Today's column might as well be scripted in the voice of the old-time melodramatic narrators who often began, “When we last saw our hero ...” because if you read last week's column, you'll be amazed to hear that I'm still alive.
If you didn't read it, allow our narrator to fill you in:
When we last saw our hero, Chaplain Norris, he'd registered to run the California International Marathon with almost 9,300 runners. However, on race day last week, only 6,474 runners braved the predicted two inches of rain.
On race day, Norris wobbled toward the start line to begin a 26-mile run through a blistering rainstorm that was flooding lower parts of Sacramento. The 40-mph wind gusts chilled him, and he was starting to believe what most of his friends, including his dear, sweet wife, Becky, had been telling him — 'You are absolutely crazy, Norris!' ”
Let's lose our narrator for a moment, and I'll tell you how I fit the “crazy” part. I'd taken the advice of my coach and donned a cutout plastic garbage bag over my slick running clothes. When I added military prescription goggles, I resembled a roadside panhandler more than a serious runner.
With 1313 as my running number, I felt a tinge of superstition. I was nursing a strained calf muscle and a recently developed cough, but I was hoping to dismiss both with anti-inflammatory drugs and cold medications.
More than crazy, I felt a chill of fear. I was afraid I wouldn't finish. I was afraid I might get hurt. I was afraid of the dark, the rain and the cold. I was afraid I'd disappoint my family who had missed my attention during the weeks of training.
As we stood waiting for the start, my running buddy, Eva Nelson, laid a hand on my shoulder. Becky and I know Eva and her husband, Scott, from our church. That's where Eva had “guilt-ed” me into running the marathon. With water pouring off our billed running hats, Eva launched into a coaching pep talk that naturally morphed into a prayer for courage and strength. When she was done, I think we both felt dampness in our eyes that couldn't be attributed to the rain.
We started the race on an 11:30-minute-per-mile pace with a dozen running buddies from Running for Rhett (www.runninforrhett.org). We'd trained at that pace for a few months and most of us were confident we could maintain it.
The race was oddly kind of fun. Throughout most of the run, I lived up to my running nickname, “Chatty Chappy.” We joked, splashed and sang, “You Are My Sunshine.” The rain even stopped after about three hours.
At five hours and 38 minutes, my gelatinous legs propelled me across the finish line and into sunny downtown Sacramento, still a good 15 minutes behind Eva. But, if I dare indulge in some final melodrama, I have to say that while my pace lagged, my course stayed true, my fears were vanquished, my courage renewed and my strength sustained. And I survived.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org