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.