A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of participating in the inaugural Lansing Marathon that wound its way through our Capital City. As you can imagine, my stress level and apprehension were at an all-time high. See, I was the captain of fluid station No. 4 and I took my responsibility very seriously. While I sat this one out, watching all those marathon runners reminded me of the time I was running the Chicago Marathon and how I looked forward to each and every water station along that long, tortuous route. I came to long distance running quite accidentally, or should I say involuntarily. My wife Brenda made me do it. I played football in high school and we could never figure out the cross country team. We figured why would you run all those miles and throw up before dinner? I started out easy with a couple of 5ks, then moved up to a couple of half marathons. Then Brenda was hoping to run the New York City Marathon with some girlfriends, but her lottery number was not chosen. She was bummed and I was dumb. Before I could take the words back, I told her I would train and run the Chicago Marathon with her. What was I thinking? This had to be some Karmic payback from those cross country dudes I made fun of all those years ago. Ever heard of the term “runners high?” That’s a load of nonsense. When I was running my mind didn’t ascend into a euphoric state of bliss, it was more like, will this total stranger chase me down when he sees me peeing behind his pine tree? There is nothing, and I mean nothing, glamorous about training for a marathon. Then marathon day arrived on a bright and crisp Chicago morning, that unfortunately for me, turned into a bright and warm afternoon. I participated in my own personal Bataan Death March. Everything was okay ( I use “okay” loosely) until the 18 mile mark. It was there I “boinked” or for the un-initiated “hit the wall.” Seventy degrees when you’re sitting on your patio is perfect, not so much when you run a marathon. I can still vividly see the spectator’s face as he cheered me on, “you’re almost there, just a little bit farther.” I wanted to jump on the sidewalk and ask him how, with eight miles left to go and cement bags for legs, was it, “just a little bit farther?” So, when runners came past my water station a few weeks back I made sure I didn’t say “you’re almost there” or “just a little bit farther.” I just smiled and handed them their water.
Pete Ruffing is the Sales Director at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. He and his wife of 14 years Brenda live in Okemos.