We've all had the unfornate experience where something just doesn't go right. In the following post, Head Coach Andrew Whitener writes about his girlfriends tough half marathon. It's a great perspective on how to handle for things going wrong, even if you've prepared perfectly for the event.
In general, I'm pretty careful about which elements of my life get shared. I'll open it up more than usual today for two reasons: first, to thank people who deserve public recognition, and second to share a positive story of mental and physical perseverance.
Two weeks ago, along with several thousand peers, my girlfriend (Kate) of almost 11 years ran her third Navy/Air Force Half Marathon. This was her fourth overall half marathon, and she has also run some shorter races.
Long story short, when she came into my view at the finish line, thirteen miles down and less than 0.1 to go, her body broke down, her legs gave out, and she collapsed to her hands and knees on the ground. I ran out to her and tried control my fear and be comforting, encouraging her to sit down and just breathe, completely ignoring the possibility of finishing the race. She was teetering on the verge of consciousness, white as a sheet, but all she could say was "I need to go, I need to go." Given that we were a few hundred yards from the finish line, we were basically blocked in on the road by metal fences, meant to keep spectators off of the course as people came down the stretch. I knew the medical tent would be somewhere near the finish line, and I knew that Kate would be upset at having not finished, so instead of waiting for someone to come out and tell us what to do, a complete stranger and I picked her up, one of us under each arm, and together we started walking slowly towards the finish. I really wasn't aware of much except for looking frantically for a medic or the medical tent itself, but in hindsight I'm pretty sure Kate sparked a hell of an ovation coming down the stretch.
It turns out that the medical tent was located 50 feet past the finish line, and as we approached it the medical team sprang into action. Over the course of the next 60-90 minutes, a group of people gave Kate great care. They took her vitals, asked me questions about her background and the fall itself – it took a while for her to regain the ability to respond for herself. They got her rehydrated and even helped to massage the terrible muscle spasms/cramps in her groin, calves, and feet. I'm sure they see runners with similar symptoms at every race, but every person we encountered treated her with a calmness and empathy that made a scary situation more bearable.
Eventually Kate felt strong enough to sit up on her own, then to move to a chair to finish her IV fluids, and eventually to get discharged to go home. We spent the rest of the day resting, hydrating, and eating (once her appetite came back). I'm happy to report that she has steadily improved since race day, though her body took a hell of a beating, so she’s not quite back at 100%.
We both would like to send a heartfelt thank you to the following people/groups:
1) Everyone at the Navy/Air Force Half Marathon - you put on yet another excellent event, you were prepared for medical issues, and you provided us with the backdrop for a great story! Thank you for providing Kate with an opportunity to do something that she loves - a setback like this will certainly not stop her from running more in the future!
2) The George Washington University Medical Staff - I looked around online, trying to find out who the specific healthcare providers were for this event, and I still don't have a definitive answer – best I could tell, GW offers medical staffing to local events, and I’m guessing the people who work them are somehow affiliated with the hospital. If anyone knows exactly who these people are or where they come from, please let me know so I can thank them directly. Regardless, thank you all so much for taking care of Kate yesterday. You did excellent work in a hectic atmosphere and we couldn't appreciate it any more.
3) To the woman who helped Kate finish her race, and the man who walked next to us (and gave us his Gatorade) - you are the best parts of running culture and a beautiful reminder that good people are out there. Your immediate, unthinking, selfless support in a time of need will stay with us forever. I know that there are people all over the world who do great and difficult things every day, and some idiot could read this and accuse me of somehow cheapening the actions of others by praising these specifically, but yesterday it happened to us, so it's personally meaningful. If by some tiny chance the cosmic forces of the internet leads you to this post, please shoot me a message.
Finally, I'd like to share a couple of haphazard thoughts that someone might find value in.
First, when bad things happen, there isn't always one direct cause. To say Kate is on top of her nutrition, hydration, sleep schedule, and training regimen is the understatement of the year - she was ready for this race, as she has been for all of her races. I believe a lot of small factors came together to cause this adverse reaction - weather (hotter and more humid than previous races, thus more sweat and higher body temp), stress, bad luck, and probably most of all, effort - she had been running outstanding times in training and really wanted to set a new personal record.
Second, try to base your self-evaluation on the process more than the results. The thing that impressed me the most (and there were a LOT of things) about how Kate handled herself throughout this whole experience, was that she didn't fall into the pit of “what-if.” She was running her best ever splits for the entire race, despite feeling slightly off the whole time, and she could easily have been inconsolable after her collapse because she was going to shatter her personal record. Instead, she was level-headed, content with how she prepared herself, and happy that she wasn't hurt worse. She was definitely a little disappointed right after the fact - it would be weird if she wasn't - and how you perform is obviously important in life to a degree. But she was able to turn the page without letting it destroy her, and that is what made me proudest.
Finally, allow me to tie a bow on this thing. Kate succeeded yesterday in finishing a half marathon. She was helped by multiple important people, who went above and beyond the call of duty, for which we are eternally grateful. As a person, she is prepared, organized, and self-motivated. She doesn't seek praise or recognition for her actions (she will be uncomfortable that I wrote this), and she is tough as fucking nails. She embodies many of the character traits that I strive to improve upon in myself, and she deserves to have more people know about it.
Oh, and even with the collapse and the super slow walk to the finish line, she still beat her best half marathon time by two minutes. Neither of us paid much attention to what her time was after she collapsed, and we only learned of this later in the day when I checked her run-tracker on the race’s app. There were some tears of joy to say the least.
Head Coach, Courage Performance East (Washington, DC)
Get Discounts Below!