Sunday, September 18, 2011

Marathon #2

Yesterday was the Air Force Marathon at Wright-Pat AFB in Dayton, Ohio. All 13,000 spots sold out. People from all 50 states came to run the full marathon, half-marathon, or 10K, including my son, Mac, and his friend Nick. This was Mac's second marathon and my second time to be a Marathon Mom. I was ill-prepared both times.

Last year, I had no idea what to expect. I'd never
been to a marathon before and am not a runner, so don't understand the allure of running so much that your muscles cramp up, your body feels sick, and you may cause injury to yourself. Still, I supported Mac's endeavor and cheered him on as I waited four hours...five hours...and a little bit longer for Mac to cross the finish line. When he did, he was triumphant, though we soon learned that he'd hurt both of his feet in the process. He'd walked a good part of the marathon and would hobble around with stress fractures in his feet for the next few months. I was proud of him for finishing a marathon, but was glad it was over. He'd hurt his feet before. Surely he wouldn't do it again.

But he did. He signed up for the marathon again, this time "rucking" it -- meaning he would be in full military gear with 70 pounds of gear on his back. I was nearly beside myself worrying. I'm his mother; I can't help it. I reminded him of the injury to his feet last time. I tried to talk him out of it, but he's a grown man and wouldn't listen. I was grateful that he knew it wasn't a lack of confidence in his abilities on my part, but a mother worrying over her son's safety. He said he understood and I drove him and his friend to Dayton at the crack of dawn and wished them luck as The Star Spangled Banner was sung and a B1B bomber flew overhead. The race began.

I sat in the bleachers and waited. One hour passed, then two. I wasn't expecting him yet anyway. Three hours passed, heading into four. We thought Nick might cross the finish line at any moment, but knew that Mac's race would take a while. He hoped to finish in 5 and a half hours. Then my phone rang. It was Mac.

"I had to quit."

I could barely hear him over the cheering and music as runners rounded the bend and came down the home stretch. They were transporting Mac back to the area. He'd meet us in the bleachers.

My anxiety was relieved when I saw him walking down the tarmac. He seemed stiff, but okay. We met and he said that his hips were hurting too bad to finish and that he didn't want to do any damage to his feet or knees since he is signed up to run (not ruck) the Marine Corps Marathon next month and undergo physical tests for special forces sometime in the next month.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief that he wasn't injured and was so impressed with him for quitting while he was ahead. I know that must have been hard for him. He'd hoped to be one of the few people who ever finish a full marathon rucking. I couldn't be prouder of him for trying and knowing his limits.

He sat in the bleachers with us as we waited for Nick to finish his first marathon. He came in at 5:13, stiff and cramping and proud that he'd done it.

We've been through two marathons now. They start the same: carbo-loading pasta dinners the night before; waking up at dawn to wolf down a high-protein breakfast; them sleeping in the car as I crawl through marathon traffic outside the base; walking briskly 1-2 miles from the parking lot to the start area; warm-up stretching exercises; the national anthem; the sonic boom of an Air Force jet overhead; the start, and then the wait.

They've been just the same, but so different emotionally.  I know Mac was disappointed that he didn't finish but I hope he is proud that he made a wise decision. I am.


  1. I've never run a marathon, but do love walking. I definitely give lots of kudos to runners tackling those marathons, no easy task. I clicked over from Becky's blog, enjoyed browsing here.

  2. Wow! Mac is a wise and thoughtful young man. He's a winner in my book!!

  3. Andy's dad came to run the Flying Pig a couple years ago, and that was my first exposure to the hardcore marathon world. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who attempt these (and their bodies!) and I hope that your son realizes that no one, short of Superman, can get through these things with ease.

  4. Thanks for all your comments. Mac appreciates them, too.