So I’ve been working on two basic goals for my upcoming run in the ING New York City Marathon. The first is crossing the finish line; the second is crossing the finish line alive. Although, if there are some attractive young nurses at the medical station, I might be willing to go into cardiac arrest for a few minutes. Why let all that CPR training go to waste?
The marathon is the Mount Everest of running.
It is a tough race — one that will challenge runners physically and mentally. I’ve been training for more than six months —- running five miles a day through ice, snow, rain, humidity and scorching heat.
I’ve run more than a dozen races, four-milers, 10k’s and two half marathons. I’ve spent weeks in the gym building muscle and endurance. But even with all training, I’m still about 30 pounds overweight. I’m what they call a non-elite runner. (In runner’s language, I think that’s a nice way of saying I’m a moron.)
But the truth is, no matter how prepared you are —- running a marathon can be dangerous —- and as the nation learned a few weeks ago —- it can be deadly.
The Chicago Marathon is popular for its fast and flat course. But this year’s race was marred by scorching heat and humidity. And within hours of the start, what should have been a day of celebration turned into a 26.2-mile race for survival. When race organizers finally pulled the plug, hundreds of runners had succumbed to the heat and one runner died.
What happened in Chicago was an anomaly —- blamed on quirky weather. Still, lots of folks are wondering if what happened in the Windy City could happen in the Big Apple.
And seeing how the lone death was a guy in his 30s with a heart condition, and I’m a guy in my 30s with a heart condition, I’m sort of wondering the same thing.
The short answer is there’s no such thing as a sure bet. So I figured I’d best check in with two folks to get straight answers — my cardiologist and an Olympic marathon runner.
My cardiologist assured me that I would not blow out my new heart valve by running the marathon. My knees, on the other hand, well that’s another story. And it’s also good to know the valve comes with a lifetime guarantee —- let’s just hope there aren’t any recalls.
But if my engine does backfire on the course, I’ll be ready. I’ll be running with a medical alert bracelet around my neck that should tell the doctors what’s broken and how to fix it. You’ve gotta love modern technology.
The other call I made was to Frank Shorter. He won the 1972 Olympic gold medal in the marathon. Who’d have thought his number would be in the phone book?
When I called, he was busy changing a flat tire on his car —- but he was kind enough to give me his two cents worth about what happened in Chicago and my chances of actually finishing the NYC Marathon.
"I think they made right call in Chicago," he said, talking about canceling the race. "Hindsight is 20-20." Frank was in Chicago and decided to find out for himself how hot it was. "I’m good at running in hot weather, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I started to run."
Hotter than a bottle of Tabasco sauce, it was, some folks said.
But could it happen in New York? Highly unlikely, he said. "Chicago was a unique circumstance. And even if the weather is bad in New York, there will be an emergency plan in place, ready to go. The New York Road Runners do a wonderful job of handling the marathon."
As for my chances of finishing the race?
"Well, you have to go into it with your eyes wide open," he said. "Don’t worry about how fast you run and have a whole series of back up plans. Run. Walk. Stop and take a shower. The pleasing part of the marathon is finishing the distance."
But he also left me with this warning —- the distance itself is the challenge.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing some interesting observations I’ve made about the running world.
Todd Starnes is a network news anchor for Fox News Radio. His blog will run daily leading up to the Nov. 4 New York City Marathon.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.