I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t know if I would make it.
Saturday was my birthday, and for the second straight year, I was going to run my age. One mile for every year. I was born in 1983, one year before Ronald Reagan was elected to his second term as President of the United States and the same year that Michael Jackson performed the moonwalk for the very first time.
I have never felt as old as I do in this moment.
At any rate, for those of you who don’t want to do the math, that’s thirty-one miles. Or, as they say in the ultrarunning world, a 50K. For most of the summer, I wasn’t worried. My training had been going well. I was fit. And if the long runs leading up to the big day were any indication, we were going to rock the pace. There was only one problem.
On July 4th, halfway through the 132nd Annual VP Parade, my IT band exploded.
I wasn’t actually in the parade, but I was running alongside it, skirting crowds eight people deep and outwitting road barricades by detouring up and down the grassy embankments lining the parade route. The grassy embankments wouldn’t have been an issue except a) they were grassy, b) they were embankments, and c) I had run twenty miles with Jake the day before.
It was a great long run, by the way. Jake and I toured the streets of South St. Louis, including Soulard and The Grove, where I discovered an awesome little coffee shop—Rise Coffee—in the same manner I discover most awesome little places: bathroom first. With the hard work done heading into the holiday weekend, I figured a nice, easy, five-mile recovery run through Fair St. Louis would be a spectacular way to celebrate sticking it to the British.
Except, it wasn’t a five-mile run. Nor was it particularly easy. Caught up in the flag-waving patriotism of the day—and rerouted by a series of upstanding security guards whose favorite admonition was “Ma’am, you can’t go that way”—I accidentally ran eight or nine miles at a 45-degree angle. On tired legs.
That, my friends, was the straw that broke the camel’s hip flexor. (Stupid grassy embankments.)
I spent the next twenty-two days foam rolling and receiving treatment from my miracle worker of a chiropractor (shout-out to Dr. Brian Laiderman!) in what can best be described as an uber-taper. I canned all remaining long runs. I ran six miles once. Maybe twice. On the Wednesday before my birthday, I went for a run to see how far I could go before the knee pain kicked in.
The day before the big run, I headed to Dr. Laiderman’s office for one last tune-up. He applied a masterful web of KT tape to my right leg and hip before sending me on my way. I had asked him earlier if I should do the run—or if my knee would even hold up for thirty-one miles. Dr. Laiderman is a fellow runner and an Ironman. I knew he would give me a straight answer.
“I’m not saying you can’t do it,” he said, “but it’s probably going to hurt.”
C’mon. Say it with me:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to report that on Saturday, my bum knee pulled itself together and hung on for every step of those thirty-one miles. I have no idea how.
I am also grateful to report that a contingent of extraordinarily generous (and fit) friends—Jake, Chris, and Seth—offered to accompany me during the run. These gentlemen also trained with me, which is beyond crazy. My sister Alicia rode all thirty-one miles as a bike escort; my sister Emily and brother Joe provided car support, meeting us at various points along the way with bags of GU and a cooler full of hydration. My fellow writer-runner friend Jeremy joined for a combo run-drive-run platter. It was a quite a crew, and I will never be able to thank everyone enough.
And as for the run itself? Well, let me sum it up this way: At mile thirty, somewhere around the Ballpark Hilton, two guys rounded a corner in front of us, seemingly out of nowhere. They were hauling a cooler. One of the gentlemen, upon spotting our sweaty little group, called out, “I know just what you need!”
He then dropped to one knee, opened the cooler, and handed us bottles of Bud Light as we ran by, like an adult-beverage aid station. He had no idea who we were or that we had just run over thirty miles. It was a birthday miracle, courtesy of Anheuser-Busch. Jake and Chris ran the rest of the way with post-run refreshments in hand.
Some 50Ks are just meant to be, folks. Some 50Ks are just meant to be.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.