"Running with Evan, 6/16/04" by Bob Hardin
It was cold as we walked in the darkness from the car. There was a stream of equally excited people already headed toward Coastal Federal Field in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we were to start an adventure that will be remembered for a lifetime. At 6:30 we were to begin a marathon, the first for both of us. I went to the restroom once, twice.
Evan had just come in from California on his first trip to the East Coast and we were doing our first marathon together. I was serious as a heart attack and he smiled and cracked jokes as we passed the time before venturing to the starting line. "Are you going to pee every five minutes during the race?" he asked. "That's OK," I responded, "one of these days you will be 55."
He was just a 29 year old kid and had been training to do a marathon. His mother knew that I was also training to do my first one and decided to give him an offer he couldn't refuse. She paid his way to the East Coast to do this race with me. I had never met him but she seemed to think we would hit it off quite well. I just didn't know. Here I was about to pee again and I'm not going to go because I don't want to listen to anymore of his "old fart" crap.
On this particular morning in February there were thousands of lean bodies in Myrtle Beach ready to run. There was energy-energy you could feel -and all of it positive. We start wandering toward the starting line as the loud, rev'em up music pulsated through our bodies. There were signs showing different projected finishing times and people started to move toward the one which best forecasted their projected time at the end of the race. We settled in near the four-hour sign at about the middle of the pack.
We took off our warm-ups and I shook in the cold 40 degree air. I nervously bounced while America and the Star Spangled Banner were sung. We listened to instructions, waited and finally got to start. Slowly we started to move and maneuvered around slower runners in the darkness. Nine minutes at the first mile, too fast since it was almost a minute before we crossed the start line. Finally things started to open up. Already there are people along the street corners encouraging and cheering us on. Volunteers and police were at every intersection protecting us from the sparse traffic.
I had my worried look on but Evan was still smiling. Secretly I wondered if I would get through this without a permanent injury. My back and my foot had been giving me trouble during my training runs. After my last training run, I had blood in my urine. I, of course, didn't tell anyone and just hoped it wouldn't happen again. I have been so lucky to be 55 and still be able to run and bike almost as well as I could 20 years ago. I kept telling myself that I wasn't doing anything really stupid.
Evan seemed to have boundless energy and was cheering the people who were cheering us alongside the road. "Let's hear you, get loud," he shouted through the still dark night.
As it started getting light I stopped for my first Gatorade drink. I also checked my heart monitor and noticed that it was at 150 beats per minute. Not too bad. The cold morning was turning into a very comfortable run. We turned onto Ocean Boulevard. I had worried about wind coming off the ocean but there was none. Everything was feeling good and so I started to put away my worried feeling and started to talk with Evan.
"How do you feel," I asked?
"How dare you disturb me while I am admiring all this magnificent architecture," he answered sarcastically.
I saw places like the Pavilion and Mother Fletcher's as well as the Bowery and other famous Myrtle Beach spots and felt like I had arrived. These places meant nothing to him. He quipped that everyone else in town must be here for a pie eating contest. Sure enough there are a few more fat people along the street than there would be in Liposuction, California.
Before long, we were halfway, a little over 13 miles, and I still felt fine although my pulse rate had risen to over 160. We turned off of the mall-and souvenir-store-lined Kings Highway and headed north along the ocean through very nice residential neighborhoods. Evan started talking about California's fires, mudslides, and earthquakes and mentioned that it must be nice not to have to worry about such disasters.
"Evan," I interrupted, "have you never heard of a hurricane?"
At around mile 18 something happened. My left leg missed a beat. It was just one, but I felt it and I didn't like it. I could tell that I was slowing down and so I stopped to stretch at the nearest lamppost.
"Are you sure you don't want to take a nap?" Evan asked.
I could almost feel a cramp when I finished the stretch and started running again. My pulse rate had increased to around 175 and was climbing by the time we neared mile twenty. My breathing rate had increased and was labored and my legs felt tight and heavy. And then it hit me, I had allowed myself to get dehydrated. It was going to be a tough final six miles. I started to run but my pace was slow and every step was forced; finally after another half mile, I had to walk for a while.
"You go on ahead," I told Evan.
"No, just walk a little while and you'll feel like running again."
We walked for a couple hundred yards and then started a slow, painful pace. It seemed that a block took as much time as running a mile when we first started. At mile 24 I could tell I was not going to make my four hour goal. At times I thought my legs would buckle after running a short distance. Runners were passing and encouraging me to keep going.
I seemed to get energy from somewhere and I started to run again. The 26 mile marker was just ahead, and I was determined to run it the rest of the way.
"Evan, I couldn't have made it without you. I'll always owe you for what you have done for me today."
We crossed the finish line with Evan just in front of me. The announcer called out my name, age, and address. Evan's name was
not mentioned. As devoid as my body was of water, tears streamed down my face. For, you see, on this February day Evan was not
physically able to run with me. Just two months before Evan had passed away and I was running in his memory. On my t-shirt was
his picture with these words:
July 31, 1972-December 18, 2001
"God gave him the sense of humor"