Perspectives from a Half-Marathoner
My friend Ross came from Pittsburgh to run with me. My wife decided last week to run as well although for her it was a training run for a half marathon in Niagara Falls next month. We got there a little later than we should have. That was good because we were able to see the elite racers come out to the start line. I saw Ed Whitlock - an amazing story. He is 75 years old and he was trying to set a record for marathons by men 75 and over. I said to him as we passed, "Go get em, Ed!". That was bad because we had to walk a long way to join the start group and we ended up almost at the back of the pack. It took 7 minutes to walk back to the start line. Starting that far back, I spent the next two hours running around people. It is not that I am fast - I am not - but there were 4400 half-marathoners and I had to pass almost all of the 2000 or so that I was faster than - not fun.
On course, I told Ross that my goal was to run four twenty-eight minute 5K which would get us to the 20K mark in 1:52 which would allow me to reach my goal of running the race in less than 2 hours. He did a fantastic job pacing me through the race. We made it. I finished in just over 1:58. At around the 20K mark, my body began to give up and I slowed noticably. As I struggled to finish along Wellington, I heard police sirens. They got louder. There were police cars and an ambulance coming down the race course! It was not clear where we were supposed to go. As a driver of a car, I am often frustrated and/or mad by the unwillingness of people to cede to emergency vehicles. Somehow, I was the only person who ended up on the left of the first police car and then I looked up and saw a gate blocking my path. Realizing that there was a gap between the police car and the ambulance, I raced in front of the ambulance and then crossed to safety. The two police cars and ambulance had to be navigated again as at Wellington and University they appeared poised to turn but they had to wait for a crowd control gate to be opened. I went around them. I was amazed by all the people lining the street and cheering me and others on as we finished the race.
After I finished, I heard the public address announcer talking about the end of the marathon. I realized that it was just moments until the end of the marathon and as I was still in the finishing area, I moved as close as I could to the line (just behind the media) and saw the winner cross. Although, he had a seven minute lead on me, he had completed the marathon route in about the same time as I completed the half! Wow! (note - probably did not have to pass a couple thousand runners though!)
After getting home, I learned that Ed Whitlock had smashed the record by ten minutes finishing the marathon in 3:08. He ran two half marathons faster than I ran one. I also learned that I was not among the top half of male finishers or of male finishers in my age group - it was my first after all - I should have been happy to have just finished.
Later in the day, I learned that a runner had died. I came to the conclusion based on his split time that was posted on the internet that he was probably in the ambulance that I had worked hard to avoid. All the lustre of the day was lost. His name was Martin Poyser. He was 41 - my age. His race had not ended in him making his goal time. His race ended in his death. I am still trying to deal with the shock of it all. I remembered that last year a man died after crossing the line in the Toronto Half-Marathon (which will be run again next month). I remembered that that man was reported to have had a heart condition. I looked again at Martin Poyser's split time. He had run to the 12.2 mark much faster than I had. Of course, the majority of the men in my age category had as well. What happened to him that he not only had a heart attack but could not be saved even though he was surrounded by emergency personnel? I hope that in time there will be some answers to those questions. To his family, very simply, my sincere condolences.
I am not sure that I will ever push myself to beat a goal time again...