The marathon is a test of endurance and willpower, and nowhere were these traits more inspiringly on display than among the average runners in Sunday’s California International Marathon in Sacramento. These were the intrepid souls struggling two, three and more hours after the winners had crossed the finish line.
I stationed myself on the H Street bridge near the 22-mile point of the race to lend encouragement to my niece Lelani Alves, her husband, Harold, and friend Randie Henry, all of whom had been training for months to run in their first marathon. My wife, her son and the grandkids were the vocal support team near mile 16 and the finish line.
Lelani, 48, and Harold and Randie, both 56, keep themselves in remarkable athletic shape for their age, but the 26.2-mile test was pushing into uncharted territory. The distance is daunting and when you’re over 45, you carry health worries as part of your baggage. I never felt inclined to put myself through kind of ordeal. I’m awed by anyone who does.
Lelani said she hoped to finish the marathon in four hours, 15 minutes. Harold and Randie planned to run together and finish about an hour later. I was delighted to see Lelani at 10:36, just three minutes later than when I expected her. She looked strong, and I was confident she would keep up her pace to the finish line.
On the bridge, others were not doing so well. One young man staggered and stopped. The woman with him put her arm around his shoulders and whispered encouragement. The man began to walk, very slowly. Across the road, a thin woman about 35 was leaning against the guardrail, evidently trying to stretch away a cramp. It took her a few minutes to get going. The final four miles would be long and painful.
About an hour later, Harold and Randie came into view. They were still running – slowly, yes, but many on the bridge were down to walking. I waved my greeting signs, and they had the energy to smile. They looked determined to finish.
I felt humbled at the thought that they had covered 22 miles. They had been running for close to four and a half hours. I could see a hundred people strung out behind them, and there were many hundreds more beyond that. Some would be gritting their teeth and forcing themselves forward for hours to come.
According to the CIM’s unofficial results today, Lelani finished with a time of 4:22:58, a pace of 10:03 a mile. That placed her 162nd in the 45-49 age bracket and 1,158th out of 2,484 female runners overall.
Harold and Randie finished together in nearly identical times of 5:42 and change. Their pace was 13:05 a mile.
To give me a goal I will likely never shoot for, Keith Wood, an 82-year-old runner from Sultan, Wa., came in first among five competitors in the men’s 80-and-over bracket. He finished in 4:39:36, a pace of 10:41 a mile.
Janet Holloway, 75, of Monterey took the 75-79 women’s bracket in 5:03:37.
Oh, yes, let us not forget men’s winner Erick Monyenye in 2:11:50, and women’s winner Serkalem Biset Abrha in 2:33:40. But what mere mortals can relate to those times?