Ya know, I started this blog post several months ago – in fact it was within a month of finishing up the marathon. But you know how things go with life and other things keeping me busy (no really good excuses though) we just never got around to finalizing it and getting it up and posted. So with my apologies, here it finally is!
My O’l Buddy Joe
Runners are hugely loving and generous people in general. And it never ceases to amaze me the genuine compassion and willingness to help that it is exhibited by my fellow runners.
I’ve always had good experiences when running in organized races, especially when running with my white cane. And the running of my third full marathon was no exception.
Whenever the cannon booms for the start of the race, there is a moment of trepidation and subtle uncertainty inside of me – a hesitation and wondering if I will actually be able to see well enough to make it the entire 26.2 miles to the finish line.
This feeling only last a few moments and thankfully it disappears as I fall into a rhythmic pace with all the other racers.
Unlike a lot of runners who take the beginning of a race as a signal to pass as many people as they can, I have to concentrate on a) not running smack-dab into the rear of the person I’m following, and b) not running off the edge of the road. With all of that jockeying of racers taking place in the initial minutes, I’m content to just let them all pass me as they will.
Adrenaline can really get you into trouble at the start of a long race. Going out too fast is one of the biggest mistakes a runner can make. And believe me, I have done it and lived to pay the price! Sometimes it’s hard to control because it’s such a high to be passing hundreds of other runners as if they are standing still!
But since the decline of my eyesight, I have been forced to take a backseat in the pack of runners, for my own safety as well as theirs!
As the crowd of runners thins out, I can mostly make out the white line on the side of the road, and I pretty much stick to it like a baby monkey to its mama, not letting it out of my sight.
This year I was able to run for over half of the 26 mile race and it was 16 miles in before I needed to deploy my white cane.
Even though I was running in very familiar territory, the glare of the sun, and the many turns, and the increased number of runners and walkers, all convinced me that I needed to get out my cane.
It insured that I would be seen. The white cane not only helps me to navigate the path in front of me, but it also lets my fellow runners, volunteers and the wonderful crowds cheering along the route to know that I don’t see too well.
It was just after mile 18 that I met Joe.
He was running along, and graciously asked if he could help me around some tricky turns on the route. I of course said yes. He took my hand and gently guided me around some very scary drop offs and uneven pavement on the side of the road.
As we continued on, Joe and I got to talking, and I found out that this was his 44th marathon in 44 different states since 2002! WOW!
What an accomplishment. Me, with my own little ol’ third marathon nearly in the history books, I was appropriately impressed. Yup - he is going to run all 50 states. How cool is that?! I don’t know if I would have that in me even if I could see.
We were talking and I told Joe that I had written a book about my first marathon experience, “Running Blind – The Journey of a Blind Runner Training For Her First Marathon.”
He asked me if it was on Amazon. When I responded that yes it was, he let out a laugh and said that he had seen it. He couldn’t believe that was me!
Joe became my eyes as he took my hand once again and led me through the tunnel area that always gets me twisted around and going the wrong way.
At mile 21 T met me again for a hug and some well appreciated words of encouragement. I quickly introduced her to my new ol’ buddy, Joe.
As I always do, I used my rendezvous with T to walk a few blocks and drink some water. Joe kept running, and I was sad to see him go.
But as luck would have it, I would run (ha, ha) into him a little past mile 23.
I had run into a small parked car when I had veered too far to the right, and another runner named Daniel offered his help to guide me through this part of the course.
So there I was running alongside Daniel when I heard my name called out. It was Joe! “JOE!” I yelped in excitement. I was very happy to see my ol’ buddy Joe again!
Daniel, Joe and I ran along with me in the middle – my two bodyguards protecting me from stealthy walking trees and invisible cars!
Joe and I lost Daniel at a water station around mile 24.
It was at this point in the race that I told Joe how much I appreciated all of his help and friendship, and that he was making it possible for me to meet my goal of finishing around 5 hours.
Joe turned to me, his voice cracking with emotion and emphasized how I had made his marathon for him. He thanked me for running with him! He said his wife was going to be so surprised that he had got to run with me.
The last two miles seemed to go by like the first two, FAST! Now how many times have you heard that from someone who has run a marathon? Probably not too often.
We took the turn onto the Higgins Street Bridge for the final sprint to the finish line.
Joe said if I would cross the finish line with him, he would buy a finisher’s photo, something he has not done in all of his 44 marathon finishes.
I replied that it would be my honor to cross that finish line with him, as I could not have had such a wonderful marathon without him.
So with hands clasped and arms raised, we crossed over the timing mat together with the crowds going wild! Well maybe not wild, but lots of cheering.
T met me to guide me through the corrals and gates and out of the finishing area, and our local TV news anchor, Heidi Meili from KECI TV put my finisher’s medal around my neck.
I gave Joe my card with my website on it and encouraged him to check out my blog, because for sure he would be in it.
When I told T that Joe had seen my book on Amazon, she asked him if he had bought it.
A little sheepishly, he said No, that he had bought “Born to Run” instead. Okay - not a problem – we’ve read that one and it’s a powerfully good book, too!
So … all’s well that ends my best marathon to date, thanks to my new ol’ buddy Joe.
How ‘bout it?