I suffered an injury to my piriformis muscle a couple of weeks ago and had to give up my daily running streak on Tuesday to let my body rest.
I took four days off (zero running) and procured a professional message this week. I rediscovered the benefits of anti-inflamatories for sore muscles. Started to feel better. I thought I night attempt to ease back into running on the fifth day.
Unfortunately I was actually registered to run the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI on Saturday, the fifth day since I stopped my streak. Prior to my injury I had committed to running with my wife’s niece (Anne Santa Maria) for her first marathon. Probably not the best way to ease back into running. I thought I could at least begin the race and see what would happen. Here is the pre-race picture:
I felt okay at start and ran with Anne and one of her running club friends, Stephie, for the first eight miles. They were maintaining a great pace for those eight miles. Unfortunately my butt shark bit me at eight miles. I was slowed to a painful walk. I let them know they would do fine as they were running well and told them I was dropping back. Had I seen a sag wagon, I would have dropped out at this point of the race. I took some ibuprofen and walked for a mile. My rump relented a bit, so I was able to resume running at a much slower pace. I overheard a runner behind me commenting on the top half marathon runners racing toward the finish line (our race was an out & back 13 miles, the half marathon runners only had the “back”.) The runner behind me told her friend “Wow! That woman is really ripped. Me, I’m just torn”. I could really identify with her sentiment. I started telling myself that pain is just wimp leaving the body. I hoped I would have an ample supply of the latter for this race. Offsetting the physical pain was the beauty of the course. The race goes out Mission Peninsula which separates the two lobes of Traverse Bay. For just about the entire race you have the beauty of Lake Michigan waters keeping you company.
About this time another marathon runner caught up to me. I could see he was ailing a bit too with a couple of knee bands. I realized it was none other than Marathon Don. Don Kern is the race director of the Grand Rapids Marathon and a few other races. He has completed the 50 state circuit 3x and the seven continents 5x. He held the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest completion of marathons on the seven continents (since bested by another runner). He turned 60 the day before this race and planned on celebrating by running his 300th marathon or longer race at the Bayshore Marathon. I’ve run both his Grand Rapids Marathon (2009) and his Ground Hog Day Marathon (2016). I read his book “And the Adventure Continues” this year. It’s a fun read that I highly recommend.
Don is well-known in many places, but especially in his home state. He continually received shout-outs of birthday wishes and congratulations on his 300th marathon all along the course. We ran together for a couple of miles until I felt my pace picking up a bit and pulled ahead of him.
Shortly after the half-way turnaround I saw Don was just a bit behind me. I slowed enough for him to catch up and decided I’d run at his pace for a while. It turned out we would run just about the entire second half of the race together. We shared a few running stories and I was able to enjoy the music selection playing from his cell phone. The temperatures rose to what would normally be pretty uncomfortable, but a consistent cloud cover and a strengthening wind off of the water helped keep it tolerable. Don and I stopped briefly at the “official beer stop” of the marathon at mile 23.8. Not sure it was really official, but I toasted his 300th marathon accomplishment with a few sips of beer. Well almost beer as it was only Bud Light. It it obvious that Don loves running. What was also apparent to me was the care that he shows for other runners. Every time we passed a runner that was moving on fumes of despair, Don recognized the signs and offered words of encouragement and motivation to them. There was one woman walking who looked to be close to tears late in the race and Don seemed to say just the right words to her. Before I closed in on the finish line she came running past me with an air of determination. It was great to see.
Even with my sore rear end, I was able to match Don’s pace by employing a very fast power walk or a slow run. Right around mile 25, Don said “it’s party time!” and pulled a gear out of somewhere and I couldn’t match his surge. He had an entourage of supporters waiting at the finish line to celebrate with him. I came in a couple of minutes behind his finish.
I caught up to Don after the finish and got this picture with him. I thought a better sign would have been 398 combined marathon finishes, but then again, it was his day and he has most of them.
More importantly Anne had persevered through her first marathon in fine form. She of course said she’d wouldn’t do another one. A friend of Anne’s (Liz) and her friend’s mother (Judy) had run the half marathon and were celebrating our finishes with us. I leaned over to the mother and said “Give it a few days. She’ll be talking about the next one.” I was wrong. It only took about three hours. Here is the after picture.
The race had a 6 hour cut-off time. I came in at 5:58 which is the slowest road marathon I have ever completed (I have run a couple of slower trail marathons). This is my 98th race of marathon distance or longer completed. While a lousy finishing time, I am actually pretty happy to have the good fortune of a finish considering that I was ready to drop at 8 miles. I’m glad I had enough wimp in me to overcome the pain. Now I think I’ll take some more days off from running.