I Received More Than a Medal


Yesterday I attempted my first full marathon. September 17th would have been my dad’s birthday and I lined up at the Air Force Marathon with his Army Air Corp dog tag around my neck. I turned 50 on the 16th and I was looking forward to earning a marathon medal to celebrate my milestone while honoring my dad. But it was not to be.

I was pulled of the course at Mile 21. I was really surprised when this happened. According to my watch, there was still an hour left for the race. While the race materials said there was a “no exceptions cut-off time” I expected to be able to participate until that time. Race results from last year’s marathon showed people finished after the no exceptions cut-off time and a quick check of yesterday’s results showed the same. But I’m not a race director and it wasn’t my decision.

While I’m certainly disappointed, I’m not devastated. Even though I was tired and sore, I was feeling pretty good at Mile 21 and I KNOW I had enough gas in the tank to cover 26.2 miles…I just wasn’t as fast as I needed to be.

Prior to Mile 21, I had a great time. There was limited crowd support (the race is held on a military base) but I enjoyed the folks I saw. Air Force personnel worked the event and when I passed them I thanked them for their service to our country. I tried to encourage people I passed who were struggling. Several of them ended up at the Medical Tent and physically could not finish the race. I enjoyed some back and forth banter with an Elvis impersonator at the Mile 18 water station.

Yep, up until Mile 21 it was a good day.

I also enjoyed the festivities and race expo held on Friday. I met Sid, a volunteer I’d encountered many times on Air Force Marathon’s Facebook page. I met Josh Cox, one of my running heroes. A “surprise guest” appeared at the end of the pre-race pasta party and I had my photo taken with Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz. Dad would have gotten a kick out of that.

(I need to take a detour here and mention that Coach Lynn ran a great half marathon. I haven’t seen her medal. She hid it from me when I called her from the bus to let her know about my Mile 21 incident.)

As I said, I had a good experience until Mile 21. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened after I was taken off the course. I made a quick Facebook update and texted a few people to let folks know what happened. I wasn’t expecting the outpouring of support I received. Here’s a small sample:

“That’s further than I’ve ever run… By 7 miles! Way to go!”

“Do you have *any* idea how awesome you are? How much you’ve inspired so many people? Your dedication, spirit, accomplishments – PLUS 21 miles – make you one of my she-roes.”

“I cannot even imagine running 21 miles. I still haven’t moved past a 5k. You are an inspiration to me.”

“My dad did not come across the finish line his first 2 marathons – yet they are his most memorable. I am so proud of you!”

When my cousin called I asked if he was calling to console me. His response: “There’s nothing to console you about. You ran 21 miles. Your dad’s proud of you.”

As my phone rang, as texts came in, and as Facebook comments were made I was reminded how fortunate I am to have so many people in my life who care. In fact, the only tears I shed yesterday were a direct result of being deeply moved and overwhelmed by all of the kindness that was shown to me. I don’t take that for granted

Yep, yesterday was a great day.

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7 Responses to I Received More Than a Medal

  1. Rebekah Hayes says:

    Pam, While I am sorry for your disappointment at mile 21, I am SO VERY proud of you for your determination and accomplishment of your goal. You must be proud as well. You truly are an inspiration to so many … me included! WAY TO GO GIRL!!!

  2. jan jones says:

    How awesome, Pam. Your determination and discipline are an inspiration to many.

  3. Susan in Oz says:

    Pam, I am sorry you were pulled out of the race, especially when you obviously felt you could have done it within time, but as everyone else has said – what you *did* do was amazing. Your 21 miles equates to over 33 km in my neck of the woods and running that sort of distance is a concept I can’t quite grasp. It’s a fabulous achievement because you decided to do something and through a lot of hard work, sweat and frustration, you did it!
    Now can I be cheeky and ask when the next one is?? đŸ™‚

  4. Susan in Oz says:

    PS Sheesh, I knew I’d be slow to comment because of time difference! But don’t think I wasn’t thinking of you over the weekend.

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