The collection of people that run marathons are, should I say,
not the healthiest looking people you have ever seen. Do not get
me wrong, they are probably in the better health than 90% of the
world, but what I said was they do not LOOK like healthy people.
Looking around at the starting line, I realized that I never
wanted to do this a lot. If this is what it made you look like,
The people were nice enough but they had a weird gate to
them. They walked a bit strange and they had skinny, wiry legs
with stomachs that were too flat and hips that looked over-developed.
Their skin resembled leather pulled tight over bony appendages
and their faces were masks of pain and wrinkles.
The most disturbing example was when I saw a woman from
behind and she had slender, muscular legs. Her hair was in a
French braid and she looked attractive from behind. As I noticed
this, she turned around and I was shocked to see that she had
the face of Mother Teresa. Ahhhhh, where is the mental soap?
This was the crowd we were a part of. Many older people
that you just knew were going to blow you away. But, again,
the look of these people was that of long endurance. I was just
in it for the finish line. These people, God bless them, were
in it for whatever serenity it provided them internally. Because
There was no use jostling our way to the front. It seemed
silly to try. So we waited nervously, just wanting the whole
thing to start. There were several hundred people and about
half of them were not even doing the full marathon. This was
also the start line for the 10 K.
The starting pistol went off and we started running with
the crowd, jostling for a comfortable space to settle into an
easy pace. Originally, we had agreed to stay together but that
did not end up being the way to go. Most of the time we stayed
in pairs, with Gary and I as partners and the Majors bolting
It did not take long before we met our first obstacle. The
trail started uphill and got worse after that. Pretty soon everyone
was walking as we realized that we had many miles ahead of uphill
as we trudged up the mountain.
Every 3 miles there was a water/food station. At least that
is what they advertised. Some of them were a little shorter,
some a bit longer. But God bless those people who were out there
manning these points because what they very soon became were
goals to reach. We went from point to point, stopping at each
one. Whoever was in the lead would wait there until the others
caught up. Then we would gorge ourselves with water and food.
It was a tricky little dance we danced at these points because
our bodies were screaming for nourishment but one did not want
to carry around a bowling ball in his gut while running. They
had so many different items that you would not think about if
you never ran one of these before. Stuff like cookies and M&Ms
for the sugar. Pretzels and nuts for the salt. Aspirin and Vaseline
for the obvious. They had it all and we were very thankful.
Mostly, I downed about two oranges, sliced up, at every point.
In fact, I ate more chow during this run than I usually take
in two normal days!!
As a sidebar to this story, Gary and I came up to one stop
about halfway through to find Major Patch alone. We asked where
Brent was and he pointed at the Winnebago which served as the
water/food point. They had come up to this point and Brent had
a bowel emergency. He had asked the kind elderly couple to use
their facility. And use it he did! We all chuckled at the thought
that Brent was just destroying the place in there and would
get done and run away. To add insult to injury, he took a large
wad of toilet paper with him for his next excursion off the
beaten path. I bet those old people still talk about the hairless
young man who nuked their small bathroom.
Up the mountain, down the mountain we went. Then through
the only flat part, the 7 mile straightaway pictured in the
background image of these pages. By then, the Majors had run
ahead and were beating us handedly after every way point. But
it did not matter, as long as me and Gary stuck together.
The miles went by and we slungshot from point to point.
As the day wore on, it started getting tougher and tougher.
But at no point did I ever think that I was not going to make
it. The only question was in what time and in what condition.
Gary seemed to struggle a bit but I knew him. If they would
have to drag my bloody corpse off the trail before I quit, I
knew that Gary had ten times more will than me. I knew he would
make it and as long as I stuck with him, I would make it too.
Toward the end, it was getting rough. The heat had kicked
up and the miles seemed to get longer and longer. Gary was really
hurting and we were alternating running, getting ahead, and
catching up to each other. At about mile 20, Gary’s legs started
to cramp. The problem was that if I slowed down, I would start
to break down, too. One time when I did, my quads started cramping
and I knew that was bad news. So I kept ahead of him a little
but did not want to abandon him.
We kept going and I remember hitting the 23 mile mark and
saying to Gary that all we had left was a PFT. The last part
of a marathon is always the worst. You cannot give up or slack
off even though that is what your body is telling you.
About another mile down the road, I saw Major Patch whom
I had not seen in awhile. I had my headphones on (a necessary
distraction that I got no small amount of harassment from the
others about. They called it “rude.) and as I was running up
to him, I could see that he was saying something.
At this point, I made two bad assumptions. First, I thought
that the Majors had finished and were coming back for their
buddies. Second, I thought that the Major was indicating to
me that he would finish the run with Gary and I could run ahead,
knowing that the last two miles was a mental battle best fought
I shot ahead and picked up the pace to get this over with.
My competitiveness got the better of me and I started reeling
people in and passing them. Now as far as running etiquette
goes, this is not the most polite thing to do. To be behind
someone else for 25 miles and then pass them in a flurry at
the end really tends to piss people off. But, like I said, I
had to get all of this over with, and fast.
I was running hard. The pain was all over my body like an
electrical field. I was not going that fast but I was putting
out everything I had left. I went through an area marked by
shallow gullies that killed momentum. I would accelerate up
the hills for the sole reason that I knew those behind me would
walk up them. That is how I could stay ahead.
That last mile was excruciating. It was uphill in dirt and
I was almost blinded by pain and fatigue. I had passed Major
Patch who was with Gary so I thought that Brent was at the end
of the race waiting for us with camera in hand. I was not going
to let him get a shot of me walking across the finish line!
But it hurt so bad to run.
I see the finish line and amble toward it the best I could.
I came running in and heard the announcer call out “ 6 hours,
3 minutes.” For the last 3 miles I was really trying to break
that 6 hour mark but at the end, it really did not matter. I
was done and I had succeeded.
There is an unwritten rule of leadership in the Marine Corps
that is the cousin of the rule “You do not leave dead or wounded
on the battlefield.” When you finish a run, you go back to those
behind you and help them run in. I have always adhered to this
courtesy but my first thought at this moment was “Hell, no.”
I did not think I could run again in my life. There has to be
limits and surely this qualified.
The very next thought I had was “Where was Brent?” He was
nowhere in sight. It was at this point that it hit me. Oh my
God, they had not finished yet and I had bolted ahead. I felt
about an inch tall because I had abandoned my brothers. Despite
my pain and fatigue, I had to go back and started walking back.
I was going to run in with them as a small payback for my unintentional
When I found them, they were less than half a mile back.
But I only saw Major Patch and I told him that I would run in
with Gary as he continued on. He told me that he was looking
for some medical personell because there was someone back there
that was loosing his weak grip on reality.
What the Hell happened to Brent?
What happened was that Brent had the exact opposite problem
than I had. He could not STOP himself from having to go to the
bathroom. He stopped something like seven times to relieve himself
and his last pitstop was an extended version behind some rocks
that cost him quite a bit of time. When I saw Major Patch on
the road earlier, what I thought was him telling me that he
would run with Gary was actually him telling me that Brent was
behind the rocks unloading. If I would have known that, I would
have slowed down and ran with Gary the rest of the way in.
I ran into Brent not far back and we came in together. It
was a shame that he was so far ahead the entire race to end
up coming in as the last Horsemen. He should have come in first
because he was consistently ahead of us the entire race.
The three of us went back again to get Gary whose legs were
cramping. But just like I figured, he was not even close to
giving up. We all trudged along giving him encouragement and
in the end, we all crossed the finish line together, not caring
what our individual times were. We had come in together and
that was all that counted.