When I first started running a few decades ago in Massachusetts, I often ran during my lunch hour. My job as a Family Law Coordinator called for me to spend most of my time in an open area in the county courthouse. It was rather like a study hall, where I advised “pro se” litigants, i.e., folks who were representing themselves because they couldn’t afford lawyers.
One of my colleagues, Brennan, was an experienced triathlete. He was very generous with his knowledge and time, encouraging me in any number of ways. I’d gotten into the habit of peeking into Brennan’s office before heading out at lunch to check on the weather. My work station was not near a window, and he had a good view of the street. Whenever he caught me at it, he’d shoo me out with the proviso: “Get out there. They don’t cancel the race on account of rain.”
This past Sunday (February 7th), I ran a marathon in Melbourne, Florida–aptly called “The Florida Marathon.” I ran it last year and loved it. There are so many reasons: it’s a delightful course, has spirited volunteers, a strong organization and then there’s the music. Live bands and some solo musicians are featured all along the course–including a pianist with his gorgeous white grand piano on one of the bridges. Just like Big Sur, and I’ve run that one, so the comparison is genuine.
The weather Sunday was cool, mid 40s, and windy. No rain, but really windy–20 mph winds with gusts. Signs and some of the races fences were blown down, along with a balloon display. So that made it feel colder than the temps indicated. Not ideal, but when do you get ideal? At least it wasn’t raining, I thought as I layered up in the dark morning and trotted down to the start.
While it was somewhat arduous, it was a great run. The good news was that it’s a 2 loop course, so you were getting the wind in different directions. The not-so-fabulous part was that the wind was in your face as you crossed the second bridge at mile 12-13. Meaning: you were forewarned about what to expect in the last miles of the marathon.
My plan was to just keep moving, even if in a speed-walk to the top of the bridge, and then rely on gravity to bring me down the other side and over the finish line. It didn’t work that way; when I leaned forward to start my descent, the wind whipped me upright! Somehow I managed to hurl myself ahead and cover that last stretch to my medal.
Afterwards, I was surprised to learn that about 400 registrants (half and full combined) failed to show up for their races. Sure, there are always some folks who get hurt or whose travel plans fall through, but some of the AWOL runners had to have stayed away due to weather. And that’s too bad.
Finishing a distance race gives you a sense of accomplishment. Doing so under challenging conditions embellishes that feeling. Once you get a tough one under your shoes, no one can take that away from you. You come out stronger and are a better runner for it.