Ever run a half marathon intentionally in a torrential down pour?
The transmission failed. Literally. While riding in a shuttle from work to the airport, the transmission failed roughly 3 miles away; my plane was scheduled to take off 90 minutes later. Friday the 13th…coincidence? The driver estimated the back-up shuttle would take at least 20-30 minutes to arrive, and instinctively, I asked him to open the back door. He said “where are you going?” I opened my bag, put on on my running shoes, looked him square in the eye and said “I am running for Papa!”
With my roller carry-on extended firmly in my left and my backpack comfortably resting on my shoulders, I ran in jeans down Billy Graham Parkway with Charlotte Douglas airport in my sight. Half a mile later, I was picked up by another shuttle and dropped off with an hour to spare. Fortunately, there was no one in the TSA screening line. Precisely, no one. Friday the 13th…coincidence? “Please let the flight take off and land with no problems and minimal turbulence!”
Well, we landed (after seeing an unusual amount of nervousness on the faces of the flight attendants). I was greeted at DFW airport by my friends Derek, Shana and Dan. Texas was the 9th state visited on this journey; it always helps to have great friends scattered across the U.S. who are extremely hospitable hosts making this weekend another seamless experience. Late Saturday night, I checked the weather for tomorrow’s race: severe Thunderstorms from 6AM-11AM with a disclaimer on the Big D website “Runners may run at their own risk.”
My response: “I don’t recall my Papa ever canceling an appointment with a sick child due to bad weather conditions.”
Derek and Shana dropped me at the state fairgrounds so I could film some pre-race commentary (in the rain). Through the suggestions of my followers, I had compiled a 50 song playlist for the Big D race, but due to the awful weather ahead, I left the music at home. After stretching and watching the clouds darken the skyline, this race quickly became another challenge that would test my training as well as my willpower. I believe every race is 80% mental and 20% physical. Although elements always vary, when my mind is “zoned-in” on completing a race, my mental conviction eliminates any hovering doubt or fear.
Like every race beforehand, the knots in my stomach intensified like two kids playing dodge ball in a confined space. Thankfully, both kids were eliminated the second I crossed the starting line. The BIG D starts and finishes at the historic grounds of the State Fair near the Cotton Bowl. The fairground’s stunning landscape and art deco architecture set the mood of the day despite the impending weather.
After leaving the State fairgrounds, runners headed north and soon reached the impressive neighborhoods that surround White Rock Lake – often described as the crown jewel of central Dallas. For the first 5 miles, the winds were gaining momentum as a slight drizzle trickled down. Growing up in Michigan and surrounded by lakes, I surveyed the lake’s border and knew a torrential thunderstorm was quickly approaching the Dallas area.
The route headed into a part of the course with tree-lined parks to one side and gorgeous homes on the other. As I crossed Mile 6 and grabbed a Gatorade from a water station, the clouds decided it was time to let all their pipes burst at once. Soaked head-to-toe by the onslaught of rain hitting my body from seemingly all directions, I continued jogging uphill. I wasn’t even halfway and knew this was going to be a battle, one I eagerly awaited and would embrace!
At Mile 9, I saw Derek and Shana holding a sign reading “Go Jason! Run4Papa.com – I run for PPA!” Shortly thereafter, the hard rain was followed by thunder and occasional bolts of lightning. I never felt in immediate danger but running through puddle after puddle and being drenched was taking a mini toll on my body. My right calf cramped pretty badly and wouldn’t go away despite numerous stretching attempts. The word “quitting” doesn’t fall into my mental vocabulary so I ran/walked through the pain periodically glancing down at my hands where the words “Papa” (left) and “PPA” (right) were hand-written.
I continued filming portions of the race while getting emotional boosts on Miles 10, 11 and 12 as Derek and Shana managed to jump ahead for moral support. As runners continued to battle through the elements, we ran through Deep Ellum, the eclectic nightclub district returning to the finish line on the front steps of the historic Cotton Bowl.
Despite the 20 mph winds, down-pouring rain, periodic thunder and lightning, I completed the BIG D Half Marathon in 2:36:38! Oddly enough, I have never seen so many runners (including myself) limping, crouching down below their knees or just propped up against a wall. The Big D had thrown every element against racers attempting to conquer its landscape and our collective exhaustion was palpable on the faces of each finisher.
And suddenly, a wry smile crept across my face.
Next stop? The Great Wall of China Marathon!
To see photos from the race, go to: Big D Half Marathon