Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last October, at the Detroit Free Press marathon, three different guys died within a fifteen to twenty minute period of time. This is not a typical thing. And they weren’t all old either. People did what they could to save them, but it didn’t work. Tragic.

When I read about this, all I could think was, “It could have been me.” I actually ran this marathon once. Well, “ran” is a bit extravagant.

Let me explain.

A friend of mine was a runner. He took it seriously and he was good at it. He ran all the time. He lost all kinds of weight and seemed more relaxed. And I observed with admiration. I was impressed with his dedication. I wanted to be that dedicated too.


Then, one day, he told me he was going to run in the Detroit marathon. He was working hard for it. And I thought, hey, maybe I could do it too. I could start running and get ready. There was still time to prepare. And I meant to. I really did. I thought about it a lot. I even bought some new running shoes.

I went out running a few times. To be honest, it was more a kind of jogging with an intent look on my face. Around the block. And as the date kept getting closer, I thought, “It’s just a few miles. Old people are doing this run. I’m in pretty good shape. I’m not in it to win. How hard could it be?”

Did I mention that this marathon was over twenty miles long?

The day arrived. I went out there with my buddy and we ran. Well, he ran. He did great. Placed pretty high on the list of survivors. As for me, I ran for a bit, trying to keep up with the people around me, but that soon faded into a sort of half-hearted jogging motion, which progressively degraded into a painful lope.

Many, many people passed me by. The trained runners flew past in a blur. Others moved past more respectfully, but it still pained me. Then those old people passed me by. I think some guy on crutches passed me by, and then some infants, crawling, snickering as they went past. Squirrels made jokes at my expense from the sidewalks and trees. At one point it felt like someone was jabbing a knife into my side. But I kept going. I walked. I jogged. I tried to run. I walked. I loped. As fast as I could, I forged ahead.

It seemed like the run would never end. It went on and on and on. Hours and hours, I plodded forward. The whole way I was trying to figure out why I was doing it. I was in some serious pain. At times I was just barely walking. Then I’d get my whatever back and keep going. I almost quit several times, but I didn’t. I’m just not much for quitting. So I finished the race.

People have said, “Hey. That’s still pretty good. You finished the race!” But that is not a race I should have been in. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t do the work. You kind hearted people need to stop encouraging my foolishness.

I went home. At the time, in that moment, I was kind of proud of myself. After all, I had finished the race. I told my family about it, then went to lie down for a while. I was tired. I had every reason to be tired.

A few hours later, I woke up. Suddenly, I understood the meaning of the word “excruciating.” We get that word from the word “crucifixion.” Pain so bad that it feels like you’re being tortured. And that’s what it was like. My legs had seized up in paroxysms of pain. I didn’t just have a charley-horse, I was riding that horse. Throbbing, unbearable pain.

I screamed! I tried to get out of bed to find help from someone, anyone. Pathetically, I fell to the floor. My poor abused legs had gone on strike. They couldn’t support me. And why should they after what I had done to them? If they had any sense, they would just leave and never come back.

Thinking that someone must be murdering me, the family came running. Thank God. Literally. Someone started rubbing my legs. Someone gave me pills. I don’t know what they were. I would have swallowed a toad dipped in used chewing tobacco if someone had told me it would help. Anything to make the pain go away. A spinal tap would have been good.

Finally. Finally. The pain started to let up. It didn’t go away fast. It took a while. My legs hurt for days. I still have flashbacks. I get the sweats when I walk past athletic shoe stores.

It was so stupid. But I learned. Running a race, any kind of race, takes preparation. Sometimes you can finish without it, but there’s a price to pay.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. very hard to picture you doing this. i apologize. i found it hard to hold in some laughter. until, of course, you talked about the excruciating pain. that's not so funny. i bet that was the last time you drug yourself through the Detroit marathon.

    this reminds me of when i skied from the very top of the mountain on a youth trip. i guess i thought i was some sort of expert after skiing once in eighth grade on Mt. Trashmore. not much of a mountain really, but i thought i could do it. i think i traveled down that slope at about 100mph. i was fortunate to have come up with only a strawberry when i took a 20 yard tumble at the end. i also got a stern talking to at the bottom of the hill by a concerned bystander. i almost ran into some kid while i was going mach 2. i think he might have been incinerated had i ran into him. i guess i deserved the not so kindly remarks.

  2. Don't apologize. No one could laugh harder at me than I do.


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