When I was in grade school, the teacher would often pair students up with buddies. You held your buddy’s hand as you walked from the classroom to the library or gym. Your buddy was there to make sure you didn’t get lost. It was probably the easiest way for the teacher to control the children that outnumbered her.
The buddy system was something we learned at a young age but buddies didn’t stop at grade school. There are buddies in the military and scuba diving. In these situations, buddies are watching out for each other’s safety and welfare. I don’t know any diver who would be daring enough to go out without a buddy. A buddy can be a lifesaver. On Saturday I ran the Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon and the conditions on race day made me use the buddy system there too.
I was looking forward to heading south for my last blast of warm weather before winter sets in. Forecasts for the weekend’s race were for lows in the 60s and highs in the 80s with humidity levels at 80+ %. It was going to be a warm race. I was somewhat concerned because these are not ideal Transverse Myelitis (TM) conditions. I have my heat mitigation strategies but I was going to be using the replacement for my yellow scarf (lost in Berlin) for the first time. Keeping my core cool is critical for any warm weather running. My ankle (the one that I twisted in Berlin) was still bothering me too. I was going to have to keep my head to get through this race.
The race was scheduled to start at 7 AM. In the corral I chatted with a mother, Julie, and her daughter, Allison. Julie was running the half marathon relay and Allison was running her second half marathon. They were a little nervous but they looked prepared for the race. When our corral reached the start line around 7:25 AM, I told them to have a great race and we all headed out at our various individual paces.
It was foggy when we started but that quickly burned off. Unfortunately, the Savannah humidity stayed in place. At times it felt like I needed a snorkel to breathe. It was in the second half of the race that I started to see that the weather was having a negative impact on some of the runners. I saw more people than normal walking and every one of them was pretty much soaked with sweat. I saw overheated runners off on the side of the course. There was no breeze to cool us off. It was clear that the conditions were taking their toll.
As I was running along near Mile 9, I saw Allison again. The weather had hit her hard. She was feeling bad and had slowed to a walk. I was going slower myself because of a pain in my lower leg/ankle that had started around Mile 6. We had only 4 miles to the finish line. I decided that the buddy system was what we both needed. I told her that I would run the rest of the race with her. Allison was reluctant to hold me up but as we passed a male runner lying on the ground surrounded by a policeman and some medics, I decided I was not going to leave her alone. (I later learned that a man had died along the course and have this awful feeling that it was the man I saw.)
We shared my Nuun because some of the water stations had run out of supplies (cups, water, or both). I gave Allison my Honey Stinger Cubes – they helped perk her up. My leg/ankle was really bothering me so having someone to run with made me slow down. For the rest of the race we would pick a landmark – a tree, a stop sign – run to it and then walk for a bit. It was slow and steady progress but we both were feeling better. When we came down to the last quarter mile, we started running. I was never so happy to cross a finish line in my life.
As I was making my way through the crowds to pick up my checked gear bag, I overheard someone say that the race directors had decided to divert runners because of the heat. At 9:30 AM the temperature was 78 degrees with a heat index of 87 degrees. The decision meant that quite a few runners would not be permitted to complete the entire full or half marathon course as planned. It was a difficult decision but one that needed to be made for the safety of everyone. There are plenty of races out there. It is better to live to run again.
This race was a sobering reminder that, even with the best preparations, any of us can end up in trouble. When that happens, we shouldn’t be reluctant to put out our hand and help someone else. I recently read about a high school cross-country runner in Iowa, Zach Hougland, who helped another runner who had collapsed on the course during a race. Because of his act of compassion, Zach and the runner who collapsed were disqualified. While Zach may have lost the race in the official record books, in my mind, he came in first.
Planning on visiting Savannah? Savannah is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. On Saturday night, I went on a ghost tour by Afterlife Tours. I give it two thumbs up. Our tour guide, Ryan Dunn, has done paranormal research in several Savannah landmarks. He has been featured on A&E Biography’s television program “My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera”. During the tour, Ryan shared evidence that he and his team captured during their research. He explained the historical facts behind local legends, either proving or disproving that spirits existed. Despite the hair-raising tales, I was tired enough from the race to sleep well that night.