When the alarm went off Saturday morning, there was a cool breeze, the sun coming up and I knew if I didn’t get up right then and there I wasn’t going to go to the run. I was tired and nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I was scared. I was unsure I could do it by myself.
I didn’t know what would happen or if I would finish the race.
I told myself, “Fuck it, you have to do this,” quite literally while my buddy Bobby slept. I got out of bed, got dressed and then slammed my foot into the leg of the bed.
I didn’t really have a lot of time to think because in my effort to maximize my sleep, I had a precious 20 minutes to get to the starting line for the race. My friend Pete drove my gimpy foot and me to the starting line and once there, I stretched for about 30 seconds, the gun fired and the race was underway.
After going at what I thought was a decent, moderate pace, I started to hear something weird. Initially I thought it was something from my iPhone and the Black Keys playlist I was listening to but it was not the music. Instead it was a very disturbing sound. It sounded like a heavy, guttural breath similar to the groaning of a monster from an old Scooby Doo cartoon. It was deep and I almost felt the hot breath on me.
Then there was the pounding, over and over. For those who have been in races before, there is a rhythm that emerges from the sound of all the shoes hitting the pavement. This was different as it was a constant drubbing, almost like a slow and deliberate sledgehammer breaking a slab of concrete.
I got scared.
I ran faster and it kept following me.
Thud, thud, thud.
“What the hell is that? Geez,” I thought. I took out my ear bud to adjust it and my jaw dropped.
Crap! I’m that freak making all the noise! I was the Scooby Doo character. Immediately I thought of one of those huge, glowing monsters from the cartoon that moved slowly with arms outreached in front of them and pictured my face superimposed onto the image. Terrible.
I must have scared everyone around me because there was no one running within a 15-foot radius. Adults stayed away from me and I can only assume the kids that passed me were probably running not because they were in shape but because this lumbering, 250-pound monster was after them!
Great, gimpy foot in the morning and now I’m scaring people around me. Fan-freaking-tastic.
As I made my way though the course, it was great hearing a bagpiper playing on the side of the course and it reminded me of being an undergrad at ND and hearing bagpipes play in the quad in the afternoons.
Then I thought it would be funning to see him run the course and playing at the same time. Wheeze, wheeze, “oh Danny boy,” wheeze, wheeze.
Thank goodness he didn’t run though. I’d have hated to see his kilt accidentally flap and see some skin that I’m not supposed to see. I’d have been running away like the kids were doing to me!
At some point, I don’t know where, I felt like my legs were on automatic and I had little control over them. The only thing that worried me was this weird jelly-like feeling that started to permeate my lower extremities. It wasn’t quite spaghetti legs at that point, but it was pretty close.
I’ve only felt this one other time in my life. When Miner Illustrated was still a little independent media outlet that covered the UTEP Miners, my buddy Carlos and I used to talk trash all the time and somehow I got wrapped up in an athletic challenge with head coach Keitha Adams and the women’s basketball team. I thought I was going to die after that and I could not move after the challenge for at least 20 minutes (see the video below).
That same feeling started coming back and I knew it was a warning sign from my body to either slow down or collapse. I didn’t want to be the guy who was passed out on the side of the road as people thought, “That’s why you don’t drink a lot before a race,” although I’m sure that would have looked hilarious. I slowed down and started what felt like a brisk power walk. I kept a steady pace and envisioned what it looked like to others. All I needed was to start shaking my ass from side to side and I might have looked like an Olympic power walking monster with a gimpy foot.
I can only imagine the people behind me getting a good laugh. I kind of wish someone would have taken video.
For most of the run, I had no idea what my pace was or where I was on the course. I think I remember seeing a sign saying there was less than a mile left but I knew I was in the homestretch when I turned onto Eddy Street and could see campus. There was this feeling that came over me and I knew I had to run. Full out, huge stride, arms flapping in the wind run towards Notre Dame Stadium.
My legs were indeed jelly by that point and wanted no part of this attempted sprint, which was more like a jog for anyone else. I ran past Legends, the bar on campus, came alongside the stadium and then towards the tunnel to the field. The fight song was blaring but I could barely hear it as I kept yelling at myself, “Run cabron! You’re almost there!”
What I didn’t expect was to actually run faster as a result of the decline in the tunnel. I actually almost wiped out as I made my first steps onto the field. The overnight rains made it a mud pit instead of a beautiful grass field. The non-gimpy foot hydroplaned on my first step but I somehow regained my balance, ran through the finish line and glanced at the clock.
For whatever reason, I began to hear the main song from “Team America, World Police” but the lyrics were “I finished the race, fuck yeah! Time to drink some water and eat some bananas!” I couldn’t help but laugh. (You can watch the video of the original song here.)
I wanted to be dramatic and wave my arms in the air like I won the race but I was just trying to finish by that point — I just wanted to get across that line. When I did, there was no fanfare. There were no people cheering for me. For all the people around me, there was a weird sense of isolation but not in a bad way.
Instead, there was only a sense of accomplishment and an overwhelming desire to keep running. As odd as that may be and given how tired I was, there was something that wanted to keep going. Don’t know why.
I downed several glasses of water, scarfed down several bananas, posted a picture online and just like that, everything was over. I made the quiet walk back to the dorm I was staying in to shower and start the day’s reunion activities.
I will say it was pretty cool hearing from people during the day as to how they were happy I ran the 5K, how I was crazy and how others had wished they had run too after I accomplished my goal.
I told my girlfriend, Stephanie, the night before I wanted to try and get the race finished in 40 minutes or less and I wanted to try and run the whole way, even if it was super slow. I didn’t finish in less than 40 minutes and I walked. I was okay with that. I didn’t bother to check the race results online either because I really didn’t care. There were tons of things going on with Reunion and I told myself it was more important I completed number three on the #35Project list and that’s all that mattered. The goal was achieved.
But I did check Sunday while waiting to come home. There is a competitive spirit in my and I like to win. When I checked the race results site, I was pleasantly surprised.
“38:49, fuck yeah!”