Running with Ruth

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


My Soggy Hamptons Half-Marathon Adventure

Chapter 6: I’m Ba-a-a-a-a-ack!

Article 1:
My Soggy Hamptons Half-Marathon Adventure: Basking in Glory - Glisters Galore!

This column is dedicated to my physical therapist Luanne Sforza, orthopedist Dr. Catherine Compito and chiropractor Dr. Brandon Cooper (“Team Ruth”), without whom I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run!

In the 3-1/2 years since my nasty fall on a broken sidewalk, I’ve been able to do some running, but each effort at completing a half-marathon (my goal distance) has landed me back in physical therapy – and even surgery (don’t ask)! In other words, these last few years have been a nightmare for me, as I’ve gotten used to telling my body what to do (from marathons and triathlons, to rock climbing and scuba diving) and after proper training, accomplishing whatever physical challenge I set for myself. Additionally, without the ability to work-out at the same level, I’m now packing an additional 20 lbs...OY!

So, this spring, in a rush of high hope and determination, I set a new goal for myself: to complete The Hamptons Half-Marathon, a flat, fast course that takes runners through The Springs, an East Hamptons suburb, to the scenic dunes of Peconic Bay and back.

My training through the spring and summer went well – I was cautious and took special care of my knees and right shoulder by running very slowly (even by my own back-of-the-pack standards). With Jeff Galloway’s advice and blessing, I had already brought my running interval down to a mere 15 seconds followed by a one-minute walk – slow and steady was the new name of the game. And in a little more than four months, I felt race-ready for my Hamptons debut.

Unfortunately, for the first time ever on a race day, the weather gods were not with me. (Yes, I’ve been very lucky weather-wise: successfully completing 5 marathons and 25+ half-marathons in mostly cool, but always dry temps.) The day before the race, at the time I was picking up my race number and t-shirt, the rain was coming down in torrents, with heavy winds…I vowed that I wouldn’t compete if I awoke to this weather on race day. As luck would have it, there was no precipitation when the alarm sounded at 5:45am, but 20 minutes before the start of the race, heavy clouds darkened the sky and it started to drizzle. By the time the horn sounded, the ominous drizzle had turned into a driving downpour. Several runners gave up and turned around within the first couple of miles; I continued slogging along, alternating running and walking, as my trusty watch beeped its intervals.

I started near the back of the pack. In a short time, I made my move, passing three Team-in-Training walkers, clad in wet purple t-shirts. My next ‘victims” were a couple way up ahead; it took awhile, but I finally caught up and passed them, too. And I was so determined that they not pass me again, I began running for 20-30 seconds instead of merely 15. I monitored how I was feeling and all systems and body parts felt OK, so, I decided to lasso some more walkers, up ahead, using my imaginary rubber band. (Thanks, Jeff, for teaching me this cool “mental trick!”) It took about a mile, but I eventually passed them, too. Shortly after overtaking them, the course changed from a paved roadway to a dirt (now muddy) path. With no one in front of me, it took a few moments to orient myself to this ‘cross-country’ turf, but I pleased to find myself able to maintain a fairly steady pace, despite the intermittent rain and the nature of the course – puddles and traffic and mud (oh my!).

The miles seemed to fly by – the beauty of a runner’s endorphin high – and I continued running strong, but alone. In my mind, I thought back on enjoyable conversations shared with my running buddies, Chris, M’Shell and Cherelle, and imagined how each of us would trash the presidential and V.P. candidates, Star Jones’ divorce, Emmy Award winners and losers – so much to ‘virtually dish’ about while traversing 13.1 miles!

Toward the end of the race, at the Peconic Bay turn-around, I was buoyed by the speedy marathoners who were gunning for their 3+hour marathon PR’s. So, as I slowly charged toward the finish line, I felt my inner warrior coming out! I picked off a solo runner and another pair of walkers - there’s nothing better than finding the energy to pass others as you sprint toward the finish line – making sure I smiled for the cameras, of course!

In my mind, while my realistic goal was to complete the race injury-free, a part of me really wanted to do it in 3:30 or less – yes, a far cry from my 3:08 PR the year before my accident, but if this is my “new normal” then, I must embrace it…at least, for now.

After sprinting to the finish line, my rain poncho, now tied around my waist, blowing in the breeze, I was delighted to learn that I had achieved both of my goals! I finished strong, in 3:30:17!

But given that I was running in soaking wet sneakers and socks for 3-1/2 hours, once I stopped running, I soon discovered I suffered not only the usual post-marathon limp, but I could barely place my feet on the ground without feeling like I was stepping on glass. So many blisters – so little relief! Thank goodness, my girlfriend was there, waiting to whisk me off …by car! Another successful half- marathon experience under my belt…now, it’s time to bask in the glory with a warm soak and glass a red wine!

For sure, you can proclaim: I’m ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack!