bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The thrill of running a half marathon

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Six months ago, I wrote about the back surgery that had derailed my then-new-found love of running. My original plan, once I had started running last year, was to do the Broad Street Run, which is a 10-miler here in Philadelphia each May. When the back problem forced me to stop running, the race was obviously off the board. I had intended to do a 5K or two in advance of that, but had not managed to do that either. Since my last column on the subject, I started running again in June. All of the stamina that I had built up last year was gone, so I was starting from scratch, essentially. Running every other day, I managed to get it back, eventually, and it has paid off for me. This morning, I completed the Philadelphia Half Marathon.

To most of you, this may seem like a flimsy Good Sports story. The reason I wanted to write about it was not because I had any kind of spectacular finish or anything. I mean, I did fine – finished 13.1 miles in 2:02:16, which is respectable. No, the reason I thought this was a worthy lead story was because of how I felt as I finished this race. Wow. The feeling of accomplishment was just amazing. Going out to run three or four times a week has made me appreciate physical fitness and discipline, but running and finishing a long race like this really made me feel like an athlete. I still had not managed to run a 5K or anything, so this was my first race of any kind. It was entirely different than my twelve mile run last Sunday, for example. That was a nice, quiet run by myself, through a park that was not deserted but was certainly not packed. Today, I was in pretty heavy traffic the whole way. For the first couple of miles, I was running slower than I wanted to because I could not pass anybody due to the fact that there was no room to move. Even once the crowd thinned out a little a few miles in, I still was surrounded by people at all times. The positive aspect of that was that it really made me feel like I was in a race, as opposed to just being out for a run. There were also people lining the sidewalks for most of the race, cheering on the runners, holding up signs, and being wonderfully supportive. I know they weren’t there for me (other than my wife and my son, who certainly were), but I heard my name called out by spectators more than a couple of times. Yes, my name was on my race bib (the thing with the number on it), but I thought it was pretty great that people bothered to do something like that. The energy and adrenaline that I got from my surroundings was like nothing I had ever felt before.

Quick side-note: some of the signs people were holding were funny, and made for some good entertainment as I ran past. One that had real potential, if not for the horrible execution, read “Worst parade ever!” Actually, if it had said that, it would have been funny.  Instead, it said “Worse parade ever!” Oops. I wanted to call out the mistake to the lady holding the sign, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me, but I held back, which might. The fact that she showed this sign to thousands of people was enjoyment enough for me.

Not everything about the day gets filed under Good Sports, however. Two men died during the race, one at the finish line and one just short of it. Both of these men were younger than I am. I know that people die of heart problems every day, some while doing strenuous exercise, some while doing light exercise, and some while getting out of bed. I feel like I am much healthier now than I was a year and a half ago, and much less likely to suffer from those kinds of health problems. My parents called me to tell me about the deaths, though, and I could tell they were concerned, as happy as they may have been for me today. All I can do is continue to run, eat well, and take care of myself. I plan on being around for a while, and hope to run more of these races. Whether or not there is a full marathon in my future remains to be seen.

Good sports, continued:

2) Patrick Witt, the quarterback for the Yale football team, made a choice that I don’t think many of us would have made this week. He turned down his Finalist interview for the Rhodes Scholarship because it was scheduled for Saturday afternoon and would have conflicted with Yale’s game against Harvard, the school’s biggest rival. Although I certainly would have chosen the interview, from a pure sports perspective, he made the right choice.

3) College basketball is a great sport. It is always fun to see a low-profile team go on the road and beat a powerhouse, especially when the team being beat is Pitt. Long Beach State didn’t just beat them, they really handled them, leading at halftime and never really being threatened by the ninth-seeded Panthers.

4) Several weeks before the current CBA was set to expire, it appears that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have agreed to a new deal. Quite a switch from how it went with the NFL and the NBA this year. On top of that, it sounds like the new deal will include testing for Human Growth Hormone.

5) For most of this college football season, it has seemed like a given that Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback who is almost certain to be the first pick in next year’s NFL draft, would win the Heisman Trophy. His team’s recent loss to Oregon, which included two crucial interceptions thrown by Luck, has opened things up a bit. This week, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III made a strong case for the Heisman to come his way. He willed his team to victory over Oklahoma on Saturday, a team Baylor had never beaten in twenty tries. Griffin threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the victory, and has now thrown 33 touchdown passes this season, against only five interceptions.

6) Tony Stewart won NASCAR’s Sprint Cup championship in thrilling fashion on Sunday, beating Carl Edwards, who entered the final race with a mere three point lead over Stewart. Amazingly, Stewart won the race at Homestead and Edwards finished second, less than a second behind him. The result actually brought the two drivers into a tie. Stewart’s five wins this season clinched the tie-breaker, as Edwards only won once.

Bad sports:

1) Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine is being investigated after two former ball boys accused him of molesting them over a long period of time from the late seventies to the early nineties. Coverage of this story has been remarkably quiet when compared to the recent Penn State scandal, which is either because the media is burned out after the breathless coverage at Penn State, or because of the large number of Syracuse graduates working for ESPN.

2) NFL Hall-of-Famer Forrest Gregg, who played for the Packers and the Cowboys during his long career, is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Gregg is 71.

3) University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was arrested on Wednesday night and charged with driving drunk. He was suspended for the team’s game against Texas Tech on Saturday.

4) A woman who was tailgating at the Harvard-Yale game on Saturday was killed when she was hit by a moving truck. Two other women were hurt. The truck’s driver passed a sobriety test, and is blaming the accident on equipment malfunction.

5) A freshman tight end for the University of Arkansas football team was found dead is his dorm room Sunday morning. The cause of Garrett Uekman’s death has not been announced.

6) Joe Paterno has had a bad couple of weeks. Not only was he just forced our of his job as head coach of Penn State football, a position he had held for 45 years, he was also diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer. Reports are that his prognosis is good.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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One Response to “Bad sports, good sports: The thrill of running a half marathon”

  1. I am shocked that you didn’t have a Sharpee on you at the race for just such an occasion. Perhaps you’ll be better prepared for the next event.

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