Wake Up and Run For Your Life

Numbers One, Two and I ran the Cotton Row Memorial Day Run in downtown Huntsville this past Monday. None of us had been running much lately (I’ve had a bad case of “turf toe” since February), so a 5K for fun (and to get the t-shirt) seemed about right. We were running late, so we ended up at the back of the pack at the start.

As we stood there waiting for the gun to go off, we suddenly heard the people around us applauding and cheering. We looked up and saw the very last 10K finisher (it had started nearly 2 hours before) crossing the finish line.

He was a very large African-American man, about 6’4″ and I would guess around 400 lbs, who was “sprinting” for all he was worth. But what really got my attention aside from his heft was his entourage. He was being escorted by five very fit and trim military-looking types who had apparently run the course with them. I have no idea who they were, but my first thought was that they were some kind of medical support crew that race organizers had arranged to have run with him.

I’m all for people losing weight, achieving their goals and getting a fresh start, but the whole scene struck me as a little reckless, especially with all the heat and humidity that morning. But I sincerely hope he uses his finish to go on to even greater things (like a 150 lb weight loss).

When the gun went off, it took us a couple of minutes to weave our way through the mass and really get going. Number One finished first, and then Number Two with me bearing down on him at the finish. We were all pretty slow, but it was fun and satisfying. And there was pizza and ice cream at the finish.

Where was Number Three you ask?

Sleeping in.

  1. kristiS

    It might have seemed reckless to someone who can go out and run a 5K for fun. However, I’ve been in the boat of that man. Not quite at 400lbs, but definitely a long way from fit and healthy and sometimes you have to do something reckless to make yourself keep going. I loved reading this story. It reminded me that summer is not a good excuse for walking instead of running.

  2. bibliophilist

    I like the way Number Three thinks. 🙂

  3. Mike the Eyeguy

    kristi, thanks for stopping by. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what he did and really do hope that he goes on to live a more healthy lifestyle as a result. It’s the doctor in me that gave me pause. I’ve personally known two men (both by all appearances healthy) who have died running Cotton Row.

    It could happen to anybody, but a 400 lb man in that heat and humidity is at even greater risk. There is something to be said for starting off with a 1 mile fun run and then going farther as the weight comes off.

    That said, perhaps he had had a physical and a go ahead from his doc, but somehow I doubt it. I was frankly surprised that race organizers allowed him to run.

    I hope you have a good summer of running. My toe is feeling much better and running the other day has got me fired up to step it back up a bit.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    bph–Well, he was entered and was supposed to run, but he wigged out on me when it was crunch time. I was pretty steamed, actually.

    “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

  5. kristiS

    I understand. The biochemist in me wonders the same things about the sensibility of such an act. The fat girl that lives inside of me totally understands him.

  6. Jeff Slater

    Congrats! My kids and I ran a 10K in Traverse City, Michigan over the weekend. Of course, my son the Uber-Runner beat us all. But I was really proud of my eleven-year-old daughter. She had not run more than 2 miles at one time prior to the race, and she did great, finishing in 67 minutes.

    She would have done better, but I wanted her to run with me. After 5 miles, I told her she didn’t have to wait for me anymore, and she took off toward the finish.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    kristi– 🙂 Gotcha.

    Jeff–Well, thanks, but after running a 22:15 last summer, my 25+ finish reminded me of how much speed I’ve lost since February. But it felt good to get out there and stomp through the streets with the masses and get cheered on just like the Kenyans who were leading the pack (as usual).

    Great job on the part of you all, especially your daughter. I was surrounded by 8-12 year-olds who were making it look easy as I finished Monday. I felt like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

  8. Brady

    Ah, the sluggard third son, stayed in bed as his “hinges” creaked when he rolled over from one side to the other.

    I am glad you are up and running. You’ll be knocking off the kilometers in no time. We are running a race a week… All 10K, but the different terrains make it difficult to compare times, and a week is not much time to recover at my age… So we will break no record this year.

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    Well, he’s not a distance runner, but he would be an even better soccer player if he actually got out and puttered around a little bit. But there are some things that you’ve just got to learn for yourself. Or, have someone besides your Dad tell you.

    As a “hill guy,” you would appreciate our own version of Heartbreak Hill at the 3.1 mile mark of our 10K course. It’s some ungodly grade (around 50%) and is about 300 or so yards long.

    The next time I do it, I’m going to walk it fast and save myself a little more for the last half. The Kenyan who won Monday just shook his head and laughed about it, calling it “crazy” and unlike anything he had ever seen.

  10. Brady

    One day some girl will say “let’s meet on the football pitch at 6:30 AM tomorrow”. Then you’ll know if he’s in love or not.

    The last race we did in Pully had one of those hills that you mentioned, but probably only 100-150 meters (it’s hard to judge those steep hills… they seem longer than they are). But we had to run it three times. I’ve always wondered if walking them would actually be better, how that conserves energy, etc. Any advice?

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    That would really serve him right, falling in love with a fast girl.

    I’m the world’s worst hill runner–just ask anyone in my Sunday AM running group. But my friend Dave, who is the fastest in our group and always runs sub-44 in the Cotton Row, “strides” that big hill rather than “running it.”

    Do you realize how humiliating it is getting passed by someone who is “striding?” Well, take it from me, it is.

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