the Bite Me Zone many runners change from being a pleasant person to a not so friendly one. That was Mile 20 for me in the MCM.
At Mile 20 Rich told me that he didn’t think he could keep up the pace that would have us finishing under 5 hours. As the 5-hour pace setter came by, Rich told me to go join them. Things had gotten really challenging for me at that point too. I knew that I had only gotten as far as I had because I was running with him but I did not want to abandon him. I will always remember the exchange that followed as we stood on the 14th Street Bridge:
Rich: Go on, Lynn. You can still make it.
Me: No, I am staying with you.
Rich: You can catch the 5-hour pace group. Go.
Me: (yelling) No! A Marine never leaves another Marine behind! I am staying with you!
I have no clue what possessed me to say that. I was never a Marine but somehow I felt like a Marine that day.
We kept running together, a bit slower, until Mile 23.5 where they were handing out donut holes. I was hungry but immediately felt ill after I ate just one. I threw the rest of them away and kept running. A bit later I looked around and couldn’t see any sign of Rich. I wasn’t sure if he was ahead of me or behind me. I just wanted to be done with the race so I kept running. I ran into him after the race in the runner’s village. He had finished 8 minutes behind me. He said he was so hungry when he saw donut holes that he had to stop. We both ended up with PRs, just not the ones we wanted.
We spent the next 2 months preparing for Disney World’s Dopey Challenge – 4 consecutive days of races, 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon in January. There weren’t many people on the trail when we went running in November and December. I remember one day where there were 20-30 mph winds and wind chills put the temperatures in single digits. The headwinds were so strong that I was nearly blown over. I probably would not have even been out on a day like that, if it wasn’t for the commitment I made to Rich.
The Dopey Challenge was another memorable experience. Just like the MCM, the Dopey races were filled with lots of bantering back and forth between us. At the 5K we saw lots of guys dressed up in costumes including Disney characters (male and female), tutus and sparkle skirts. In jest, I told Rich that I would donate $200 to the charity he was running for if he would run the next race in a skirt. After we finished the 5K, he went to the Expo and bought a gun metal sparkle skirt to wear in the 10K. I have to say he looked great in his skirt – certainly better than the 6’ 5” guy with a dark beard dressed as Snow White. Lots of people complimented him on his outfit. When he posted pictures of himself on social media after the 10K, he got pledges of nearly $1000 if he would run all of the remaining races wearing the skirt.
Rebecca ran the 10K and the half marathon with us, which made things even more fun. But Rich and I were on our own for the full marathon. In the Animal Kingdom I insisted that he ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster. (I am terrified of roller coasters and was just happy to have a moment to rest.) It is a crazy concept – riding a roller coaster in the middle of running a marathon. I can’t think of any other place that you can do that. That was probably the happiest moment of any race I have run. I enjoyed watching Rich zoom by on the ride. He looked like a big kid having a great time.
As we continued running, our conversations started to really go downhill. The runners around us overheard our banter. At one point a man asked Rich if I was his wife. Rich replied “No, it’s my mother.” Although you might think I should have been offended, I stopped dead and doubled over in laughter. I still laugh about that. [For the record, I am old enough to have been his babysitter but not his mother.]
Last year I was planning to run the MCM and part of the Dopey Challenge with Rich and Rebecca when I broke my arm. I was bitterly disappointed to miss running those races with them. This year I am making up for it. Although Rebecca is back on the sidelines, Rich and I are training again for the MCM. In January he will be running the Dopey again and I will run the half and full marathons with him. One Dopey was enough for me. We have only had two weekend runs together but we slipped back into our running routine like a comfortable pair of running shoes. I chatter away and Rich patiently listens before adding a witty comeback.
I am not sure how much longer I will have a running spouse. I have races all over the world that I want to run and Rich confessed he is thinking of doing a triathlon. Rebecca has other interests now besides running. No matter what the future holds, I can say that I have wonderful memories of running with both Rich and Rebecca – the kind that still make me laugh. I will be glad whenever Rebecca and Rich join me on the trail. The miles go by much easier when there are more pairs of running shoes alongside me.