Monday, October 5, 2009

A Marathon, Self-Discovery and the Theory of Two's

On Sunday, October 4, 2009, Jon ran the Portland Marathon. The day before, I had high hopes that he would finish the race strong and we would return home with a medal. There were several signs that I took to mean good fortune would be coming our way.

Firstly, we had only 1 fortune cookie from single serving of chinese food that the girls split. Sammy said, "There's only 1 fortune cookie so who's gonna get the fortune?" While I began cracking open the cookie I started to say that they would have to share the fortune, but instead, inside the cookie were two fortunes. I felt extremely lucky.

On the way to the hotel, we spotted a double rainbow. {the picture isn't great, but if you look closely, you can faintly see another rainbow above the more visible one.} Another lucky sign.

At the hotel, the girls enjoyed a cartoon before heading out to dinner.

We had a wonderful time carbo loading at Macaroni Grill. The fortunes were starting to come true. At dinner we met other marathoners -- we were indeed an unusual party: there was a gay couple ready to embarke on adopting a child or finding a surrogate, a pregnant wife, and a wife not yet pregnant but ready to be so, and several others all with interesting tales to tell. And like the other fortune predicted, we lingered over our meals and gave each other needed advice about having children, raising children, running a marathon and so on and so forth.

The morning of the race we all got up at 5 a.m.

That is, some of us got up and then went back to sleep while others. . .

got up reluctantly. We got a call from the front desk asking if all was okay as they had just received a noise complaint. Nice. Real nice.

After we were all dressed and Jon finished fueling for the morning run, we dropped him off at the starting line. Me and the girls had a few hours to kill -- nothing was open yet this early in the morning so we went for a quick bite to eat and then explored the city.

We also drooled over a window display.

I love this oven!!!!

After touring the city for a few hours, we made our way to the race to watch Jon triumphantly cross the finish line.

I've left out a lot here and so far have only given you a tiny glimse into our journey. I'll let Jon tell the rest of the story.

I’m going to tell this story Tarantino style, I’ll give you the answer first, and then show you how I got there. Yesterday at mile 15 of the Portland Marathon, I was kicked off the course by the US Military.

Now I’ll start from the beginning. As many of you know I’ve been running for many years and used to race pretty competitively up until 6 years ago. I still run 50 + miles a week, but I decided that I didn’t have the time I really needed to train hard for racing.

A couple months back my good friend from high school, Pedro, asked me if I’d like to train for and run the Portland Marathon. Pedro is an amazing Triathlete and has finished several Iron Man races. His goal was to run a sub 3:00 hr. marathon before he turned 40, I thought that sounded like fun and agreed to run with him. We mostly trained independently, but every Saturday we got together for our weekly long runs (14 – 20 miles). Pedro’s friend John, who is another amazing Triathlete, also did long runs with us on many Saturdays.

I could go on, but I’ll just skip to the marathon part. Maya, the girls and I got up at 5:00 AM the day of the race. We rushed to get everything together and headed to downtown Portland (we were staying just outside of the city). Maya dropped me off at the meeting point and I quickly realized that I did not have my race number. In my haste to leave the hotel, I somehow forgot to put it in my bag. I found a pay phone and called Maya; she headed back to the hotel to get the race number and said she’d bring it to me at the starting line. Here is where the trouble began. They started to close off all the streets for the Marathon, and Maya was unable to get to me before the race started. By this time I didn’t think it was going to be a problem, they let me right into the runner’s area and no one that seemed “official” knew if not having a number would be a problem. I had the race chip (an electronic device that times you) on my shoe which was only given to registered runners, so I thought I’d be fine.

The race was going great, we were well under our planned pace and were feeling strong. As we got to about mile 14 I saw something that got me worried – a sign that read “runners without a race number will NOT be allowed on the bridge, no exceptions”. I still thought I’d be okay with my race chip and even asked a couple of the people holding mile markers if they thought I’d be okay, 2 of them said “Yes”. As we approached mile 15 to climb to the bridge I noticed the military personnel that were stationed mid-way up the hill. One of them stopped me and barked “where’s your number!” I said, "I lost it, but I have the timer chip that has my number on it, it was only given to registered runners". His response: “sorry, you’re not going on that bridge”. We pleaded with him but he wasn’t budging, this was a zero tolerance policy. I told Pedro and John to keep going and not to worry about me. I asked the military person to call someone from the race and see if anything could be done, he did, and I was told the same thing – no exceptions.

I stood there in disbelief and weighed my options. I considered running right by him, but figured 1 of 3 things could happen:

1) He’d just let me go. Not likely.
2) He’d chase me down and tackle me on the street. I wasn’t sure that he’d be able to catch me, but who knows, I had 15 miles on my legs already.
3) He’d just radio a head to one of the police officers on the other side of the bridge to stop me. That seemed the most likely scenario; I was easy to spot – the one with the bandanna on his head and no race number.

At that point I came to the realization that it was over, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the Marathon no matter what I did or said. I stood there for a few minutes blaming everyone I could think of – Homeland Security (if that was the reason behind the rule), the race director for his silly zero tolerance policy, the city of Portland, etc. The bottom line was there was only one person to blame, me. If I hadn’t forgotten my number, there would have been no problem. I then did what I normally do when I make a mistake:

1) Realize there’s nothing that I can do about it
2) Try to make the best of it

I decided to backtrack through the race course and then make my way into the city. I figured I’d run the 26.2 miles, plus tack on 4 or 5 extra miles to do something I’ve never done before – run 30 miles!

While I did this I had a lot of time to think and watch the other runners. I saw the race from a totally different perspective. I saw all types of runners, runners that are normally still on the course when I’ve finished, packed up and headed home. I saw runners that if you saw walking down the street you’d never believe they were able to finish a marathon. I saw people on the side of the road taking care of blisters, stretching out tight muscles and nursing injuries. I saw people walking who’d obviously gone as far as they could but refused to quit. Why were they doing it? Did they care about their time? Were they trying to set a PR? Nope, they were doing it because they were determined to do something that very few have ever done – complete a Marathon.

This all lead me to wonder, why do I run? It used to be about my race times, winning or placing high, getting ribbons and trophies. I’d pretty much given all that up 6 years ago, so it had to be something else. The answer was easy; it was because I love to run. Running is simple; anyone can do it at any time. You don’t need much gear and you don’t have to go anywhere special to do it. You can run with a group of people, or you can run all by yourself. That’s the beauty of running.

I glanced at my GPS and realized I’d already clocked over 26 miles. I decided to start heading toward the city which was about 4 or 5 miles away. When I made it into the city I called Maya and the girls from a pay phone and let them know what happened. They’d been waiting for me at the finish line and were getting concerned when they saw people finishing that didn’t look like they should be ahead of me (Maya’s words :)). We spent the rest of the day in Portland and then drove back home to Seattle.

I could dwell on the negative of this experience, but that’s not going to get me anywhere. I’d prefer to consider the good things:

• I got to re-connect with a good friend from high school and went on some amazing runs. On these runs we talked about everything from politics to the upcoming birth of his first child.

• I had a great time in Portland with my amazingly supportive wife and daughters and got to make some great new friends.

• I rediscovered why I run

p.s. All that said, there’s still is a competitive spark in me when it comes to running. Plus, the girls were a little disappointed that they didn’t get to see my cross the finish line. I’m considering the Seattle Marathon at the end of November. We’ll see…

p.s.s. Pedro and John easily finshed the marathon under 3 hours

We were all super tired on the drive home. And while Jon wasn't able to finsih the race, I still believe in my theory of two's because all in all we had a great time.

I think I was wrong when I first started noticing the Theory of Two's. I took it as a predictor of good fortune and now I think that it had more to do with the double meaning of our trip. We went there for one purpose only and came away with something else. We learned a lot from Jon. He could have reacted in a completely different way and instead he chose to rise above and set a new goal for himself all the while doing some serious self discovery.

I know this is a long post, but I'll leave you with just a few more Two's that I came across:

  • The first runner to finish the marathon came in at 2.24 Hours, just 2 minutes from my two's.

  • Before we checked out of the hotel we left housekeeping a tip of all the change we managed to scrounge up between us, $2.22.
  • I filled up the gas tank before we left Oregon and the total amount came to $28.28. Not too far off from my two's theory.

1 comment:

  1. Whatever you do, don't post Jon's blister photos on the blog -- there are food pictures here! =)