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Commentary: My walk across the marathon finish line

March 18, 2014|By Carrie Luger Slayback

Race report: Saturday runners picked me up punctually at 4:15 a.m.

We loaded the rented Suburban with seven runners, our hero, JohnO, at the wheel. Arriving at Dodger Stadium, we checked gear and got into corrals.

I handed Caroline a tissue packet. Catherine shared half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me. I tossed sunscreen to Mark. Judy gave me an energy bar. Jill brought blankets to use in the early morning chill.

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Supportive gestures didn't end there.

Steve, Caroline and Judy, all fast marathoners, slowed in order to pace Jill, Catherine and me, a pack that finishes in four to five hours.

The starting gun went off, and I glided through the first 13 miles, copying Judy's prefect 10-minute pace.

I repeated the mantra, "Relax on the track," willing myself to keep shoulders un-hunched, hands and toes unclenched, a light step on the asphalt.

Happy during early morning cloud cover, I allowed myself to think, "I've got this knocked."

Daylight-saving time made for an early start, but it was a nonissue. Foot inflammation didn't hurt, and I didn't need the port-o-potty. I felt endurance gained from 50-mile weeks.

Then the clouds parted.

"It's heating up," I complained to Judy.

"Forget it," she counseled.

Seeking shady patches, I told myself, "You are strong," but even with Judy's perky leadership, my pace dropped to 10:32 at mile 18.

In the meantime, I hydrated at water stops and had electrolyte-energy chews every other mile.

Then disaster. Leg cramps grabbed my quads, calves. I bellowed in pain. Judy pulled me to the side, massaged my rock-hard legs, and I got back on the course only to have my whole left leg seize up so I nearly toppled over.

Between miles 18 and 24, my pace dropped to 13:41. Attempting many times to resume running, I gave up and walked in.

Demoralized, I was a nasty, disheartened "so-called-runner." I had looked forward to the final miles on the tree-lined, San Vicente Boulevard straightaway, but instead of enjoyment, I battered faithful Judy with my disappointment.

"I can't believe I'm walking. My workout hours were wasted." Blah, blah, blah.

Running in the final few feet, I came across the finish, calling out, "Ow, ow, ow," prompting medics to ask if I needed a stretcher.

"It's only leg cramps," I snarled, ungratefully.

Refusing congratulations, I felt I'd failed. And to be sure, my finish time was 4:54, not the 4:24 I'd planned.

Then I Googled "LA Marathon, Race Results, 2014." I was in first place. An hour later, I was demoted to second place in a field of 30 females ages 70 to 74.

Suddenly, I saw myself clearly as a bad sport. Yes, I walked in, missed my time by a half hour and my place by one person, but it was a record 80-plus degrees. My old bugaboo of extreme self-criticism needs an overhaul.

I'll work on it. And while I'm at it, I'll close my big mouth, apologize to Judy and appreciate the gifts of support from Saturday Runners, friends, family and all the readers of the Daily Pilot.

When's the next marathon?

Note: In the next commentary I will explain how I actually ended up in first place.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK trained to run the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70. Read more about her adventures at lazyracer@blogspot.com.

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