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At the Races

Chasing the Unicorn Marathon – August 18th, 2013

Chasing the Unicorn Marathon – August 18th, 2013

In my quest to re-qualify for Boston 2014 I reviewed my choices earlier in the year and signed up for a marathon in October (Mohawk Hudson Marathon). On further reflection I realized it would be taking place after Boston closed so I did a further investigation and found the Via Marathon in early September and signed up for that one as well. While looking for marathons I found this gem (and 1-time event) called the “Chasing the Unicorn Marathon” in mid-August. This was a marathon created especially for those who have a “realistic” chance of qualifying for Boston and need to get a marathon before Boston opens up in early September. It’s run on the Towpath by Washington Crossing, PA. Well it seemed perfect for me so I signed up for my 3rd marathon.

I managed to convince my son Desi, Rebecca who runs with me at Fleet Feet, and my friend Shannon, who has her eyes set on Boston, to all signup as well. We all carpooled down this morning for a 7:15am start. One the way down I decided, with the rain coming down, that I need to run how I feel and ignore the watch, so I gave Shannon my Garmin and ran with my dress watch (a Seiko Analog). We just managed to get there in time to use the bathroom and line up before the set us off in waves on 50 runners each.

Rebecca and I started quickly and maintained a 8 minute pace (I guess) through the first few miles. After a few miles Rebecca speeded up and left me in the dust. I keyed on a runner 50 yards ahead that looked my age and slowly reeled him in and caught him shortly after the 1st turnaround (mile 6.5 miles). We started talking at around mile 8 and I discovered his name is Fred Gropper and he is the President of the Bucks County Road Runners. We ran together exchanging the pace while surrounded by many other runners.

At the 2nd turnaround (Mile 13.1 – also the Finish) I checked the clock and saw the time was 1:45:39, 8:04 Pace!! I have during this time been taking caffeine spiked gu and still has plenty of energy. I maintained pace and ran with a female ultra masters runner until she powered away from me.

At around 16 miles I noticed a young female runner in a hot pink top weaving from one side of the path to the other. I pulled up next to her and said an encouraging word and then ran ahead. I heard her behind me trying to stay with me. Her breathing was extremely labored and heavy, she was in trouble. The next thing I heard her fall over behind me into the dense shrubbery of the side of the towpath steeply falling towards the Delaware river. I did a quick moment of decision, how important was qualifying? I decided instantly that in the grand scheme of things, helping her was more important. So I turned around and ran back to her and pulled her out of the bushes. She was clearly disoriented. We were too far away from aid so I helped her to her feet and supported her while walking with her so we could get aid. Another female runner pulled over and stopped and each of us took an arm over our shoulders and walked her forward as the distressed runner had no ability to stand on her own feet. We walked her about 20 yards or so when the 1st place runner came by with the leading cyclist in the opposite direction. I shouted to the cyclist that we have a runner in trouble. The cyclist jumped off the bicycle and said he was the race director. We then put the distressed runner to sit down, asking her to keep her head between her bent legs, while the race director pulled out his cell to call for aid. I asked if it was ok for us to leave now, or if he needed us further. He said go so we took off again. I have no idea how much time I lost but it had to be at least a couple of minutes. To add to the unfortunate mishaps ½ mile further down my left shoelace came completely unraveled forcing me to stop and double tie it again. There goes my plans of qualifying for Boston, oh well, this will now have to be a long run for the Via Marathon in September….

As I got back up to speed I noticed Rebecca up ahead and slowing, oh oh, this cannot be good, She should have been far ahead with all that had happened. As we approached the final turnaround (Mile 19+) I passed her and encouraged her to stick with me but she said go ahead as she too was laboring. But I continued on. I pulled out my final Gu and figured after the turnaround there would be another water station in the next mile. I was very wrong. With Gu stuck in my throat I suffered through 2 miles until somewhere around mile 21 – 22 I final found a water station. By then my legs and groin had tightened up and I was now clearly running a LOT slower. I was determined not to walk and so, no matter how slow I felt I was running, I kept at it.

A woman runner in a orange striped running top I had passed many miles before came by me and it was all I could do to stay in her slipstream. After about 2 miles another female runner came by and she orange striped runner suddenly STOPPED! So I keyed on the other runner and ran with her. With a mile to go I started talking to myself: “you can do this, finish it!” and motored to the finish. As I approached the finish I saw Tisha and my dog Marley shouting / barking at me. I finished and glanced at the time: 3:39:xx (Note: See postscript below)! Still under my Boston qualifier of 3:40! I was too tired to be celebratory and honestly, unless my time was 5 minutes under, I probably still won’t get into Boston for 2014. But I’m happy.

As I stood by the finish Rebecca finished but she was clearly in serious discomfort. This was not a good run for her. Shannon came up having finished the half (one lap only) and took some photos of us. In the meantime my son finished in a new PR for him of 3:51! He looked liked he took a Sunday stroll! Still fresh and smiling! More photos followed. I asked Desi to check if Rebecca placed in her age group, since she was in no condition to do so herself and was going to be leaving soon with family. He came back with a plaque but it was not for Rebecca, it was for me?! 2nd place in my age group! That was a surprise! I asked him to check when the 1st place guy in my age finished, he reported 3:38!? Wow, if not for the unfortunate events I could have easily done that! But I was happy, all things work together for good!

Now to recover and rest up for the next one in 3 weeks. Hopefully Boston will still be open in time for me to put in a better time in Allentown, PA.

Till then.

Desmond

Postscript: The actual time in the final results is 3:42:56. So my Boston hopes firmly rest on the Via Marathon in September.

http://www.compuscore.com/cs2013/aug/uni.htm

 

Chasing The Unicorn Marathon 8/18/2013

 

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