An unforgettable marathon
we did it as family
It was my 12th marathon, yet a first one in a very unique way. My wife and I had entered for the race some four months prior to the race. We started some gentle training. Her left knee started to hurt every time she ran. There were only seven weeks left to go when she was diagnosed to have suffered significant "chondromalacia patallae" (an injured cartilage). It seemed like I would be doing the 42.2km by myself. I suddenly came up with an idea that William, my 15-year-old, and George, my 13-year-old boys might want to give this a try. They had been playing basketball for an hour everyday. They had done a couple of 10km races and actually enjoyed them. They were "lean and mean" and looked like a couple of under-aged marathoners. Their responses? "No way!"
The idea was put away until the three of us had a leisurely 8km run one week prior to the race. "Dad, do you really think we can make it to the finish?" "I'm not sure. But I'm sure you can at lease make the first 32km. The remaining 10km will be tough but not impossible. Besides, failure is still success if you can learn something from it." That settled the discussion and father and sons started our tapering (that was easy as we were definitely under-trained). What followed was carbo-loading and the briefing the evening before.
The boys were really excited to get their allocated supply of chocolates for the distance. They were probably over-excited and left them with the baggage. The gun fired and we were on our way. I pointed to the helicopter hovering above covering the event for the local TV channel. We waived at the camera enthusiastically, even though there would not be a chance that we would be given a close-up. I kept reminding the boys to go slow as they had no idea how tired their legs would feel 3 hours later.
We ran slowly and steadily for 30km, chatting and pretending to be feeling perfectly easy. Then George started to slow down and lack behind. I told him to keep jogging and walk if he must. We would meet at the finish. William and I stayed together from then on, feeling the tightness and acidity build up in our legs. We still had over 10km to go.
We hit “the wall” at 35km and had to interrupt the jogging with walking to prevent full-blown cramps. The runners around us were doing similar things, some even sitting down and stretching their hamstrings.
This miserable “near-cramp” progress lasted through the following 7km. My run-walk strategy turned into a total walking strategy as I felt the energy drained away from my legs. “William, move on, you can make it,” I urged William to leave me behind. William managed to jog slowly ahead. I didn’t know how I made it through the last km. Suddenly, I heard my wife cheering at the last 300m post. “Where’s George?” she asked. “Probably could not finish,” I responded, as I only had a few minutes to finish before the official time limit. I pressed on, running like a crippled old man, towards the finish. I finally made it. I saw William at the finish and my wife joined us shortly after. We congratulated William on his first marathon. We were feeling a little dismayed that George couldn’t make it. We weren’t too disappointed. After all, he was only 13 years old. We waited a few more minutes, expecting George to join us from the pick-up bus for drop-outs. Finally, George showed up and surprised us all by declaring that he had made it, just one minute within the official time limit. He complained that we weren’t waiting there at the last 100m to cheer him on. We were amazed and embraced each other in ecstasy. Our unbelievable father-and-sons marathon had been completed successfully, without blemish.