For the last 7 years the Detroit marathon has been an important destination on my calendar. I thought I knew what to expect. For me the marathon has always been the most solitary of tests. 2009 took me completely by surprise.
“Gerry, Bean dip & new game plan"
It’s pitch dark as I leave Curt Gillingham to position ourselves for the race. Curt will go on to have a great “first time “and hold true to a vow to his daughter “I will not walk”. The runners corral was packed. Almost immediately I bumped into (friend/patient/stud runner) Gerry Perrett. I’ve wanted to qualify for the prestigious Boston marathon for years. Gerry and pal (“bean dip”) had similar goals and a solid running plan. Pacing with them looked like a lot more fun than the designated pace group (It was). I made a vow of silence to conserve all energy. Not Gerry. For miles he greeted runners & by-standers alike. How does he know so many people?
“ Uncle Bill & tradition”
On mile 7 (Canada) Uncle Bill kept the tradition (7th) and greeted me just before the approach to the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Realizing the tradition is only as good as the 2 of us I yelled a spontaneous “Love you” and same back to me. Mile 7 was pretty good.
“ Ben & family name in good hands”
Mile 8 is marked by end of the tunnel and return to the U.S.A. Huge crowds gather to cheer and there’s still enough glucose in the brain to enjoy the spectacle. A runner jumped out from the confusion. My nephew Ben? Sweet! A real test for my vow of silence.
It’s a fact Huszti men can only have girls. Then came Ben. On my desk sits a picture of Ben as a boy after finishing a run together (6 miles- his longest). Turns out Ben would log a personal distance record this day (18 miles) following me to the finish line. Ben’s wearing a shirt bearing the inscription “Miler”. For hours whenever we approach a crowd they keep cheering for “Miller”. It starts wearing on me. No matter how fast I run I wonder why I can’t shake that guy.
“ Face your demons, true friends & real race begins”
Weeks before the race I’d lie in bed and envision Belle Isle. If I stood a chance at qualifying for Boston It would have to happen there (miles 20-26). Everyone hit’s the wall at some point it’s just a question of when. You train but never know exactly how you’ll handle it till you’re there.
At the approach to the island park Doug Goodhue is waiting to join us. A few words about Doug: American recorder (3000m), #1 National ranking for 3 years consecutive (USTAF 65-69 age group). He’s just plain fast. His best attributes? Twinkle in the eye, zest for life and a great friend.
Where I’d typically be facing my demons alone I found myself in a posse of 4! Ben & Doug take the lead and work hard pulling me and Gerry through. Is that Rob Roux (yes & on his way to an extraordinary finish dropping 20 minutes for a new personal record)? I’m maintaining the “Boston qualifying pace” but the higher speeds from the first half are paying the bills for the noticeably diminishing performance. When the official pace group swallows you up it’s a sinking feeling and a sense of urgency is renewed. Partly from fear I manage a surge and finish Belle isle on pace but the exit bridge feels like a mountain. Ben & Doug are urging me forward but starting to look concerned. I’m hoping to ride the downside of the bridge but my legs aren’t responding. Mile’s 23- 24 are grueling and barely on pace. When I look up Gerry is gone. Doug realizes the trend and whispers to Ben “ Boston’s not going to happen…let’s help him to a P.R.”. I can hear every word. Miles 25 & 26 are brutal but the sunshine and my companions ease the burden. A strange sound: I hear myself laugh in response to an unexpected hill with only ½ mile to go. I remember thinking “ how am I going to fake going up this one?”. The finish line is a sweet sight. 3:36 is good enough for a new personal record. Boston will have to wait till next year.