THE 2002 BIG SUR INTENATIONAL MARATHON
April 28, 2002
Mile 22 was a kick in the pants. Up to that
point, I was on a 3 hour and 45 minute pace, 15 minutes faster
than my goal of finishing in 4 hours and feeling great. Somehow,
I shot up Hurricane Point with the help of a strawberry Cliff
Shot and was pacing out a comfortable run (as comfortable as running
22 miles can be, I guess). I had made it through some rough spots
but now I felt that gliding in was well within my ability.
And then it happened.
My legs decided that this foolishness
had gone on long enough and that a message needed to be sent.
The message, which was received loud and clear, came in the
form of simultaneous cramps in both of my quads. It was my legs’
way of saying, “Hey Jason, guess what, we’re gonna slow this
down a bit and to make sure you understand, here is a little
number we like to call ‘Cramp in A minor.’ Hit it boys….”
Obviously, I have never given birth.
But from what has been described to me, what I experienced at
mile 22 must have come close. Looking down, I fully expected
to see the knots burst through the skin of my thighs. Needless
to say, my pace suddenly slowed to that of a sloth on valium.
I suddenly had a rush of thoughts
scream through my head. Was this it? A year of training and
it comes down to this? Will these cramps go away? Will
anyone notice if I wander off and slit my throat to embrace
the sweet release of death? (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating but
damn if it didn’t hurt!). The muscles starting convulsing, throwing
my legs every which way but I tried to keep a somewhat forward
motion as the cramps ravaged my legs. I was terrified that the
mental preparation I had worked so hard to master was going
to be overtaken by purely physical realities. I realized that
“gutting it out” might not be an option if the 10% of long-distance
running, the physical part, came from behind and overtook the
I was raising my knees high in an
effort to stave off the mutiny of my leg muscles when I noticed
a total stranger, another racer, had stopped on the side of
the road and was looking at me. I found this strange because
I had kept silent the enormous pain I was feeling and other
than the likely grimace on my face and the silly high stepping
I was performing, there were no external indications of my precarious
Then something wondrous occurred.
Somehow she knew. Call it intuition,
call it the unexplained link between marathoners, or call it
a kinship of shared hardship but she was somehow aware that
I needed help and needed it quick.
Having my headphones on and having
Sarah McLachlan serenading me throughout the race, I was deaf
to the sounds of the environment. She mouthed something I did
not hear and pulled out a bag of candy from her running pouch.
I lumbered the two painful steps in her direction and thrust
out my hand without shame and she dropped what I found to be
the most ironically appropriate items into my trembling hands.
She gave me two Lifesavers. Even in my questionable mental state,
I found the humor in this and popped both of them into a smiling
As fast as she appeared, she was gone.
A drive-by humanitarian gesture.
I wondered if this would have any
effect. I knew that a lack of salt, potassium, and/or liquids
usually contributed to cramps, none of which are ingredients
in Lifesavers, as far as I know. But as they dissolved in my
mouth, I could almost feel the sugar absorb into my body and
race to the emergency area. Suddenly, I could run again. Not
only could I run, but I could run comfortably and the cramps
all but disappeared.
While I didn’t quite break the 4 hour
barrier (4:16), I finished the race running. Thanks to the eagle
eyes of a passing runner and a selfless act of mercy, I was
shown the true spirit of the Big Sur Marathon and completed
the race with a little help from my friends, all 10,000 of them
represented by a kind lady and two Lifesavers.
THANK YOU, WHOEVER YOU WERE
COMING IN FULL
MARATHONERS, START YOUR ENGINES
CRAMP IN A MINOR