Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life, Death, and the Marathon

It's not uncommon to hear about someone dying while competing in a marathon.

Just last weekend, William Caviness, a firefighter from North Carolina, died within a mile of the finish. (Story here). It's always heartbreaking. And it's a little frightening.

None of us want to drop dead on a run. And especially not in the middle of a race. And especially especially not within sight of the finish. If my number's up and I gotta go during a marathon, I really want to get my damn medal first.

We read the details, hoping to find a cause, a reason why they fell and we won't. But, they always seem to be "avid runners", "well trained", "fit for the race".

Holy crap! That could be me!

We runners like to think that what we do is good for us, makes us more healthy, will help us live longer, not kill us.

Any time I hear about a fellow runner dropping dead on a run, for weeks I will notice a little extra hint of tightness on my chest, or what seems like slightly more labored breathing, or some extra thumping from my heart as I climb a hill.

I start contemplating the math... how beats has my heart given me so far this life? How many more does it have left? Is this run adding to that total, or using a bunch of those precious beats up all at once?

But then I think of the other 40,000+ runners who had a great day last Sunday in Chicago. They came, they ran, they sweat through their shirts, they finished. Their hearts raced with anticipation at the start, and kept blood flowing for 26.2 miles, and each heart fluttered a bit when it crossed the finish line, and maybe skipped a beat or two when a its runner found a loved one waiting for them.

And I think about those finishers who are pushing the odds a lot more than I am, like Julian Gordon who finished the Chicago marathon at age 75. (Story here)  He was second in his age group. That means that there are at least 2 crazy old men still running marathons. I plan to be one myself some day.

And there's the story of Amber and June Miller. Amber ran/walked the marathon 39 weeks pregnant. (Story here) That's just about as pregnant as you can get there folks. June also finished the marathon, inside Amber's belly, and was born shortly after her mom grabbed a post-race sandwich and made it to the hospital. I'm assuming she got a ride.

Amber and June Miller. That kid should get a finisher's medal.
Or maybe Amber should get two.

There are at least 39,998 other awesome stories of triumph and fun and laughs and tears of joy from that marathon. In the grand epic of life on planet earth, those stories will echo at least as long as the one terribly sad story.

You might die just short of the finish of your next race. Or while typing a blog post. Or while driving to meet some friends.

But how we go isn't really that important. It's what we do before our time, our unfairly short time, is up.

I like to spend a lot of my time with people like William, Julian, Amber, June, and the other folks who laced up last Sunday.

Good running,