Relay For Life – My 45 mile ultramarathon

I got involved in this event when my uncle called me and asked if I wanted to participate. My aunt was the captain of a team. It was taking place down in Washington, Pennsylvania, about a five and a half hour drive from my home. I said yes. He also said I could participate in the torch relay. Hey, that sounded like fun. So I said yes, sign me up for the torch run.
Relay For Life is a 24 hour relay walk that benefits the American Cancer Society. My aunt is a cancer survivor. I have lost some relatives to cancer, including my mom and a grandmother.
I was part of a team, but as the event got closer, I decided to try to walk for the entire 24 hours myself. And I wasn’t sure how far I would be running in the torch run. My uncle said I could run the whole thing if I wanted. I had only planned to run a segment. My uncle said that it was about 8 miles. Okay. No problem. I was scheduled to run 13 miles that day anyway. I wasn’t sure how tired I would be, and how it would affect my walking later.
The day before the event, I googled the torch run course. Google said it was 6.4 miles. But later we drove it, and it turned out to just under 5 miles. But it was very hilly. I was a little leery about running the whole thing. I mean, it would be weird if there was a solitary runner with the torch running each segment, and here I am tagging along. But my uncle said there would be a group of runners. Well, okay.
The morning of the event, I got up, and we headed to the site. I caught a bus the start of the torch run. Lots of pictures were taken. Most people were wearing the event t-shirt. I hate running in cotton, and the shirt was 100% cotton. I wore my tuxedo jersey. I figured that would be fun. I was told we would be running at maybe a 10:00 minute/mile pace.
We would have a bus in front of us dropping off people. We would have a bus behind us picking people up. And we would have a cop driving his car in front of us, and he would stop and take pictures. We started about 10am. The first and last runners would be ceremonial people. I ran along side the first guy. Not sure who he was. SomeVIP. He passed the torch on to another person and stopped. Basically, I just followed along as the torch passed from person to person. The first runners ran at a comfortable 10:00 pace. The third or forth person to get the torch was a high school kid who took off at maybe 6:10 minute/mile pace. I ran faster and kept up with him. After a bit, he passed the torch on to another kid who ran at maybe 6:30. The kid who had just run, stopped and got on the bus. A horrible thought went through my head. Would I be faced with a series of fresh young runners who would sprint away for their segment, and then stop. ACK! Some of the next runners passed on the torch, and then continued running. Even the kid who had stopped and got on the bus, came back and started running with us again. The rest of the runners ran at 6:30-8:30 paces, with one exception being an adult runner who ran at maybe 10-12:00 pace and gave me a breather. I did get to carry the torch for a short distance.
As we approached the high school where the event was being held, we stopped in a lot across the street. It seems we got there 15 minutes too early. Go figure! So we hung there, until it was time to go in. A politician lady carried the torch in. She was a commissioner or something I think. There were speeches, and stuff. Then I left to go change for the walk. I changed into denim shorts, and a tech shirt, hat, trainers, etc. I smeared on sunblock, and got my mp3 player.
I started walking. I was walking at a fairly fast pace. 15:00-16:00 minute miles. I was passing many people. The inside lane was reserved for runners of which there were few. I stayed in the second lane as I could, but was having to go around many slow people.
Every 4 laps, we could stop and get a little plastic foot. They gave us shoe laces, and we would string the feet as little necklaces. So you could check out other people seeing how many miles they had gone.
I just walked, and listened to music. Occasionally, I would walk over to our tent to refill my sports bottle with Diet Pepsi, or go to the concession stand to get some food. A roundtrip walk to the tent was probably close to a quarter mile.
The track was crowded. A few people stood out. There was a girl dressed in goth clothing with knee high boots that couldn’t have been comfortable to walk in. One kid was wearing one of a couple different masks, and would walk in the opposite direction high fiving people. I just kept walking.
I did talk to one high school aged girl who I had seen often. Her name was Jericha. It turned out she was part of a 3 person team that was taking 30 minute shifts. So when she was done, I said I’d see her in an hour. Soon she would be back. Then I got to know her friends Emily and Sabrina. So I would often walk with them as they helped distract me from my hurting feet and legs.
The weather report for the day was strong thunder storms. Well, they were right. We had several waves of pounding rain. When the first one came, I was near the massage tent. I thought, hey, what a great time for a massage. They had massage chairs, and would massage our necks and backs. Hey, it felt good, but it was my legs that were hurting. *shrug*
My shoes and socks were wet. After a while, I changed into some dry shoes and socks. I had a large blister on one toe on my right foot. But I didn’t have anything to pop it with. My feet hurt to walk in them at first, but then it subsided. I think my feet were a bit swollen.
Around 9:00ish, my aunt and uncle were leaving. I had walked about 25 miles I think at that point. My wife went with them, and left me my car, just in case. They tried to talk me into leaving, saying that it didn’t matter how far I walked, that it didn’t mean any more money. But I was still hoping to walk all night. My cousin Nick showed up, and walked a few miles with me, then had to leave.
I managed to collect 30 of the little plastic feet before they ran out of them. There had been a bunch of the table, and then in a little while, there were none left. I think some people had grabbed whatever was left. Probably kids. But my Timex Ironman 100 lap watch was still counting laps beyond 100 laps. I wasn’t sure what would happen when I passed 100. Around lap 125 I think, it started displaying a message Memory Full every time I hit the lap button. But it was still counting laps. Probably just not recording the lap times anymore.
They started playing mellow music over the speakers. Great, people have been out here all day, it’s getting late, people are getting tired, and they are playing mellow music! Ack!
At sometime, maybe around 10pm, they gathered everyone under the tent. They had some speeches, and stuff. It was perfectly timed to be during a torrential downpour. And about the time the speeches were over, the rain had mellowed. I was still wearing shorts at this point, but went on put on some nylon shell pants over them. It was starting to cool down. But that seemed to be the last of the rain.
I liked walking under the big stadium lights. But at one point they lit candles inside these bags along the sides of the track. They had people’s names on them. Cancer victims I think. They shut off the big lights, but still had some smaller lights. So now we walking with these glowing bags. But now the track was clogged up with people looking for specific bags. I never saw any of the bags catch fire, but I had seen a few that had already burned.
At some point one of the relay team captains got on the PA system, and started singing and playing guitar. She was good, but not really my style. So I listened to my mp3 player again. At least when I wasn’t walking with the high school girls, or Jericha’s boyfriend Shawn who showed up later.
My feet felt like hamburger. I had completed 160 laps (40 miles). They were getting ready to start karaoke in the infield. They had also started handing out poker cards when you completed a lap, which you would collect to try to get the best hand. I had gotten one card. But I could feel the blisters on the balls of my feet now, and they were hurting. It was hard to walk now. I had ignored blisters on the toes. I had ignored the cramping calves, and the knee pains. I was getting tired, but doing okay. But the blisters on the bottoms of my feet were a little too much. Since I still have races coming up, I didn’t want to cause too much damage, that would prevent me from training or racing. I decided to call it a night. It was probably about 1:45am. With the walking and running the torch run, I had completed 45 miles. Actually, I had probably done a couple more miles if all the incidental walking were added up. Not bad. That was at least 12 miles farther than I have ever covered in a day.
I went out to the parking lot, and crashed in my car. I slept fitfully, but got up about 6:30 or 7am. I went up to the tent, ate some cookies, and drank some Diet Pepsi. I went out to the track. The people were all walking slowly and sort of looked like zombies. I found one of the high school girls and walked a lap with her. Then I went back to the tent, and started breaking stuff down. My wife, aunt, and uncle showed up, and we took down the tent. I was talking to one of the organizers, and she suggested I go have the ambulance crew treat my blisters. She said they had been sitting there all night, and were bored. So I went out there, and they said there was nothing they could do for blisters. Huh? Not drain them? No super glue. No duct tape? I need to play with coating my feet with Vaseline on training runs. Maybe that would have prevented the blisters.
They announced a final lap. So I went out and walked the final lap. Then they gave out awards for fundraising. Our team raised over $12,000 (I only raised a small part of that).
Then we started our drive back home. My wife drove, and I mostly slept. But we did stop and get some food along the way. And I did take some time to drain the blisters.