Bud Greenspan, the filmmaker who chronicled the Olympic Games for more than six decades, died at his home in New York City. Greenspan was a cool dude largely because he focused on both the “big” stories as well as the “small” ones that would’ve been totally missed by the world. An example of one of those small stories happens to have been Greenspan’s favorite (according to a decade-old interview he did with espn.com):
“He came in about an hour and a half after the winner. He was practically carrying his leg, it was so bloodied and bandaged. I asked him, ‘Why did you keep going?’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race, they sent me to finish it.’ That sent chills down my spine and I’ve always remembered it.”
We’ve all had tough races that we’ve struggled to finish. I remember countless races (steeple races and 10K’s in college as well as some longer races in my post-collegiate days) that I struggled to finish. But, one of my most memorable was one I didn’t finish…
I remember running the 25-mile race at the Groundhog Fall 50 miler when I was between my sophmore and junior year of college. Local (Monroeville, PA) ultraunning guru Chris Gibson (who was still breaking 4 hours for 50K when he was 55 years old in 2008) was doing the 50-mile race, and I remember folks telling me to just run with Chris since I was doing the shorter race. So, I did….but, I had no idea what I was doing. For starters, I was the only runner sans flashilight…so, I had to run on the heels of others to see where I was going.
Anyway, about a third of the way through the race, I remember talking
with Chris and realizing that my 120 mile weeks were significantly more miles than he was putting in on a weekly basis. So, I did what anybody in my situation would’ve done…I dropped the hammer with about 17 miles to go. Like my failure to bring a flashilight, this was not a smart move. However, this was not my dumbest moment of the day. No, my dumbest moment centered on the fact that I refused to drink anything during my run, for fear that it would upset my stomach. I’d never practiced taking fluids, so I didn’t want to start now.
After getting through the last aid station (about 3 miles from the finish), I vaguely remember feeling really, really dizzy and off of my game. Everything else is pretty much a blur, but I remember looking at my watch and running on and on and on thinking that I should’ve been done. After about 50 minutes of running (I had been running 6:45 miles, so should’ve been done more than a half hour ago), I ended up back at that last aid station somehow. To this day, i’ve no idea how I ended up back there.
Dizzy and deflated, I dropped out. I was still leading by a good bit, and likely could’ve still won. But, I DNF’d. In reading about Greenspan’s favorite Olympic moment, I can’t help but think that I wish I would’ve been more like the Tanzanian marathoner and stuck it out.
You may wonder — why are you still thinnking about that one race some 15+ years after it happened? Well…to this day, I’ve never won a road or trail race in my home town of Punxsutawney, PA. I’ve come close many times (in fact, I once ran a 15:30 5K cross country race and still lost to one of my colleage teammates who showed up to run). But, I’ve never won a race in my hometown. It’s on my bucket list.