Saturday, September 26, 2015

Witness

Out of Retirement

Akron Marathon Executive Race Director Brian Polen offered a free entry to anyone who was willing to run the race with a person who would be going for the Guinness World Record for jump-roping the entire marathon. I ‘jumped’ at it.

Never mind that I had retired from marathoning (at 100, which was well over two years ago). Never mind that I only had about nine days’ notice. Never mind that I had no idea what being witness to such an event entailed. It was free, I needed a long training run anyway (gotta get in shape for the Fall 50), and I was, therefore, all in.

Emailing back and forth with David Livingston, the guy going for the record, I learned that the existing record was 4:28, but having jumped a 22 miler and having run Akron in 3:05 last year, there was a high level of confidence in David’s chances. He was thinking about running at 9 to 10 minute pace, and I thought this would work out well for me, and would take him well under the old record.

My job was to stay behind or alongside David, and witness the record, should he achieve it. I would then fill out paperwork to testify that he accomplished it. I wasn’t alone. David’s whole family was involved: his wife and one son would take photos on the course Another son, Simon, would follow us on a bicycle equipped with a video camera to record the entire run.


VIP

I met up with Michelle Wolff, Debbie Scheel, Harold Dravenstott and Nancy Danisek at 5:00 AM for the trip to Akron. I was given a VIP parking pass, so we had a small privilege to be proud of. Of course I played this up with stuff like, ‘You guys are so lucky to know a VIP runner such as me,’ and so forth.

We got into the close-by parking garage, and Debbie and I hit the porta-johns at just the right time in order to miss the MCRR group photo. Even so, it was fun to see so many MCRR folks and other friends prior to the race.


First Do no Harm

That was my mantra as David and I started with the wheelchair competitors one minute before the main runner start. The elites soon went sprinting by, and David, Simon and I did our best to stay off to the side and out of trouble. I was taking extra care to help keep David safe and to personally not get in in his way at all.

‘Jump roper ahead,’ I kept yelling as the fastest of the main group of runners went by. It occurred to me that it may have been more appropriate to call him a ‘rope jumper’. But Jump roper it was, regardless. As much as we tried to keep off to the side, some still tried to go by on the inside. David wasn’t phased by this a whole lot; he was a pretty easy-going guy. Even so, I was falling into my role as a blocker, running interference for David as best I could.

Along the way, I greatly admired his run/jumping style. He was making this look easy. We talked some, and of course I told a few stories and stupid jokes, but we mostly ran side-by-side, or with me slightly behind, as our planned nine-minute pace.

The rules were such that if David stopped, regardless if it was to take in fluids or nutrition, or because he got his rope tangled up, he had to start jumping again at that exact point. As noted, I was the witness all this.

I actually did get tangled in his rope once, but only once. I apologized profusely, but as with some of the other challenges, it didn’t phase him a bit.


There’s Always Someone Crazier

My friend Dave Gajewski, when learning of this endeavor, told me that a few years back someone juggled the entire way, and then another year someone ran the race in sandals. I learned from the Akron Beacon-Journal article about David’s attempt that those two people were David as well. He’s done Akron every year since its inception, and he’s been looking for new challenges as late.

Here are the two of us at about 16 miles
One of our points of discussion was that no matter how wild you may seem to others, you can always point to someone else and say, ‘Yeah, I may be a little cracked, but I’m not as crazy as this other guy.’ On several levels, David was this other guy.

We encountered many folks along the way. Many of them had read the article, and wished David the best on his record attempt. We also saw several of my friends, including Harold, Michelle, Frank Dwyer, Dan DeRosha and Ron Ross. At one point, Harold was well ahead, and Ron had just passed us. I jokingly yelled up to Ron, ‘Don’t let Harold beat you.’ I then realized that Harold had probably heard, so I yelled to him, ‘Harold, don’t let Ron beat you!’


Caged Animal

We ran and we ran, and things were going quite well. But somewhere around 18 miles, David mentioned that he was going through a ‘rough patch’. I just did my best to encourage him, and told him that the record is in the bag – all we had to do was keep going.

We hit 20 miles in something like 3:04. I was thinking that a sub-four was probably no longer possible, but even if we slowed considerably, the record was still there the taking. All we had to do was keep going.

At mile 20 and a half, David stopped. He’d stopped other times where Simon and I gave him water and/or gels. He had also stopped when he missed a jump. He always started right back up again where he left off. This unplanned stop was different. He had a leg cramp.

I know from experience that leg cramps, while not a serious long-term problem, are nearly impossible to overcome during a race. I didn’t say so though. I just tried to get him to lean against a pole and stretch. I would try to get some electrolytes into him when we got moving again.

As I feared, the electrolytes didn’t help. It was too little, too late. David stopped again and again, and for longer and longer periods of time. All Simon and I could do was to try to keep his spirits up. At one point we even stopped at a first aid station, where we tried to get him stretched out. David, however, preferred to just sit in a chair for a while.

Time and again, I would tell David that all he had to do was to keep moving. If we could do that, we even now still had a chance at the 4:28 record.

At mile 23, David stopped for the longest time yet. After many minutes, he finally told us that he could no longer continue jumping. I asked if he was sure about a dozen times, and he said yes each to each query. He said I should go on, and that he would walk the rest of the way in. He didn’t want to not finish an instance of the Akron marathon.

So go on I did. I didn’t want to complain, because what David had done even to this point was so awesome and difficult. All that stopping and starting again, however, had been pretty tough for me. I would have preferred to keep things at a steady pace. Now, however, I had three miles to go, and was full of energy.

My Achilles was bothering me, but I ran pretty darn fast: generally about 7:30 pace. Harold later aptly told me that I’d been like a caged animal, suddenly turned loose. Even so, I managed to get a personal worst: a 4:16 or so. I saw Brian after I finished, and he was sorry to hear the news about David.


Closure

It was loads of fun to meet up with all of the Medina County Road Runners after the race. I loved hearing all their stories, and of course they wanted to hear mine as well. Eventually I saw David come in. I went over to shake his hand and congratulate him on his great effort. It sure was something to behold, and quite the memorable experience – for both of us.

Running fast, near the finish felt good                                                                                                photo by Dan Daubner

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