As soon as I stepped outside yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I knew it would not be a good day for running. The chill I had prayed for was not in the air. Instead, it felt like a swamp. It was 72 degrees and we were still getting dressed. The Oddyssey Half Marathon in Fairmount Park would be a struggle.
My MOH, Mr. MOH (my maid of honor and her husband) and I got to the starting area at the Please Touch Museum around 6:30 a.m. We had just enough time for a porta potty trip before the race started promptly at 7:00 a.m. There were around 3,000 participants, and it was nice being about :30 off the clock, rather than 30:00 like we were during Broad Street.
Some runners wore costumes, most did not. For the most part when I saw a runner in a costume I thought, “Lord, he/she must be hot.” The exception being, of course, the couple dressed as Adam and Eve wearing a Speedo and a bikini, respectively. I really hope they won something for that costume.
As for us, we started out at a good pace, staying just below a 9:00 mile. I didn’t feel horrible, but I didn’t feel great, either. I had forgotten how easily the humidity can zap the energy right out of you. By Mile 8 I was wondering how much longer I could maintain our sub-9:00 pace. (8:51 pace would have tied my PR of 1:56.) Funny enough, Mile 8 is where the race got really interesting…
We found ourselves running behind a young woman who was swaying and zig-zagging. MOH noticed this right away, because she’s ended up in the medical tent because of heat exhaustion before… she knew exactly what to look for. Knowing that she could go down at any moment, Mr. MOH ran ahead and tried to stop her. As soon as he touched her to get her attention, she went down. Thank goodness we were right by one of the bands, which had a bottle of cold water and a cell phone to call for help. (Dear band at Mile 8 – THANK YOU!!!)
The young lady looked like a zombie when I saw her face, but was able to talk, tell us her name and what day it was, (even smiled when I cracked the joke that I didn’t even know what day it was) but she was barely able to sit up on her own and could not lift the water bottle to her mouth – I had to hold it for her. We sat with her for what felt like an eternity. A few other runners asked if we were OK. One person threw us a gel. At about the 8 minute mark, a runner who was a doctor stopped to help us and took her pulse, told her to lie down and elevated her feet to get blood to her head. (WHY didn’t we think of that? Clearly none of us went to med school. To the doctor that stopped to help us – THANK YOU!!!)
Finally, after 10 minutes, a medic arrived, thanked us, and told us we could go. Right before we left I found the emergency contact note stuffed in her iPod holder. (The race bibs did not have an emergency contact form on the back. I always write mine there anyway because that’s the first place I would look.) I was thankful our dehydrated runner was not in serious danger (at least I think she wasn’t). 10 minutes seems like a long time to wait for help.
Out of habit, I stopped my Garmin when we stopped to help. So we were able to continue on knowing our run time without the stop. I was actually kind of relieved after we left our fellow light-headed runner. The pressure for a PR was off. I knew deep down I didn’t have it in me that day anyway. By Mile 10, the sun was beating down on us, my right knee was starting to hurt, and we were walking through the water stops. I just wanted this darn race to be over!
At Mile 12, Mr. MOH was feeling much better than us gals, (did I mention this was his first half marathon EVER?) so we encouraged him to go ahead and kick some asphalt. I was afraid to push my tight right knee and cause serious damage for a race time I no longer cared about. MOH and I did finish strong, and passed oodles of people as we ran up the final hill approaching the finish.
Mr. Dish met us at the end, and the four of us gloriously relaxed with our free beer from Sly Fox Brewery in our brand new finishers pint glasses.
The race itself was well organized and the course was very enjoyable, especially in Fairmount Park. My only complaint was the lack of urgency in our emergency response situation. I don’t know what became of our fallen friend, but I really hope she’s OK and I hope she’s not beating herself up too badly. It was a very tough day to run. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t see more runners in the same condition.
The three of us learned a very valuable lesson on Saturday. Given the opportunity to run the race again, I know all of us would stop and help her again. I know if I were in the same condition I would want someone to stay with me until help arrived. If you ever see a runner swaying or running as though they are drunk, stop that person and get him/her help. Sometimes racing isn’t all about the finish time. While we compete as individuals, we participate as a community. It’s why I love this sport so much.
At the end of the day I walked away with a new beer glass, a medal that doubles as a bottle opener, and a reminder about safety and helping each other.
Clock time: 2:08
Watch time: 1:58