The Race that Never Was…

I can honestly say that I looked forward to the Green Bay more than most marathons. It was a quick drive, I got a non-marathon friend to tag along and hopefully introduce to the wonderful world we all enjoy as a running culture. And most of all, the temperature? It was going to be over 80 degrees on race day and would truly test my theory of I run better in the heat. Yes, it was easy to say things were truly looking up for me on this race. And even when I realized that the drive was going to be 2 and a half hours more than originally anticipated? It didn’t matter. We were just in time to arrive for the spaghetti dinner – gratis of course!

The expo was nothing to shout about perhaps on the crowded side but it was in Lambeau Field and the stadium is just majestic in a word – you can see where the community really loves their football. The volunteers were all friendly and the shirt was sweet rating an 8 or a 9. Yes indeed as the race approached, things were going up for this one! I went to the dinner and my buddy told me he would wait outside due to no ticket but some awesome guy handed him a ticket and in we went. The dinner had 2 free beer tickets and the tasty brew on tap was even named 26.2. There were free viewings of Lambeau Field which was nice considering the run usually ends on it I believe – this year reconstruction efforts did not allow this. It was so nice my buddy did take a couple photos. Sorry folks, not really a picture taker (though it may increase readership…)

The pasta may have been fine but it was so loaded with tomato chunks I could not even attempt a taste and we left quickly and did not get enough of the free brew because there were tickets to be had – we were handed four more just sitting there. Guess we must hit some people as the drinking type. We however did have a fantastic dinner that night at a local pizza place and got stuffed enough. Jason bought a six pack of local IPA and liked it so much he returned for more the next day. As for the accommodations? I know it is cheap but now I know why Motel 6’s get a bad rap. They have issues in short. The families living there and tripping over their furniture was a little disconcerting.

The next morning I got to the starting line and took my “Preferred Runner” tag all the way to the fourth or fifth row. Sorry I don’t mean to brag. It was just something nice to see. I know that a couple girls were impressed later on. One even took a picture saying she would never get something like that and it seems to pop a little more than a “Group A Runner”. The race started and we were off. The heat was there I suppose but I never felt a thing. I have no idea what the race started at but it was probably over 75 degrees and felt good… well at least to me.

We got past Mile 2 and I started to see the sprinklers set up on the course. I knew they were there to help us and though I was not feeling overheated yet I knew enough to take advantage of what they had to offer. It was pure freezing for a second but I did feel refreshed afterwards. I got into a groove and really stuck it out with about 5 or 6 other runners and then around Mile 11 I started passing people and feeling really good. I mean really good! All things shall pass however and at Mile 13 I was lagging and watching people pass me again. I won’t go into the particulars but it was pretty much like any other marathon I had ever run until Mile 20. It was at this point I was passed by the 3:10 pacers and I thought to myself? Why? I actually feel pretty good and I started to push and try to catch them. Then about halfway to Mile 21 I passed by a cop who said “Race is cancelled.”

What? What was he talking about? I hadn’t seen anyone down. I had yet to see anyone go over to a medical tent. I saw some runners with me start to slow it down but that was understood. We were being smart and taking it somewhat easy. And when they cancel races like these, don’t they call it at a point like Mile 16 say or even say Mile 21 and stop the race there? I really had no idea and thought I had to mishear. But when I got to Mile 21 all the volunteers were letting us know by now. I was confused, bewildered and only decided to push on. I had a state to complete and they had to take our times, right?

When I got close to Mile 23 a cop at an intersection told two walking runners that they were almost done and he suggested they just finish. My sentiments exactly! So I started to pick it up but just before Mile 24 once again, I was just too confused. What was I doing? I was five minutes over my personal record for sure so time was not a huge issue… I stopped to walk and when I did I saw a guy I was running with at Mile 11 sitting by the side of the road. What was he doing here? He just said he was waiting for his girl and I told him straight out I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t. A man up the street yelled at me to start running again and I did slow at first but sped up and told him it was all for him. It was. I really had not a clue what to do. The good people who had come out on this day were the ones who really deserved to see the run.

It was around Mile 24 when the bus pulled up in front of me for me to board (I had been told a couple times a bus would be by soon) and the volunteers forlornly told me to stop and get on the bus but the moment I will never forget was when I grabbed the water and kept running, one of them whispered “You keep going!” I did and I made it to Mile 26 only to find gates in my way and 4 half marathoners walking around them. I was dejected and confused again. I was told we got a medal so I went to get one and then saw some people running down the closed down chute I believe they were the same 4 halfers who had went the other way originally. I hopped the chute and ran through as well all in under 3:20. There was no clock time to confirm this – that had been turned off long ago. My opinion? Had the race not been cancelled it would have been under 3:15. Don’t get me wrong though – it did not feel good. It felt just done. The marathon was done but there was no joy or victory. It was all so hollow.

Afterwards I made my calls and I had enough people feel sorry for me but I was still angry and wrote a terse email to the race director about his decision and he came back to me with some things I expected, some things I did not.

I did find out later there was more than 70 runners going down due to the heat and supposedly the town ran out of ambulances. I understand cutting the race off – I really do… but considering I had yet to see a runner go down I must reiterate my point that a run should be cut off at a point. I even heard of a runner who got to the finish unaware the race was cancelled only to not get a time. Well conditioned runners should get their chance to finish. Furthermore to drive this point in – the race did give out top five times including at least 2 to women so they could get top 5 finishes. One of them was 3:24. She counts but I do not? No matter how you slice it, I crossed the finish line before that. Enough of my personal rant – though one could argue it is more for the fast runners than myself.

But what bothers me more about this marathon and what happened came from another runner who stated she saw 4 people go down at Mile 9 – “they were all half marathoners”. I have always tried to encourage other runners to start and set a goal for them as a half marathon. I think it is a nice, easy and comfortable distance. I have gotten my aunt into running and think I have a couple more who will join in soon. She has brought in at least 5 more runners herself. I was even hoping to bring my buddy Jason in… but now, I am not so sure.

The race director told me it was not worth it to finish the race if it could save a life. I am not saying he is wrong – I would instead say we all sign a disclaimer and should know the risks involved. If it is too hot? Don’t run. Know your limits. I have a great runner friend who just can’t handle heat running. He has a four hour goal every marathon and if he can’t make it due to heat? He just finishes – the four hour goal is not something he has to have. He doesn’t push himself too far and knows his limits. I have a feeling that when your goal is to finish? You probably don’t consider stepping out halfway through – you push through and push your body past its limits. I love running. I love that others get interested in running but sooner or later too many runners becomes a bad thing and I fear this marathon was a classic example of that. I am not trying to be a running snob but when 80 degrees is unbearable for running… I think your training needs to kick it up a notch.

As for Green Bay? The race will likely suffer next year as Maniacs such as me will run it down and tell others not to attend. And, since we do have certifications just finishing is not enough. I do have to go back to Wisconsin again and finish the state by both 50 states and maniac standards. I know it is selfish of me, but $300 does not grow on trees and the marathon has not offered any sort of discount or refund.

I do print this blog with a heavy heart as running really took a hit for me the last couple weeks. I would like to extend a large thank you to Ruth and Dave for letting me stay in Deadwood and to the entire Springfield crew. Your attitudes and excitement about upcoming marathons in Deadwood and Missoula have really strengthened my belief in running and have me back… almost at full speed. I hope no other runner ever has to get that far just to be told to turn around or quit. It destroys everything we believe in.


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