Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Richmond Marathon 26.2 miles - I DID it!

The week before the Richmond Marathon, Joe Sullivan, Sports News Reporter for the NBC-TV Channel 12 in Richmond, called me to say that he had heard that I was the oldest person on the Marathon Training Team, and that he'd like to do an interview.
I met him down on Riverside Drive near my house, and he recorded lots of video footage of me running on the road beside the James River before doing the interview.
The piece aired on the evening news the Tuesday before the race.

An article appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the same day, titled "At 71, Set For Debut"
Better late than never, indeed. George Hastings, a California native who moved to Richmond in 1984, says he has been "in and out of running most of my life He will make his marathon debut on Saturday. At age 71.
Hastings said he has been toying with the idea of running a marathon since he was a teenager. As a 16 year old, he said, he would run from his home to Oakland Technical High School, a distance of about two miles. His goal each day: to try to beat the school bus.
Years passed, and Hastings did much running but never entered a marathon. As his 71st birthday approached, he said, "I thought to myself, 'Good grief! I'm actually getting old. I've been talking about running a marathon for most of my life. It's time to either put up or shut up.'"
He has prepared for Saturday's race as a member of the Marathon Training Team.

The morning arrived. It was time. I had run a short three miles on Thursday the previous week after the TV interview, and had finished with a very sore right knee. A quick visit a few days later to the doctor revealed through an MRI that I had a torn meniscus in my right knee. The doctor, a specialist in sports medicine, said that as long as I took it VERY easy, especially going up or down hills, and wore a neoprene compression sleeve on my knee, that I could attempt the 26.2 miles, with the understanding that my knee kight just lock up, or become so painful that I would have to drop out. After five and a half months of training, I accepted those terms.
I met other runners gathering a few blocks from the starting line on Richmond's Broad Street, and as we walked the short remaining distance there was excitement and tension. The over 5,000 marathon runners were grouped according to pace per mile, with the fastest of course being in front. The winner was Jynocel Basweti, a man from Kenya, who finished the entire run in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 22 seconds!
I started out deliberately slowly, being extra cautious of my unreliable right knee. Out Broad Street a few miles, jogging a few blocks over to a few miles on Monument Avenue, a few more blocks over for another long stretch on Grove Street, and finally along Cary Street and down a steep hill to the James River. From there, across the Huguenot Bridge and along Riverside Drive. I had a big cheering section of friends and neighbors as I passed the intersection a block from my house, and Jane handed me a most welcome banana to refuel as I left the ten mile mark behind.
From there up a long climb to Forest Hill Drive, and a very long run all the way downtown to the Lee Bridge. Crossing the James River, my running muscles began to tell me, "That's it! We're finished! We're not going to do this any more!", but my brain kept pushing the unwilling mutineers for a few more miles before the muscles won the argument. There were many times I thought that I had reached the point where I would have to stop, but discovered that walking muscles are really quite different than running muscles. I found that I could keep up a brisk pace walking.

As I came up Main Street I was joined by my friend Marilyn Elder, who ran and walked with me, holding a sign that said, "Go, George, GO!", and exhorting spectators on the sides of the street to join in the chant. It kept me laughing, and my mind off the fatigue and pain I was feeling in my hips by now. It seemed as though there had been no start and would be no end to the run by now. It was just one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. I wasn't out of breath, but the tiredness was building. I crossed Broad Street, and headed into the north side of Richmond in the last six miles, now covering distance I had never done before. My faithful self-appointed coach and publicist Marilyn joined me again as I shuffled my way toward the finish in downtown, dropping out only about a half mile from the finish line.

A block later I was joined by Chelle Quinn, the head coach of the Orange Team, and she covered the last few blocks with me. As she peeled off about two blocks from the end, I could look down the hill the remaining distance and see the huge crowd watching the stragglers coming in. I was by now the almost the only person on the street, and as I approached the finish line I was propelled onward by a wave of cheering.

Joe Sullivan from Channel 12 was there, pointing a camera, congratulating me and asking how I felt. Of course I felt wonderful, exhausted, and in pain all at the same time, but mainly elated that I had finished!

You can see the post-marathon show that aired the next day HERE

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