In my lifetime, I have run 2 marathons. I have completed 1.
Like a lot of people, running a marathon had always been in the dusty corner of my bucket list; somewhere between running with the bulls and space camp. In 2013 when the LA Marathon happened to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, it felt like serendipity, or possibly a less flowery sounding word that means happy coincidence, so I decided to go for it. I had never run a marathon before and didn’t even run as a casual form of exercise. Truth be told, I don’t like running and even with the help of a WTF podcast or The Smiths, I find it boring and tedious.
Although my goal was to complete 26.2 miles, I hadn’t run for exercise since high school. I’ve always been physically active and felt confident that I could somehow pull it off but I didn’t want to flippantly sign up for a full marathon without getting some kind of heat check as to my fitness level. After all, the entry fee was 150 dollars and I didn’t want to pay that kind of money only to hit the wall at mile 3 and slither in to a booth a Shakey’s Pizza. With that, I went out, bought a pair of running shoes and that day, ran 15 miles. After I got home, I was totally exhausted. I lay in a pool of sweat on the cold tile of my kitchen floor and asked myself, “Feeling like you do right now, do you think you can run another 11 miles?” I was willing to bet 150 dollars that I could.
The next day, I signed up for the LA Marathon and aside from running 5 miles the week before the race, I didn’t do any additional training. The morning of the marathon, I felt pretty good. The wife dropped me off at Dodger Stadium and as “I Love LA” played, I set out running towards the Santa Monica Pier with 25,000 of my fellow optimists. I walked when I got tired, never refused a high five and completed my first marathon in a time of 5:23:06. I was tired and sore but truth be told, it was a lot easier than I thought.
This year for whatever reason, I could not leave well enough alone. I couldn’t help but think that if I could average a 12-minute per mile marathon with no training at all, what would happen if I actually tried. I decided to sign up for the LA Marathon again only this time, my goal was to do it in less than 5 hours. I didn’t have a particular time in mind; I just wanted the first number of my finish time to be 4.
With that goal in mind, beginning in January I ran between 20-30 miles a week. I ate healthy, cut out booze and even bought a reflective vest so I could go running at night. By the time the 2014 marathon came along, I felt ready. I decided to live tweet the race and had even volunteered to run as a member of Team St. Jude Children’s Hospital and through the generous donations of family and friends; raised 1,170 dollars for an amazing charity.
At the start of the race, I felt good and “I Love LA,” again provided the soundtrack as I pumped my fist past mayor Eric Garcetti at the starting line. The course was the exact same route as the year before and although it’s really cool to run the streets of LA with no traffic, there were no surprises. I ran through downtown, Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Westwood.
By the time I reached Santa Monica, my feet were really sore from the constant pounding on the pavement but other than that, I was feeling pretty good. I was on the home stretch of the race and running down San Vicente Blvd. towards the ocean. I actually live in Santa Monica and had literally ran the same stretch of road dozens of times in training for the race. I knew exactly where I was.
Towards the end of the race, the temperature soared to almost 90 degrees and many of my fellow marathoners were fading. There was an Indian man lying on the grass of a traffic median openly weeping. There was a sorority girl vomiting on the street as her boyfriend rubbed her back and secretly checked his watch. Even a marathon volunteer was sitting on the curb receiving medical attention. As I watched/sympathized with them, I was experiencing what Billy Joel would call a second wind. I was running and weaving through hundreds of people that were now walking and seemed content to simply finish. Within 2 miles, my pace was 4:39. If I could just do 2 10-minute miles, all of my training and sacrifice would pay off.
At mile 25, 10 blocks from the finish line, I had a heat stoke and blacked out.
Many times when people have a heat stroke or heat exhaustion, they’ll say that they were feeling flush or nauseous. Many people even say that as they passed out, their vision collapsed in to a pinhole before losing consciousness. I did not experience any of those symptoms. For me, it was running, running, running, nothing.
I woke up in the back of an ambulance and am 100% serious when I say that I thought I was being kidnapped. I was lying on my back and no idea where I was. I remember running but after that, I had no memory at all. The only thing I knew was that I was lying flat on my back with 2 men dressed in blue sitting at my head and feet. The man at my head leaned over my face and spoke in a low, soothing voice. I was terrified.
I’ve always had the fortune of good health and outside of two routine surgeries that were planned well in advance, had never been a patient in my life. What I came to realize during this episode, which I had never thought of before, is that when someone is trying to help you (paramedic) and someone is trying to hurt you (kidnapper), they really say a lot of the same things:
“Just try to relax.”
“Everything is going to be OK.”
“Does anyone know where you are?”
After that, I blacked out again. I don’t remember any of the following events but according to the paramedics incident report, I became “Combative.” Apparently, I tried to overpower my captors, open the door of the moving ambulance and escape. Fortunately, I failed. I was subdued, sedated and restrained. I’ve always been a nice guy, a pacifist, and would cross the street to avoid a fight. That being said, I take some small assurance in the fact that if my life is ever on the line, be it real or imagined, I’m not going out like a bitch.
After 8 hours in the emergency room that included; being unable to remember my last name and phone number, receiving 4 liters of iced saline to bring down my 102 temperature, and experiencing diarrhea that made a medical professional say, “Oh boy,” the doctor said that I was stable enough to be released to my very worried wife. Since I couldn’t remember my phone number and forgot to fill out my emergency contact info on my running bib (Always fill that out BTW), she was never called. She had to call St. Johns Hospital with a line that you only hear in movies, “I’m looking for my husband.”
Before I was released however, I had to demonstrate to the doctor that I was able to walk on my own. Unfortunately after running 25 miles and immediately lying on my back for 8 hours, I had the legs of a newborn colt. The first few laps up and down the hallway, I used the rolling stand from my IV for support and felt like Bambi on a frozen pond. After a few laps however, my legs began to loosen up and I could actually use my free hand to shoot the hospital staff a finger pistol.
I always want to do stuff. I don’t ever want to be the kind of person that thinks that something is impossible or not worth trying. I encourage everyone to have the same mindset. Life is short, go out there and get it. If I could offer you one piece of advice however, I would say actively avoid having a heat stroke, blacking out and waking up in the back of an ambulance convinced that you’re being kidnapped. Food for thought.
Full disclosure, I’m planning on doing the marathon again next year.