Dr. J on Running

24 Veterans Marathon, Columbia City, IN

10 November 2012

Sixteen weeks after my injury, the time had come for the rubber to hit the road. The four weeks of preparation since Harpers Ferry progressed gradually from no running to heel-striking a couple of miles to run-walking 13.1 miles, then running on my forefoot 4 miles. I felt confident that I could run-walk the Veterans Marathon in Columbia City, IN, in under six hours.

On-time flights got me to Fort Wayne mid-afternoon. Angie, the voice of my new GPS, navigated me from the airport to the new TownePlace Suites on the northwest corner of the city. I dined at Granite City, and retired early.

I did precious little the following morning, before driving west 20 miles to Columbia City for lunch at a downtown diner. I walked around town, and discovered the local coffee shop BrewHa. I programmed into the GPS the locations of the parking lot and the start line. At packet pick-up, I met Coach Gary Bird, the race director, and picked up my bib and quarter-zipper embroidered jacket. I returned to Fort Wayne for a steak, pasta and broccoli dinner at Granite City, and went to sleep.

On my early morning drive back to Columbia City, I discovered that some local drivers ignored traffic signals. Safely at BrewHa, I washed down a banana and cinnamon raisin bagel with a skim cappuccino. The thermometer read 52F. I met a few Maniacs and 50-staters, and psyched myself for the run.

The opening ceremony featured a US Air Force color guard and a local high school marching band. After they played the Air Force song and the Star-Spangled Banner, an Army cannon sent us on our way as Tto vintage planes flew overhead. The combined field of full and half runners totaled about 600 runners.

I ran half-a-mile, walked half-a-mile, and repeated 27 times. I went through one mile in 12 minutes – too fast. I passed five miles in an hour. Unsustainable pace. Barbara, a local first-time marathoner, ran a painfully steady pace of just over 12 minutes per mile. I passed her when I ran, and she passed me when I walked. We talked twice every mile. We passed 10 miles in 2 hours, and went together through the half in 2:41 – way too fast.

The loneliness of the long distance runner replaced the noisy excitement of the herd of first-time half-marathoners. The second half saw us battling a stiff head wind for about six miles, then a gravel road and a few steep hills. My broken bone went from totally asymptomatic to a dull pain. I changed gait to ease the discomfort, but the pain never exceeded 3 or 4, and I did not feel the need to stop of running or to drop out. I reached 15 miles in 3 hours and passed Barbara one final time. She finished in 5:50.

The wind and hills conspired to slow my pace to 4.5 miles per hour for the next two hours, and I reached 24 miles in 5 hours. I passed Jessica and Shawn around mile 20. She shuffled with a painful hunched-over form, and he imitated her for good measure. They finished in 5:47.

I ran the last mile in 11:52, my fastest of the day. I crossed the finish line in 5:28:02, and felt reasonably good except for a dull ache in my right foot. The foot turned blue around the base of the fifth metatarsal, certainly not a good sign. The pain worsened in the afternoon, and reached worrisome levels during the night. I may have re-fractured it. Bummer.

Adding insult to injury, my name did not appear in the official race results. Phone calls and emails to the race director and the results coordinator yielded satisfaction. The computer recorded my bib near the finish mat before the start of the race, giving me a very negative split. While waiting to use the Port-a-Johns, the line of runners stood right next to the chute, triggering potentially the sensors in the mat.

I replenished my energy with a large chicken barbecue pizza that I washed down with a bottle of Pepsi. I tossed and turned most of the night, then headed south to the airport for an early morning flight to Chicago. Flight attendant Donna noticed that I had run a marathon – duh – and brought me a complimentary 1-liter bottle of water to prevent kidney stones, a fate that she suffered after running the Chicago marathon. It turned out that Donna was from Rome, NY, a Griffiss Air Force brat, a marathoner and the women’s elite coordinator at the Boilermaker 15K in Utica. A small world indeed.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran this marathon 74 minutes faster than last month. At this rate, he will qualify for Boston in February and win Boston in April. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2012 Dr Kamal Jabbour

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