Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marathon Man

It's hard to believe that I just started running 2 years ago and now on January 9th, 2011 I completed the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, FL. I committed early and trained 5 months for the marathon, however it was far from easy. Since this was my first marathon and it was Disney, I planned on enjoying myself and not worry about a time goal. I am so glad I had that I had this attitude for this race because it was a very long day.

It was in the 40's on race morning and excitement was in the air. It was magical and I couldn't wait to take on the challenge. After the gun went off I set out on my journey with confidence. I was running my goal pace and feeling strong through the first 12 miles. I kept telling myself, take one mile at a time and I was executing my race plan to perfection. That is until 12.5 miles into the race, adversity struck.

I was almost at the half marathon split and I got a leg cramp in my left hamstring. I had to stop and stretch it out for a few minutes and then continued on. I made it to 13 miles and another cramp hit. I stopped at the medical tent and had the staff stretch my leg out and after a few minutes I was on my way. The cramps continued the next 5 miles, and they were now in both legs. It was so painful at times and I was becoming frustrated. Then as the race moved on I became worried that I wasn't going to finish. Every time I would go up a hill the cramps would return and I would continue to battle them the remainder of the race.

At mile 19 I developed a very sharp pain in my right knee. As I am standing on the side of the road stretching out cramps in both legs I could barely stand on my right leg because of my knee. At this point God stepped in and sent an angel to help me get past this point. A young lady was walking by with a large bag of ice wrapped on her right knee looked at me bent over on the side of the road and said, "come on, come on, let's go, right now!" I did not even flinch and got up and started walking with her. She was from Connecticut and was really worried about her knee. We encouraged each other and decided to stop on the medical tent at mile 20 to get our knees wrapped. I never saw her again, but I credit her with helping me get through a critical part of the race and pray that she made it to the finish.

I only had 6.2 miles left, but was now walking and trying to run with cramps in both legs and a tightly wrapped right knee that was hurting. I even got cramps under the knee wrapping at some points. At this point the race became about surviving mile to mile. I would jog and walk as fast as I could and then when I couldn't bear the cramps I would stop and try and stretch. I made it to the medical tent at mile 22 and had severe cramps at this point. The staff laid me on a flat lounge chair and was stretching my leg and if I moved the wrong way my other leg would start and one time I fell off the chair because the pain caused by both charlie horses was so severe I couldn't sit still. Once they were under control I drank 2 full bottles of powerade and kept going.

At this point I took out my phone and texted my wife and son and told them I was on trouble and would not be at the finish line near the time I had estimated. They began to text me encouraging words and it helped so much. I also had an inspiration cloth that I tied to my race belt that had names of family and friends affected by cancer and I did not want to let them down. At times I would hold that cloth and pray for strength to finish. Along the way it was encouraging to run/jog/walk/limp through the Disney parks as by standers would call my name and yell encouraging words. One guy even said to me that he was at this point last year and he knew how I felt and he knew I could make it.

I kept on battling the cramps and was in a fight to finish one mile at a time. I was worried about being caught by the end of the race and being taken off the course and I would muster all I had in my to keep moving as fast as possible. When I got to mile 25 I could envision crossing the finish line and having that medal placed around my neck. When I got to 25.5 miles I got really sever cramps in both legs and I had to stop and keep stretching as precious time passed by. I was almost at the breaking point but I took a deep breath and walked with cramps twitching in both legs.

I was so relieved when I made it to mile 26. That was a beautiful sign and I felt tears welling up in my eyes because the battle was almost won. I reached deep down inside and decided to run out the final .2 miles with cramps in all my leg muscles in both legs. When I crossed the finish line all the pain was gone in an instant. I could barely walk, but I had won the battle and beat the odds. Not one time during the race did I ever think about giving up! Out of the 18,000 people that had started only 13,500 finished and I was in that finishing group. It was so great to be reunited with Peggy and Tyler as they so patiently waited for me at the finish, my biggest cheerleaders in life there celebrating this accomplishment with me.

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here to attempt a marathon and the strength to finish. Facing prostate cancer 2.5 years ago was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it gave me the strength and mental toughness I needed to finish this fight. I am now a Marathon man!

Thank you for all your support during my training and thank you for helping me raise $2,595 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation through Team Winter and Athletes for a Cure.

Life is an incredible journey, don't wait until life happens, go make it happen for you!

God Bless You!
Darren

5 comments:

Cosmetic surgery Atlanta said...

I agree life is an incredible journey and you have got to fight whatever comes your way.There are going to be ups and downs and not similar for all pilgrims but there is sure the strength inside to fight and also won.I salute your strength and fight.

Plastic Surgeons Atlanta said...

I can sense your spirit and that it is incredible and contagious.Life is all about celebrating the way we are and what we have at hand.There are no options but to fight it and be happy.

Linda said...

Dear Darren,

Firstly, well done on your marathon! I too have been in training for my first marathon this year, so I somewhat know the effort involved to undertake a gruelling long distance run.

Secondly, I'm only part way through your blog and already so THANKFUL that you have shared your journey. I can't wait to share your blog with my husband.

My husband of 12 years (partner 17 years), who turned 41 only some weeks ago, is today undergoing a prostate biopsy due to high PSA tests, which has more than doubled in 8 weeks (currently PSA 10.4).

The last 24 hours has been somewhat of a whirlwind for us - dr's report of a high PSA, same day Urology appointment, and today a prostate biopsy - anxiety is off the charts to say the least.

Finding your blog this morning has been a welcome relief - it's the unknown that sets your thoughts on a spiralling negative path. So while I sit waiting for him today, during his biopsy surgery, I will continue reading through your life's journey and achievements to help with my positive thoughts.

Kind regards,
Linda
(Australia)

Darren Ritch said...

Linda,

Thank you for leaving a comment. I pray for the best in your husband's situation. It's a scary time for him and you and know how you are feeling. I am glad my blog brought some comfort, this is why I created it becuase at the time I could not find any other stories from men my age.

Please send me an email and let me know how your husband is doing or if you have any questions.

Good Luck in your marathon training, once you finish you will be in an elite club and you have something to race for!

God Bless!
Darren

jamesdarrenritch@gmail.com

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