Monday, July 5, 2010
What a day indeed, USA!
I have never been a part of a "qualifying moment." Of course I am referring to the one and only qualifying moment any of us nobles will ever know of. No one in the Sully network is aspiring for any USA Olympic goals, so that really just leaves us with one qualifying event: the one and only marathon in North America that needs qualifying for, the sacred and beloved Boston Marathon. I only know a few people who have even qualified for this (Ivy, Marianne and Coach Karl) but I have never been able to be there for a friend when they qualified, until Sunday, on born on the 4th of July.
And by the way don't let the attached photo throw you off, that's just Karl and I leaving Sauvie Island. We never took any other photos unfortunately, so there ya go. I am wearing Taylor's hat for her at that point, holding my medal up. But I assure you this blog is not about me qualifying or my medal.
Sunday, however, was an incredibly inspiring to me day for many reasons, and as I looked back on it today, I realized I would be doing a real disservice by not sharing the events that took place with you guys. By the way, I am not sending this to my regular blog audience.
My dear friend Kurt Bordchardt, the craziest German and one of the best people I know, had the biggest day of his running career waiting for him on this country's birthday. On Sunday Kurt was trying to qualify for the Boston marathon on Sauvie Island, a cool little island near Portland. They offer a full and a half marathon every year, and I knew I was psyched Bonnie pushed me to sign up for the half when I learned the proceeds of the races went towards the Sauvie Island Fire Department. Now for Kurt, he had only tried once before to qualify, and that was in San Diego of 2008. It would not be in the cards for Kurt that year, injuries popped up, and it was his first marathon, etc. And even then, he was only about 10 minutes off of qualifying. Why do I know these things? No it's not because I have a man crush on Kurt. This is when Bonnie and I first met Kurt, on our first TNT season. We trained for Alaska and Kurt was training for San Diego, with our then Coach Karl, and thus the Team in Training family began. Now back to Kurt, he had stayed focused on qualifying and I knew he had a real shot at qualifying on this one. His training was going so well, and he even ran 21 miles the day of my wedding while he was out in Dallas, TX. No big deal. Kurt is from Maine and I am certain I have never met a prouder New Englander in my life. So for him to qualify for this meant the world to him to say the least. I just hoped I would somehow be there for it when he did.
Kurt's wife Michelle was also performing on Sunday; she was walking the half marathon. Michelle was hoping to finish her walk just before Kurt made his way in, if he was able to keep pace and qualify. I ran the half marathon, it was an awesome run for me. I ran it in 2:05 and it was my PR which is always great, I ran 9:33 miles, whoo-hoo.
After I pulled in from my run, we celebrated and then we got prepared for the real reason we were there, Kurt qualifying. I remember as we were driving in that morning, Bonnie, Karl and I briefly had the whole "what if" conversation. No one wanted to even talk about it though. We compared it to Kurt having a No Hitter going into the 9th, we all shut that conversation down fast. Kurt was goint to qualify, we all knew it. And there are just a few hundred people running in this full, and most of them are doing it to qualify because it's a flat course. And fortunately the weather was nice, mostly overcast in the 60's with just some sun, it was never too hot.
So Kurt needs to pull in by 3:30, which has him running 26.2 miles at an 8 minute mile clip. I can't stress how hard that is to do. So at the 3:10 time, we go to the finish line to wait for Kurt. All of a sudden Bonnie goes "is that him?" At first I didn't see him, and then he appears. I look down the road leading up to the finish, and I suddenly see this missile flying down the street. And there is no mistaking this silver fox. I yell "yeah Kurt!" and I noticed I got the long distance thumbs up from him, I was so psyched he heard me. Then Kurt just comes barreling around the short corner to finish and we are all screaming. I stand up on the wooden fence and scream "yeah you crazy German!" And Kurt raises his arm and yells "fu#* yeah!" He knew he did it, and you know what, he not only did it, but he absolutely krushed it! He finished at 3:20! Are you kidding me? Dude ran 7:39 miles for the full, insane.
And to be honest, for me, the best part of the story is yet to come, and I know I am going to get killed for this. So Kurt finishes, and Bonnie and I find him and congratulate him really fast. He tells us he needs to keep walking, of course. About 2 minutes later, I am just standing there facing the finish line and I see Kurt running to the finsih line, it's Michelle! She was coming across the finish from her walk, and Kurt just sprinted to her. She finished right behind him, which may have bummed her out initially, but because she did, we all got to witness an embrace that I have never before seen. You couldn't even find this scene in a movie, and I am not exaggerating at all. Kurt goes running over to his wife and they both knew he had done it, and they kissed and hugged each other and it took about a second for the tears to start streaming down. In my defense, I wasn't expecting that, wow. And I have never seen anything like it before in my life. I remember thinking, THAT is what it's all about. And it was awesome because Michelle has supported Kurt for years while Kurt focused and worked so hard on achieving this huge goal. And to see them both there to celebrate his victory was something special.
So needless to say, we just chilled afterwards. We brought our celebratory BL's to toast with and we just hung out on the grass right by the finish line. It was great because as all the people pulled in from the full marathon, we could cheer for them. And not everyone had family or friends there, so we loved cheering the runners in. So the morning turned to 1pm fast, and it was time to go. We were pretty sure we had seen everyone come in, and the event staff were starting to pack it in too. I asked one of them on the way out "are we all in?" One of them said "we still have one more out there I think." Now we were bummed we were leaving, we thought we saw everyone finish. And this would have been the first time Bonnie or I had seen a full race of runners finish, and we thought we had just done that, what a bummer. And we aren't even sure if this last person is even still running. It started at 6:30 and it was 1pm, that's 6.5 hrs. Fortunately our car was right by the finish line and as we just started packing up our stuff in the car, and Karl goes "there he is." We all look up and see this guy hobbling down the home stretch. Now when I say this person was limp running, I am not exaggerating. We didn't even have to say it, we all headed back to the finish line to greet this soldier.
Now only because he was so hurt, we were able to even beat him back to the finish line. I suddenly decided that I wanted to finish with him, if he didn't mind. I pull up next to this gentleman and say "you mind if I pull in with ya?" and he says "not at all, I'd like that." By the way the guys is gray haired with a small pony tail in the back braided. He has to be late 50's or early 60's, so I am instantly impressed at what he is doing just on that alone. Our brief dialogue was as follows:
"How are you doing?"
"Good, but my knee. I need to have knee replacement surgery in August."
"Sorry to hear that, but good for you today doing this."
"Thanks, I have already done 219 of these damn things."
"What? Are you serious?"
"My name is Sean, congratulations and it is so nice to meet you."
"My name's Tex (something) from South Dakota, nice to meet you too, and thanks for finishing with me."
Are you kidding me? He has run 219 of these damn things??? That is one of the most unbelievable things I have ever heard of. And by the way, I wonder how many miles he ran limping, by himself. He has run 219 full marathons. I cannot imagine there are many people that have ever even done that, maybe one? And if you could have seen Tex finish, like we did, hobbling, but with such dignity, it was incredible. And the fact that we almost missed him is scary. We pulled in to the main lot just before we left to use the restrooms, and we got to see Tex at his car. He had running bumper stickers all over the windows of his white SUV, and then we looked at his front license plate and it reads nothing but "26.2" So frigging bad ass.
So I know this was a really long blog but I hope some of you enjoyed the stories. I felt unbelievable inspired and I hope any of you do as well. Cheers to Kurt & Tex!