Monday, December 10, 2012

The First Last Man

Standing at the back of the field, looking down Main St., I couldn't even see the start line. The gun sounded, officially kicking off the Dallas Marathon and Half Marathon, but my race didn't begin for another 17 minutes. That's how long it took for me to finally get to the start line and set off on my "Last Man Running" adventure.

I had the task of trying to pass as many runners as I could, with The Cotton Patch Cafe donating $4 to the Scottish Rite Hospital for every runner I caught. I had no idea how the race would go. Would it be easy? Would it be a beating? Would I pass 1,000, 3,000 or 5,000 runners? We play the hypothetical game a lot on our radio show, and this was like getting to act out a hypothetical.

My training had been sketchy, as I outlined in my previous blog post. The weather on race morning didn't help--almost 70 degrees, 90% humidity, and a decent south wind (runners like 50 degrees, low humidity, and no wind). But I was excited. And nervous. And ready.

My biggest fear was fighting my way through the logjam of runners on the road ahead of me. I thought I might be able to hold a 7:00 per mile pace, but my first mile was 8:15. It was impossible to go any faster because of the congestion. I started jumping up on the sidewalks, or curbs, or running in the gutter--anything I could do to make some headway. I always took the wide side of the road on turns because it was open--I took the longer route, running zero tangents the entire day, but it helped me gain ground. There were so many runners (about 10,000 running the half marathon alone, with thousands more running the full and relay) that the crowds never really thinned out until mile 10 or 11. I could never get into a rhythm or a flow--I would run hard for 50 feet, then have to stop, then run sideways across the street to an open spot in the road, then jump up on the sidewalk, then back to the road, then slow down, then speed up again. It was taxing. But I was also making progress.

At the finish, I checked my watch. I had run a 1:38--a little slower than I thought I could run, but considering the crowds and weather and my poor training, I was pleased. But I still had no idea how many people I had passed. It wasn't until Dallas Marathon officials checked the computer results (based on the timing chips each runner wore) to determine that I had passed 9,000 runners!

The Cotton Patch Cafe had pledged $4 per runner passed, up to $25,000, because in their estimation I would pass a maximum of 6,000 runners. But when I exceeded their estimates, they decided to honor the $4 per runner number anyway, and they ended up writing a check to the Scottish Rite Hospital for $37,500! I can't thank the Cotton Patch Cafe enough. They have been such a great sponsor of the Scottish Rite Hospital over the years, and they went above and beyond with their donation yesterday. Make sure you grab a bite this week at a Cotton Patch Cafe near you, and thank them for their generosity and for supporting "The Last Man Running."

In the end, it was an honor to be the first "Last Man," something the Dallas Marathon is planning on making an annual part of the race. It was a thrill to know that I was making a lot of money for a great cause, and it was a thrill to hear all of the support from the other runners and the spectators as I made my way through the throng. Sure, it was a stressful, and it was warm and humid, and it was at times frustrating. But I hate to ever complain about a run. One of the great things about this sport is that so many people race for a cause, running for those who can't. There is a great fundraising spirit in the endurance sports community.

Knowing you're helping a great cause makes it easier to toe the start line, especially if you're the last man to get there.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Last Man Running

Three weeks ago, Hawkeye Lewis from KSCS (sister station of The Ticket as part of the Cumulus empire) called me to ask a favor. He had broken his ankle in a training race, and wanted me to take his spot in the upcoming Dallas Half Marathon (note: HALF marathon, not FULL marathon). Hawkeye, and the Dallas Marathon (formerly the White Rock Marathon), had come up with an idea to raise money for the Scottish Rite Hospital, the long-time official charitable cause of the race. Hawkeye was to start in last place--let every single runner, probably about 13,000, cross the start line before he would. He would be the "Last Man Running." For every runner he would pass on the road during the 13.1 race, the Cotton Patch Cafe would donate $4 per head to the Scottish Rite Hospital. Great idea, great cause--but a bad break meant Hawkeye wouldn't be able to run. So he picked up the phone.

I didn't give Hawkeye and immediate "yes" answer, mainly because I hadn't been running much due to extreme burnout. After running my best-ever marathon last December at California International, I was on cloud nine. I should have stopped and taken some time off. Instead, I ran Boston in April--it was a 90 degree day, and it was miserable. Then, thinking I should run another marathon soon after Boston so that my Boston training wouldn't go to waste, I signed up for the Utah Valley Marathon in June. On the start line, I thought to myself "what the hell am I doing here?" It was my 5th marathon in 14 months, and I had no interest in pushing my body hard for 26.2 miles. Needless to say, I had a another miserable run. Since then, I've been running one day a week, about 6 miles each time--not the kind of mileage I should be doing to prepare for a half marathon.

I've been riding my bike quite a bit, and I actually started swimming two days a week this summer (with the idea of doing triathlons next year, which will be the topic of a future blog post as I detail my ridiculous triathlon attempts of the mid-80's), so I've been staying in shape--I just haven't been running. So, when Hawkeye asked me to take his place, my first thought was "but I hate running right now!" But, it's for a great cause, and I'm intrigued by the idea of seeing how many people I might be able to pass, so day later I called Hawkeye back and told him I'd do it.

For the past three weeks, I've been on a crash training program, trying to get ready for the race. Instead of one day of running per week, I'm up to three days per week. I've done a couple of slow 13 mile runs, a couple of track sessions, and I ran the Turkey Trot last week as a tune-up. My half marathon best is a 1:28, but I'm not in that kind of shape right now. I think I can run a 1:35 or so, but I have no idea how much I'll be slowed down by the congestion on the road ahead of me once I start running. I could end up running a lot more than 13.1 miles if I have to do a lot of weaving through and dodging around the runners ahead of me.

To add to the pressure, Channel 8 will be televising the race, and they've informed me that they're going to follow me for the first five miles with a helicopter to check my progress. Great.

If you would like to make a donation to the cause and support my run, and more importantly the Scottish Rite Hospital, go to: (sorry, you'll have to cut-and-paste this because blogspot won't let me post a proper link--I plan on suing them for this inconvenience).

My best guess is that I can pass about 4,000-5,000 runners, but I really have no clue. I just hope I don't start last and finish last, and end up not raising a single dollar for the charity. If that happens, I will officially retire from running forever. I will also wear a dress to work for one year--actually, I may do that anyway.