Everyone Needs a Hero

Yesterday was just plan awesome at MIT. I met the Lucky 13’s for a fall-back four miles. It was great to see all of their smiling faces, eager to run and already encouraging one another when I got there. The only sad thing is my coaching partner, Duane, is out for a couple weeks with a calf injury. Training for Pittsburgh isn’t the same without him, right now. We all hope you get well soon, Duane!

Without Duane, it was the first time I lead the group by myself. It is really motivating to lead a pace group – you realize how much you have people depending on you to run strong. Heading out, I was worried about the run since I am still getting over a cold and had a low-mileage (really low mileage week). With my group behind me, I felt like anything was possible. They really helped me through the first four miles as much as I tried to help them.

Look at them GO!

I have watched so many runners in my group grow over these past couple of months. They went from anxious, quiet “newbies” who were hesitant to tackle three miles, let alone 13.1. Today, they are strong, seasoned runners who can’t wait for the next challenge. I have watched not only their athletic abilities improve, but also their self-esteem and assertion. It reminds me so much of my own journey that I can’t help but smile when I think about it. Yesterday, several of them even outran me up the hill at the end of our run – I was so proud of them. And, believe me; I don’t mind being left in the dust when it comes to watching them succeed.

Here are our splits:

Mile 1 13:19
Mile 2 12:56
Mile 3 13:10
Mile 4 12:56

While I was feeling more confident after making it through four miles without passing out or coughing up a lung, I still had a long way to go. Ten miles long to be exact, per my abbreviated training schedule – it technically called for sixteen miles total.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Wendy – the 12:30 Pace Coach for MIT, my friend and part of the Pittsburgh training trio who has also been battling this upper respiratory mess – was waiting for me to head back out for more. Truth is, I would have been content with 4 and called it a wash, but Wendy wasn’t going to let that happen. We were going long – really long. In fact, as it turns out, it would be my longest to date.

View from the Olentangy Trail

We headed back out and I was feeling surprisingly well. It was nearly perfect weather for running – sunshine, clear blue skies and cool temperatures. Beautiful. Miles 5-11, I was actually significantly under my normal pace. Wendy and I talked on the way down the Olentangy Bike Path and it was comforting to know she was running with me. I got to thinking how I am really going to miss her when she moves out of state – at the end of March.

At Mile 11 we stopped to stretch, hydrate, and blow our respective snot rockets. It was so gross we couldn’t help but laugh about it! Who has room to carry tissues anyway, right? It was then that I found out Wendy was in considerable pain with an IT Band flair-up. I was feeling pretty tired at this point, but now in pain. We pushed on, despite how we were feeling and made it to the turnaround. There was no turning back, except to head back to our cars for a grand total of 16 miles!

Mile 14 was the worst for Wendy. We stopped to rest and stretch and catch our breaths. Still, even though I would have gladly walked the remaining two miles, Wendy started running again. And I did too. Someone passed us near the lake and said, “You guys are still running?!? I’ve been home, showered, had some lunch, and now I’m talking a walk!” I don’t think either of us said anything back – it would have taken too much energy – we just smiled as we passed her.

With just about a half of a mile to go, I hit the wall. At least, I think that’s what happened. I literally felt like I couldn’t go on. I was dizzy and felt like I was blacking out, but I didn’t. My feet wouldn’t move, even though I really wanted them to. I had never felt that way before and I started to panic when I saw Wendy running back down the hill that she had just run up and would have to run up again to check on me. “You’re so close, you’re almost there. You are wonder woman she said. You can do this.”

We ran into the parking lot and Wendy said, “Your car never looked so good.” I couldn’t help but agree. I asked, “Are we done yet?” “Almost, almost,” Wendy said and the Garmin sounded. Sixteen miles. Done.

No lie, I burst into tears, and I think I was surprised between the snot and the sweat that there was any liquid left in me. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I just ran 16 miles and I can’t believe how I am so lucky to have a great friend to run it with me.” And to think, I was ready to quit at four miles. I remember Wendy patting me on the back, as I doubled over in tears, and told me how awesome it was.

Here’s what she had to say about it via Daily Mile:

“We had only planned to do 14, but we did 16 to stay on the schedule. Miles 5 and 6 were rough for me. I just wasn’t sure if I’d really be up to running the whole time as this was the first day back running since the Mardi Gras run before I got sick with the flu/cold crap. At mile 11, my IT Band flared pretty bad. I really struggled with the next few miles just from a pain threshold experience. We were back in a groove when Sara hit the wall with 0.6 miles to go. I was feeling tired at this point, but mostly I was just ready to be done with the run. I could have finished the last mile stronger, but it was more important for me to finish the run with Sara. After all, today was HER day. It was the day she conquered 16 miles and at a pace faster than her regular runs! I’m so proud of her. Words cannot express it – we’ve all felt that sudden surge of emotion when we accomplish something for the first time. Today, I got to relieve that experience vicariously!”

Me and Wendy October 2010, Columbus Half

Here are the splits that Wendy and I ran:

Mile 5 12:26
Mile 6 12:19
Mile 7 12:39
Mile 8 12:38
Mile 9 12:22
Mile 10 12:41
Mile 11 12:55
Mile 12 13:22
Mile 13 13:23
Mile 14 12:41
Mile 15 12:46
Mile 16 14:24

Truth is I wouldn’t have been able to run 16 miles by myself. And Wendy, in what I’m sure was excruciating pain, pushed on for me – so I could run the long run. Tears well up in my eyes just thinking about it again. It takes me back to the basics of running; it reminds me of the camaraderie we all share. We all have our ups and downs, our good runs and bad runs, our hard days and great days, and we all have the chance to be somebody’s hero. Running is a sport filled with heroes – and while you can be, you don’t have to be famous or an elite to be one. You never know when you will be the one to make a difference – to help someone achieve their dreams.

So, while Wendy makes plans to move out West and reach her dreams – I remember our 16 mile run together and the times we have shared. I know it won’t be the same without her here, but I know our paths are not meant to be forever divided. And I know, especially in running, we will always have each other’s support and encouragement. After all, last time I checked, you don’t ever really lose a hero.

So, here’s to my hero and what the future holds for both of us – from here to the Western slopes and back again.

Until the next mile marker,


  1. Great job! I remember my first 20 Miler… I was in so much pain and wanted to be done so bad that I cried the whole last .5 mile! You are going to do great in your next race!

  2. Great job toughing out the 16 miles!

  3. Awesome job! I’m a beginner, still trying to build my base. I can’t wait till I’m able to say I ran 16 miles today! YAY YOU!

  4. Congratulations on your PDR Sara!! That is so exciting. It was really encouraging for me to read about you making it through even though it was though because I’m really struggeling with that right now. How did you find a group to run with? I think that’ll make a huge difference for me.

  5. Congratulations on your PDR Sara!! That is so exciting. It was really encouraging for me to read about you making it through even though it was though because I’m really struggeling with that right now. How did you find a group to run with? I think that’ll make a huge difference for me.

  6. Awesome job! I’m a beginner, still trying to build my base. I can’t wait till I’m able to say I ran 16 miles today! YAY YOU!

  7. Great job toughing out the 16 miles!

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