Racing in the Rain at the Rio Marathon
Considered to be one of the top-guns on the international calendar, the Rio Marathon is host to some of the world’s best athletes as they come together in a bid to soak in the atmosphere of the race as well as of the beautiful city that is Rio de Janeiro. #ComingForYouRio
Standing at the starting line, I knew this would be the fourth continent (previously North America, Africa, and Asia) I could proactively tackle to run against dementia. Brazil was on my radar for 15 years and having the opportunity to raise dementia awareness on a global stage during the month of the World Cup was too perfect to pass up!
I was anticipating 80+ degree weather with a high level of humidity that spanned a magnificent coastline for 26.2 miles. And like all my prior races, I should stop “presuming” what will happen and just “assume” that it will play out in an unexpected fashion. You know, like running in a never-ending monsoon with 25 m.p.h. winds! But hey, this is Rio baby, and they aren’t postponing the race and I am not stopping until my feet travel 138,336 feet across that finish line.
Coastline Scenery for Days (Miles 1-6)
Temperature: 75 degrees, slight humidity, sporadic drizzling rain, and a comfortable breeze off the ocean
Conditions: borderline ideal
With approximately 10,000 runners eager for the 26.2 miles ahead, I was reviewing my mental checklist: Take in the scenery. Feed off the endless amount of supporters. Capture photos and video footage. Hydrate, hydrate, hyrdrate. Cross the finish line. Celebrate until you can’t stand anymore.
The gun sounded and my good buddy Adam and I took off through the streets of Rio along the coastline. For the first two miles, my body felt stiff and my right leg felt unusually tense. However, as soon as we rounded the corner of mile three, my muscles relaxed my mind and body were synced for whatever challenges would present themselves along the way.
I was snapping pictures, sprinting for video shots, and living in the moment, something we rarely do in life. Since we were 15 miles from the the heart of downtown, I figured the beginning stage would have a minimal amount of supporters. In fact, for the first six miles, there was no one. Not one single person which was especially strange and slightly eerie for me since I never listen to music when I run. I feed off the crowd. The Brazilians would “presumably” be staggered further down the course amped up and encouraging runners like they had done for weeks on end for their Brazilian soccer team during the World Cup.
Where is Everybody? (Miles 7 – 13.1)
Temperature: 65 degrees, 10 m.p.h. winds, constant drizzle
Supporters: nowhere to be found
With the winds picking up and the rain starting to fall consistently, I realized that we weren’t going to see anyone in the near future besides the volunteers passing out water and Gatorade every other mile. Maybe the people of Brazil had World Cup burnout or possibly they had an exceptionally strong night of partying. While not likely, maybe zombies had taken over Rio and we were running directly into harms way.
From my experience, the one thing that remains consistent in marathons is that conditions always vary, mental hurdles need to be overcome, and expect the unexpected at all times.
Death, taxes, and no two marathons are ever alike. Ever.
Since there were no supporters on the main race route, I decided to venture off the course between 100-500 feet to capture pictures of people watching from afar, playing soccer in the streets, and Brazilian cops who wanted to lend their support to R4P cause.
Solitude to Salvation (Miles 13.2 – 20)
Temperature: 55 degrees, 20 m.p.h. winds, pouring rain
Supporters: likely drinking in a warm pub or their home
As I crossed the halfway point, I still had a big smile on my face but it was so strange to have such solitude along the route. The ocean winds suddenly started jumping off the beach and directly into our path as the rain continued to drain harder and harder from the cloudy sky above. As I ran up bridges and through tunnel after tunnel, water was pouring out of my shoes and into streets, but hey, since when is running a marathon ever a walk in the park?
During this 7 mile stretch, I thought about the struggles my “Papa” endured with dementia. He was in such a world of solitude at times. While he could visually appreciate the people surrounding him during family dinners and visits, there was this tangible feeling of isolation due to his inability to communicate and comprehend language with the progression of his dementia.
And here I was…running in some pretty tumultuous and challenging conditions in Rio, but I thought about my “Papa” and so many other patients and families I have encountered since R4P launched. If they have to battle against dementia day in and day out, I needed to embrace this solitude and put their belief in what this cause is all about on my back. I was more determined than ever to run through this monsoon and push against the sharp winds knocking others off the course and out of the race.
I was not stopping. Not now, maybe not ever again.
Rain, Rain, Here to Stay! (Miles 20 – 26.2)
Temperature: 50 degrees, 25 m.p.h. winds, pounding rain and flooding streets
Conditions: indoor activities would be recommended
Supporters: a family of 10
Things I never thought I would see during a race: ankle deep puddles for hundreds of feet, volunteers abandoning their stations, kids playing soccer in the streets, and supporting gates on each side of the road being tossed around as if someone from above was playfully puppeteer-ing the entire process.
The final six miles were something for the record books. Runners were cold, fatigued and downright mentally broken. My friend Adam was cramping like a madman (something he rarely does). The wind was literally driving me backwards at points. Cars were pulled over on the side of the road because they couldn’t see 10 feet in front of them. But it was all part of the journey. A journey to not just complete 26.2 miles, but to help generate dementia awareness and research around the globe since to the best of my knowledge, dementia isn’t relegated to one city, state, or country.
This race was symbolic of the fight against dementia. I needed to show up. I wanted to say I was here and I refused to give up. The goal was overcoming these mental hurdles and finding ways to well, find a way. These moments leave a lasting impression long after the race is over. It carries on in the mission of R4P to find a cure for a dementia. These races are always way more than just races to me.
At points, I was speed walking because it felt like I was exerting double the amount of energy by lifting my soaked running shoes out of the flooding water and into the air. Shockingly, I finally saw some supporters! A family of 10 dancing in the streets and cheering us on at mile 25. More surprising than seeing actual people, I never cramped the entire race, and I ALWAYS cramp!
As I rounded the harbor and made my way toward mile 26, I was jumping up and down like a kid finally allowed to join his friends in recess. Crossing that finish line was going to be worth every step. The lack of supporters only made me mentally stronger.
But that is the journey. That is why I show up. I want to be in the most challenging races on the planet. And when my frigid body took that 138,336 step across the Rio Marathon finish line, I knew that the journey wasn’t anywhere near done. It was a big step in the right direction. One of many to come…
And if I had to do it all over again, I would.
Fortunately, I am looking ahead to running in “the “land down under.” Look out continent #5, R4P and OUR supporters are heading your way!
#R4Paroundtheglobe #Running Against Dementia