This weekend was the official Rocky Mount Relay for Life. A few weeks earlier, I had had my "own" relay and did my two "races" in one . . . my first and my last 50-miler! But this weekend was the real event and there were two things going on: 1) RMEC (Rocky Mount Endurance Club) had a team to run the 24 hour event, and 2) my friend Brian Langford was attempting his first 50-miler and I wanted to support him as I could.
Brian is a really fast 5k runner and athlete who had never done a marathon, let alone an ultra. Plus, he has recently suffered through the dreaded and mysterious "painful butt injury" (aka upper hamstring, piriformissyndrome, etc.) that seems to come out of nowhere to plague distance runners for a 6 month period. But Brian wanted to attempt this to honor his daughter who had died from cancer. So he decided! I worried that Brian would not be able to start out slow enough.
Right off the bat we realized Brian's original plan would never work. The track was totally packed with people! So many you literally could not run. So Brian decided to start his running by going down to our green way and running that until we couldn't see (no . . . of course we didn't bring headlights!!). Brian and I did one lap (about 5.6 miles), looped back to the stadium to get fluids, picked up Eric Pate and Arthur Bennett and headed out again. At least by starting with me, his first 9 miles or so were slow!
When we got back to the stadium the crowds were still pretty bad, so Brian and some friends (Ashley Bass, Steve Cooper, Michael Forrester to name a few) headed back out to run up and down Independence Blvd. I went into the tent a grabbed some sleep! About midnight Brian came in and told he quite a big group of guys were running with him, but they were going too fast! And of course he was running with them! Idiot! About 2 am I got up, put my shoes on and started running with him again. Scott Wingfield had come as I napped and had run 24 miles or so with Brian. Scott headed home and I joined. Brian was at about 35 miles and doing really good! He had settled into running two laps and walking one and seemed virtually unaffected by the miles. I found out I couldn't keep up with his preferred pace! How embarrassing is that for me!!
At around 43 miles, Brian's achilles started burning so he walked about a mile or so and then started running again. The pain eased. Sunrise was spectacular and we saw a blimp pass in the early morning light. And just before 7 am, Brian finished his 50 miles to the roar of the morning crowd, encouraged by the PA announcer and Brian's feat! Mission accomplished, Brian! I'm proud of you!