Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Run To Home Base

On May 23rd, I finished the inaugural Run To Home Base 9K at Fenway Park. It sounds a little silly to say finished when we're only talking about 9K, a measly 5.6 miles. But at least 2.5 of those miles were some of the most challenging that I've run. Not due to the weather, course, or my nutrition. I didn't pound beers the night before or stay up all night in restless anticipation (although I did sleep in a Motel 6). No, these miles were tough because I ran injured.

But before we get to that, let me give a bit of background on the race. Put together by the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital, this charity event raised $2.4 million dollars in its first year! This money will stay right here in Massachusetts, and is used to help veterans returning home with post traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injuries. What an AWESOME cause to run for! With your help, I raised over $1300 dollars for this cause. I truly felt honored, toeing the line on Yawkey way, supporting thousands of brave men and women that risk their lives every day so that we may live ours here at home.

That said - on to the race!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a road race. We spent the night about 15 minutes south of the city, as we were required to pick up the race packets the day before, so it was easy for us to get to Fenway early. Some 2020 runners lined up on Yawkey way. I took my spot near the 9:00 pace flag and waited. The gun sounded shortly after 8:00am, and we were off!

The first couple of miles were a blast. As we left Fenway park and made our way over the river, I settled into a nice, fast pace. This was largely due to the fact that I had locked sights on a cutie running a bit faster than me - hey! I'm a guy, whatdya want!? Anyway - after a little chit chat, I passed my pacer and pushed on, probably at around an 8:00 pace. After the first bend in the course, when I started the first "back" portion of this "double out and back" course (kind of shaped like a T), I saw two guys in full combat gear, boots and pack included. That's when it happened.

It was careless, a momentary lapse. I was so charged up by the energy of the race, and seeing people running the race in full gear, that I turned to cheer them on. When I did, I made a cardinal mistake. I took my eyes off the road for just a split second. And in that second, I put my left foot square into a rut in the road, and rolled my ankle, hard. I went flailing forward wildly, frantically waving my arms in an effort to stay upright. My glasses went flying in the grass, yet I somehow remained upright. I heard people shouting "nice recovery" as I hobbled back to grab my glasses.

I took a few steps on the foot. It hurt. But it didn't seem like anything was broken, so I started a quicker walk, leading to a jog. Some Marines passed me and shouted their familiar slogan - "Pain is weakness leaving the body!!!"

I have to say, that energized me. I started running a little faster. Before long, I was back up to around an 8:30ish pace (I had no watch, I'm guessing). I began to think about all of the training that I've been through. Of all the times I've walked around my house, sore as hell from a previous days long run. How, when I first started running, I couldn't run 5 miles without being sore, without feeling pain. How leading up to this very race, I thought - "it's ONLY 5 miles". The pain, or weakness that I initially felt when running this distance had been replaced by confidence. I no longer looked at 5 miles as a challenge, but as a luxury. An enjoyable short run. I looked forward to more grueling distances - a half marathon in June, a full later this fall. Who knows what type of "pain" I have in store after that? I thought too, about the soldiers returning home from war, with pain and injuries that I will never begin to understand, and never hope to experience personally.

Fueled by adrenaline, I ran through the pain. I knew that as soon as I finished, I would need to elevate and apply ice, immediately. I also knew that I could very well have been doing more harm than good, running on a bum ankle. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make to finish this race. As I ran through the gates and onto the warning track in center field, a surge of adrenaline, happiness, disbelief, gratitude and sheer joy rushed through my body. It was surreal.

I crossed the finish line and made my way to home base. I set foot on the plate. My throbbing ankle. My little bit of pain leaving the body. My sacrifice in honor of those that sacrifice far, far more. My race was complete. I finished in 46:05, for an average pace of 08:15!

I made my way to the medical staff and got some ice. I sat in probably the best seats I've ever had for a Sox game, with my foot up, and ice applied, watching the rest of the amazing people running this race cross the finish line, and have their chance to cross home plate. After a while, the groundskeepers opened up the field, and we all had a chance to go down on to the clay, and walk around the warning track. It was an truly awesome experience. The whole family had a blast! And even though I was nursing a swollen ankle, I made my way to the monstah, to Pesky pole, and even stood on top of the home dugouts.

All in all, it was an amazingly fun day. We got to go down on the field at Fenway, I got in a run, raised money for a truly worthwhile cause that hits close to home, as Jenni's dad is a two-time Iraq war veteran, who also ran this race!

So I'll leave you with a few pictures.


Joe and I before the race


With the best cheering squad, after the race


After the race with Grandpa Joe

Lastly, I'd like to sincerely extend my thanks to all of you. If you donated, if you have supported me in my efforts to lose weight, get healthy, become a better runner, or even if you are reading this post - thank you.

Until next time: run, run, run. Well, maybe I'll ice this ankle a bit first.... :)