Running with Ruth

Stories that Inspire & Motivate...Not for New Runners Only! By Ruth Gursky


My Farewell Marathon


Article 1:
My Farewell Marathon

I approached the Richmond Marathon with an added layer of trepidation, knowing that it would be my fifth and last. Yes, I've said those words before, but anyone who knows me knows that the early mornings are not my “thing” and after 5 years of early morning, long distance runs in the unbearable heat of NY summers, enough is definitely enough! So, this was my mind-set as I approached the start of this momentous race.

The course was beautiful and took the runners through much of downtown Richmond. I particularly enjoyed running along Monument Street, a roadway that features statues dedicated to a variety of confederate generals situated along the wide median dividers - and right there, in the middle of "racists' row" is a monument dedicated to the memory of tennis great Arthur Ashe! I think that's truly "social justice" - a proud black man immortalized on the same roadway as those old confederate soldiers…oh, if they could only speak, what curses would come out of their bronze mouths!

One of the most awesome portions of the route was the strip of secluded roadway that looped along the James River. Imagine a perfect fall day, with golden and red-hued leaves on trees abutting the river on both sides - no one in sight - a few homes overlooking the river - and the only sound you can hear, other than your own footsteps, is that of the rippling river. If I could bottle that moment, I'd call it "Tranquility" (and sell it to stressed out businessmen and women, students, parents, etc. and make a mint)! This part of the course featured many "Kodak moments" (where’s a camera when you need it?)!

Having run 5 marathons, I know that most back-of-the-packers have to settle for "less than" the services promoted in the race brochure - no water, no music, no time clocks or mile markers, etc. Well, in Richmond, I'm happy to report that I didn't miss out on any of the services offered to the elites! Aid stations were intact throughout the course - there was water and powerade on the tables and toward the end, even pretzels, chips and candy! Time clocks were removed after mile 13, but mile markers were still in place. And while the course featured 34 bands and musicians along the route, there were a handful still playing by the time I got there, which I truly appreciated in my tired state!

So, back to the race - the miles slowly went by until mile 17, when I started my single-digit countdown to the finish - that was when it hit me: (a) that the race was almost over, (b) that I’d never again have to run such a long distance again and (c) that I'd finish - regardless of the time it took. So, I kept on going – ticking off the miles, feeling much like the Energizer Bunny!

From the beginning of the race, I was successfully stretching a “magic rubber-band" around the legs of runners and walkers who were ahead of me – and one by one, I reached and passed each of them! And so it went - except for a man and a woman, who seemed “immune” to my rubber band. For the whole race, they were ahead of me; despite my best efforts, they kept slipping through my rubber band. But instead of this being a source of frustration, just knowing they were still in front of me was incentive to keep on moving.

When I reached mile 24, my body quit on me, but by switching my run-walk ratio, I continued trudging toward the finish line. At mile 25, I finally caught up with the man who was ahead of me, but that one woman still eluded my best efforts at rubber-banding her. About 1/4 mile from the finish, I resumed my race pace, as I wanted this %*)#$)@ race to be over!

Just ahead, I saw the finish line - and "that woman"! By now, I passed the man and continued running through the pain – I gave it all I had. With less than a block to go, I finally passed the woman, too, and found myself running on my own toward my last marathon finish line. And for me, THAT was the "real" race – running through the pain to beat the lone runner who stood between me and the finish line!

What a HIGH! What a tremendous achievement! And what proud memories I carry of all five marathons and the months of training for each…and now, it’s onto half-marathons – and perhaps, I’ll accomplish my next dream of running half-marathons in all 50 states!