Another year older, another year ... slower?
On Saturday, Feb. 7, the same day as the fourth annual Sedona Marathon, I turned 27 and celebrated by running in the half marathon.
Since it was my birthday, I thought I’d be lucky and do even better than last year when I first participated in the event, but I was sorely mistaken.
Rumors started circulating mid-Thursday that runners could expect to run in the rain Saturday morning.a
When I awoke with pre-race jitters Saturday it was dark and cold, but thankfully, it was dry.
At the starting line there seemed to be more racers than last year; younger ones, older ones, fast-looking ones, along with the usual suspects like Rick and Jennifer Wesselhoff, Chris Leake and Sedona Police Chief Joe Vernier.
The new start and finish line from the old Cultural Park meant a drastic decline from the start, followed by a daunting hill to even get out of the park. From there, it was back to the same course.
Last year I kept my sights on a lady with a good pace a few clips ahead of me, so I wouldn’t start lagging behind. This year, it took me a while to choose one, but I finally settled on a girl with a white hat who I remembered from the Porta-Potty line, a good distance ahead of me.
Like last year, my plan wasn’t to reach her or surpass her. I just didn’t want to lose sight of her, fearing that would mean I was slowing my pace.
Up Dry Creek Road, past the man blaring his boom box — thank you for that, we need all we can get — and on and on to the turnaround point before Doe Mountain trailhead, I kept her in view.
From the turnaround point, things literally and figuratively went downhill. I didn’t catch her name, but when bib number 3374 kindly encouraged me to keep up, I just couldn’t. My psoas wouldn’t let me.
They were tight and getting tighter with each step. My hips threatened to block me from the rest of the race and finally I took them seriously. I flung myself down into a lunge, hoping to stretch them out, begging them to let me continue.
I need a second wind, I thought as I trotted back toward Highway 89A. That’s when I approached a lady walking the half marathon, wearing a birthday cake hat, complete with candles sticking out of the top.
“It’s my birthday too,” I shouted and waved. So I can cry if I want to, I thought.
I wouldn’t let my thoughts slip down that dark, scary road of “I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I have to stop.”
If I went there, if I thought about how hard it felt, I’d be done — not an option.
So luckily, when I saw the 10-mile mark, I got a second wind. Just three miles left, I told myself, I can run three miles in my sleep, there’s no reason I can’t run it now.
Unless of course, this light blue car creeping up behind me really doesn’t stop and “J@$*%!” I shouted out of shock, looking back and realizing the man behind the wheel wasn’t stopping.
Luckily, the attempted homicide took place right in front of Sedona Police Department volunteers, and I looked at them to help stop this man from running me over.
“Stop!” They shouted and ran in front of his car, as I kept running. I looked back over my shoulder to see more police running to his car, to see why he was attempting to take down runners.
I can’t give an estimate on how close his bumper came to me, but it was enough to leave me shaken and — uh-oh, I can’t breathe — I was hyperventilating.
Just recently while running a trail, a dog attacked me and I was so shaken that as I ran home, I found the combination of heavy breathing from running and fear left me unable to breathe at all. I couldn’t let that happen. I had to clear my head.
I made my way up Highway 89A, down past the hospital and up that last, final hill, where a crowd of strangers stood cheering and singing “Happy Birthday” to me!
I was embarrassed but appreciative as their boost got me to the finish line.
I paid the price for being under-hydrated the rest of the day, and my relationship with my psoas is still strained.
As for the man who nearly knocked me out of my misery, I’m left wondering why at least one lane of traffic could not be closed for half a day.
I know Sedona’s marathon isn’t as big as New York City’s, or the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll marathons around the nation, but we’re the same runners participating in any one of them, and we at least deserve one lane’s width to run our race.
We have enough challenges along the way. We don’t need to be dodging cars too.