I was fortunate enough to meet my friend Adrian last year training with LA Roadrunners (LARR). Embarrassingly enough, I happened to be the one who blurted out loud, “What’s that?” while realizing simultaneously time that this thing I was referring to was actually a tether (shoestring) that was being used to guide Adrian, a blind runner during our run. Oh man, I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. A few runners looked at me but didn’t say anything, knowing I realized the answer to my question.
I will be honest and say that this was not the only time I would want to crawl into that hole…like a few weeks ago at the track when I asked him why was wearing two different shoes.
You probably think that by now I am really, really stupid or insensitive for asking such a question but if you got to know Adrian, you would realize that even without sight, he is very independent…AND fast! I did not for one second think he mistakenly put on the wrong shoe, (he did laugh and say it was an accident) but thought he was doing it with reason, I mean, he does after all, run under 3 hours for a marathon!
Really getting to know Adrian may have only happened by chance after we exchanged emails trying to get a group into the St. George marathon by lottery and then again this year when I would run into him at track practice. I would try to spark a small conversation or yell, “good job Adrian!” as we would hit the straightaway near each other heading in to the finish line.
Needless to say, I was completely inspired by Adrian. I knew I could learn a lot from him in running an in life — he had already exceeded the sub-3 hour marathon mark, something I want to do in 2011 and he wasn’t going to let this small challenge hold him back!
You can imagine how happy I was when I receive a call from him asking me to be one of his guides for Surf City. I felt so honored that I immediately said yes before I realized what I was actually signing up for. Of course I wouldn’t want to run a marathon in February knowing LA was only a month and a half away but I didn’t even know if I would be able to run sub-3, even on my best day, yet along guide someone and possibly let them down if I hit the wall. I immediately called him back and asked him if we were signing up for the marathon and he told me that we were actually going to run the half. Phew…thank goodness. The relief only lasted about 30 seconds because when I asked him what pace he wanted to run, he said 1:25. *gulp* “Adrian, I don’t think I can run that fast, it’s OK if you need to find someone else.” I had only run two half marathons before and they happened late 2009 in preparation for CIM (finishing 1:38:18 and 1:34:56). I felt horrible but Adrian assured me that it would be fine and that he only need me to help out at the beginning because Angel, another LARR runner would be able to pace him the entire way, especially the finish. He told me that I could run my own race after the start. Hesitantly I said, “OK” and then stressed myself out for almost three weeks because I didn’t want to disappoint him.
For the next few weeks I would actually run with Adrian at the track. I was hoping to learn some guiding techniques so I wouldn’t make him trip and fall during the big race. Soon enough I would realize that he barely needed any help. He could run around the track without too much concern because he is able to make out the shadows of the track lanes and recognize the shadows of our shoes. I only needed to tell him to move left or right in case we were approaching runners in our lane or if we were getting passed. I really enjoyed these workouts together because I was able to get to know him better and I was also being pushed to run faster.
Showing up to the expo I was still so nervous! I couldn’t shake it and my boyfriend told me repeatedly that he had no doubt that I could do it. I hoped he was right but it was a lofty jump to go from 1:34 to 1:26 without much training for a race of that distance (I was at the time more than half way through my LA Marathon training). I remembered that Adrian told me that I could make it my race and not worry about him but I knew that I would do everything I could to make it happen. When I picked up my racing packet I was so excited to see that my bib number was 98! That NEVER happens…so far, so good.
The morning of the race I was also surprised (I guess it would have made more sense if I was thinking clearly) to find out that me Adrian and Angel would be in the VERY front of the race, even in front of the elite. Surely I thought I would never have this opportunity again and I wondered if people thought I was going to run a 1:17 or something. So cool.
As the gun went off, we were off. The plan was to run 6:30 pace to reach our goal for the day. Soon I realized all Angel and I needed to do was tell him that we would be making a turn in X amount of yards and yell things to other competitors like, “blind runner to your left.” Almost immediately I felt the physical exertion and knew this would be one tough day for me.
I was also responsible for giving our mile splits and current pace and soon I would tell them that we were running ahead of pace – something I most surely didn’t want to do if I actually wanted to run on pace, but I knew that 1:25 was NOT his PR, just his goal for the day and I wanted him to run his race. We continued to run together and I didn’t complain anymore about our pace – I just tried to hang on.
As we approached mile 5 I had to force any negative thoughts out of my mind, one in particular was me questioning myself about how I would get past mile 5 considering every mile after that at that pace would be a PR. I kept telling myself this was Adrian’s race, I was doing it for Adrian (even though he really didn’t need me).
Finally at mile 9 I started to slow down and Adrian and Angel got ahead of me. Failure. I was so tired that I didn’t even re-adjust my ponytail or headband and I didn’t relax my face and form — normally I am so concerned with how I look because of those stupid camera people, but this day I could have cared less, I even only took in two cups of water the whole race! I just kept my eye on the back of his and Angel’s jerseys and pushed forward. I don’t think I every experienced something like this before. At one point I even tried to pretend that I was a mother and I was running for my kid. That didn’t last long because for one I don’t have a kid and two, I was tired plain and simple. I am so silly.
As I got to mile 13, I realized that I had only lost 5 seconds per mile – I didn’t fall off as bad as I thought. I was so happy to get the finish line to find Adrian who had pulled off a 1:24! I immediately apologized, I felt like I let him down but he was so happy for me. He couldn’t stop telling me how fast I was and how impressed he was with me. It was bittersweet for me – not meeting the 1:25 goal for Adrian but in shock that I actually pulled of a 1:26:18.
I feel like so many great things have happened to me since meeting Adrian. I am really lucky to know him. Not only did he give me the courage and confidence to push myself to the next level but he even introduced me to my new running coach, something that I have been searching for since coming back from my injury. He is the true meaning of inspiration.
Recently I ran with Adrian at Griffith Park for our 22 mile run and really bonded – we pushed each other the entire way (and I only almost made him crash into a biker once). There is a small group of us training for sub-3 marathons (or faster) and all training under the same coach. It was during this run that I realized it was OK to ask Adrian questions — I feel 100% comfortable asking him anything about his challenge. He never has a problem sharing and he welcomed my idea of emailing him some questions that I (and we) may have for him. If you can think of any, please let me know – I am sure I am not the only one inspired by him. I am hoping to put up soon. Ask away.
Please check out this recent clip of Adrian that aired in Utah last month: http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=14369103