Throwback Thursday – August 1978

(NOTE: This story appeared in the Crawfordsville Journal-Review in August 1978. Coming soon: an explanation about why I’m posting it.)

SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHEASTERN MONTGOMERY COUNTY – I still don’t know how I got conned into this.

It started three weeks ago when I was in Bloomington to see two college classmates run in the Monroe-Morgan 10-mile race. They’d heard about the Crawfordsville Jaycees holding a first-ever marathon and half marathon, and soon I had talked myself into running the 13.1 mile half marathon Sunday if they would, too.

john 1978

The author in ’78

People at Wabash had little faith in my ability to finish the race. Andy Anderson kept asking me if my affairs were in order and if my last will and testament was written. Brenda Amstutz merely questioned my sanity. Both Anderson and Amstutz placed friendly wagers on my run.

They weren’t the only ones either. They merely led the list of unfaithful. Fred Ford, Herman Haffner and Mike Reidy, who all planned to run the half marathon, had their doubts about me finishing the course alive. Even Don Sperry, who is about as nice as they come, had misgivings about my effort.

So I had no choice but to run.  I developed a training schedule and practice as hard as any hopelessly out of shape and overweight man in his early ‘20s should. I missed days, ran too few miles, and found myself more worried about the race as the day approached.

Of course my college friends never made it to the starring line: One took off to Maryland and the other stayed in Fort Wayne. Only the unbelievers were in the race with me to see what would happen.

The first half of the course was manageable. I ran with two late 20-ish men and we moved along in the middle of the 300-plus field.

We reached the 6.5 mile turnaround point on Ladoga Road where a burning ache appeared in my side. Then my legs changed to lead, and every step was like lifting concrete off the road. My breath went from a slow pant to a hoarse, rasping noise that would have scared rabbits from the neighboring farms.

I struggled on to eight miles, the furthest I had ever gone in training, and told my two running mates to leave me behind. In short order, Haffner, Sprerry and about 50 other runners passed my body, now half-walking, half-crawling to the finish line.

My legs went from lead to jelly, melting away with every step. Each breath came with great effort; my heart thumped like a jackhammer, and the hot sun wilted my willpower.  The winding, hilly course seemed to zap my already-waning strength.

It was useless. I walked. I ran – barely. I stopped. I walked some more. I couldn’t go on. “I won’t make it,” I thought. “They’ll have to carry me away.”

Somehow I reached the last aid station.  Just 2.5 miles to go! I drank some lemonade, dumped two glasses of water of my tiring body, and somewhere discovered the stamina to keep going.

Larry Grimes joined me for the last 1.5 miles. I completed the course in 152:20, just behind Haffner.

The feeling at the finish was terrific. I placed 236 out of about 300 runners, but that didn’t bother me. I made it, and Anderson and Amstutz will be providing me with a lunch and some liquid refreshment for my efforts.

I felt even better 15 minutes after my finish, when Mike Reidy came into the chute. I’d even managed to beat out one of my unbelievers!

Now that I’ve got blisters all over my feet and I’m looking for a pair of crutches, I can boast that I did it – and vow to never try it again.  Those guys and girls that can run 13.1 or 26.2 miles can keep their sore feet and aching bones.

When is next year’s marathon, Jaycees?  Sign me up.

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