Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Important Than a Finish Line

Because there are more important things than medals and free bananas.
Because when your boyfriend texts you during a race, “I just got into an accident” you stop running. Everything stops. The clocks, your heart, your breath, everything. Stops.

This weekend was the Back on my Feet Midnight Madness 8 Mile Run. I fundraised for this event because Back on my Feet is a remarkable organization that I would love to be more involved with. I really liked (at first) the idea of running at midnight. It’s a break from the early morning starts and peanut butter toast breakfasts. The race takes place along the scenic (in the daytime) Philadelphia Art Museum Loop, a course I’m more than familiar with. Four miles down Kelly drive, a little more than 4 miles back along West River Drive, around the Art Museum, finishing at the start of Boathouse Row.
From the very start, there was mysterious bad mojo around this race. The day was just weird. As I was getting ready, Scott says his stomach is in knots but he doesn’t know why. I offered him an out and he could be excused from the silliness of driving to Philly at 10pm to deal with parking in a congested area, so I could run in the dark while he sat bored for 3 hours.

As we walked towards Boathouse Row and the starting line, I got surprisingly nervous. Was I concerned about 8 miles at midnight? Nah. I didn’t like the concept of running in the dark through a sketchy areas.  I got, like, really nervous. All of the runners were required to wear reflective gear and there was a contest for the most illuminated runner. I decided to stay by THAT person. At the stroke of midnight, we were off. 

The race started well. Running in the dark means running without the punishing heat or humidity and significantly less distractions for a short-attention span like mine. I was concentrating so intently on the darkness and not tripping that the miles flew by.

But an easy race in the dark is not was this post is about.

Mile 7. My phone lights up. I see my boyfriend’s name and smile to myself that he’s probably sending something like a ‘good luck!’ or ‘see you at the finish line!’ type thing. But it wasn’t. It was the kind of message that pulls you out of your head and brings all your priorities back into focus.
“I just got into an accident”
Stop. Legs stop. Heart stop. Lung stop. Life stop. I step off the course and text back, “What? Are you ok? Where are you?”
Legs start. Heart starts. Mind sprints. Imagination goes faster than my body ever will. He had to get gas. Is he by Board Street and Spring Garden?/That’s a crappy area. What kind of accident/What if they take him to the hospital/What hospital/I won’t be able to see him/Is he ok/what happened/why/where/he has my keys/I don’t have my wallet/or any cash or credit card. Get there. Get there. Find him!

The phone rings after what feels like an eternity but was probably only two minutes. There was an accident. A red light was run, cars collided, police on their way, at 25th and Fairmount.
“Where are you?”
“ 25th and Fairmount!”
“Ok! I’ll get there! I only have about a mile to go.” I’m not really sure what the rest of the conversation was because I became focused solely on finishing this damn race.
Imagination goes wild with crazy scenarios.  Unfortunately for me, my legs didn’t have quite the momentum or power in them left as my imagination did. So, as I pushed and fought to run the longest mile of my life, ever, my mind had the car being towed with my apartment keys into, had me being locked out of an emergency room while some nurse said I wasn’t allowed in because I’m not family, had him crashed in north Philadelphia with scary gansta types that even the Fresh Prince of Bel Air couldn’t handle just circling him, had him in a fight with some drunken bar dude who hit his car, had me stranded in Philadelphia with nothing but my cell phone and my Garmin. Keep in mind, this all happening at around 1:15 am.
I could have been running a 8 minute-mile pace but it seemed like I was getting no where. I needed to finish the race and find him. As I finally  passed the Art Museum, I realized that I was in the Fairmount section of the city and holy smokes, there’s 25th street. Without a second thought, I turned right off of the course and headed up 25th.  My first DNF. 
I could see the police lights from Kelly Drive. I ran up and saw the black Acura that I mock him relentless for, smashed by a street lamp. I see my always calm, always collected, never stressed out, rock of a boyfriend leaning against his car, a cigarette shaking from his lips. He told me to go finish the race. he'll be fine. 
I refused. Because there are more important things in life than finish lines and free bananas. There are far worse acronyms than DNF. I have at least twenty race medals but I only have one boyfriend. I love running and I love the feeling of crossing a finish line, but I love that guy more.  The feeling a hug or a nervous hand squeeze trumps a 'good job' from a weary volunteer any day. 

Ironically, this sign says No Stopping. A car plowed right over it.

I’m not comfortable discussing the details of the accident. Let’s just say, there was an angel at that intersection and both drivers were extremely lucky. Scott limped away with a sprained foot and a superficial  head wound  from the airbags deploying. The other driver had a sore chest. The car is totaled but can be replaced. Scott now has the athlete creed of RICE- rest, ice, compression, elevation—tattooed on his foot. Not really, but the foot is so swollen that you could probably write this entire blog post on there and have room for comments.
The other vehicle involved

Nights like Saturday  reminded me that anything can happen, life can change in a moment.  We can control our diet, our pace, our weekly mileage, our time, but we cannot control life. It is how we handle crisis that defines us. 


  1. The events of that night entitled to you the award for most romantic gesture ever. I mean, running across town to get to him? What else can be said but "YOU. ROCK." And this is why we love The Linds. <3

  2. Linds is the best! :) It's also ironic that the race was "back on my feet" and I ended up off mine. :)