On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Home: Part 1 of 2


By Steve Selby

November 4 was to be the culmination of two years of hard work and the realization of a dream thirty-plus years in the making. You see, I was to be among 47,000 other runners who had worked and sacrificed to run in the ING New York Marathon.

This was to be my second try at running in this unique sporting event. I was supposed to run in the 2011 race, only to have an injury shut me down one month before the race. Despite the grind of a Pacific Coast League season and the rough travel that goes with it, the heat and humidity of Memphis not exactly the best training conditions and a 56-year-old body that constantly reminded me I shouldn’t be doing this anymore, I decided to try it one more time.

My desire to run New York began decades ago when ABC first televised the race. I became hooked and my kids would soon be a part of the annual Sunday morning viewing. We would skip church, but would do a short devotional before tuning in to the race. It not only had me dreaming of running a marathon, it would directly impact my oldest son Austin who would run marathons before I did.

Actually, the first in my family to run the 26.2 was my brother Don who ran the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in the 1970’s and that always bugged me because he had done it and I had not. Then my interest was really reborn when Austin ran the Music City Marathon and then the MCM. I flew to Washington to watch him run and was inspired by his performance and by the atmosphere at the marathon that I had to give it a go. So, Don and I entered the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon. Not to be left out, Austin entered as well.

I survived the hot summer training and a Redbirds championship run and felt like I was mostly ready for the race. Unfortunately, I was in for a surprise when one week before the race I couldn’t run two minutes without coughing uncontrollably.

A quick trip for a check-up did not result in the news I was looking for. I heard the word bronchitis and knew I was in trouble. The nurse said I’d get an antibiotic, but couldn’t give me a steroid since I was going to be running in a race. This was after I was told I shouldn’t run.

I told her that my time (if I finished) would not cause race officials to have me pee in a cup and to give me the steroids. She caved.

I’ll save the sordid details of the race since this story is to focus on New York, but suffice it to say that I finished the race thanks to Don running with me. He’s much faster than I am, but his experience and just being there was invaluable.

I proudly wore my medal on the plane that night and assured my wife Rhonda that I didn’t need to run another marathon. I think she knew better. I really did feel that way. That is, until Austin ran New York in 2010. I had to go to New York.

Fast forward now to the 2012 Redbirds season. The season was a struggle on the field as well as in the radio booth. The Redbirds were trying to battle through a pair of nine-game losing streaks and countless roster moves. In the booth, I was missing my dear friend and long-time partner, Charlie Lea.

I think the training proved to be an escape and went very well. I was about a month ahead of my 2011 training schedule and was running at a faster pace. Then, a hip injury appeared in early August following a run in Sacramento. That would be followed by a recurrence of the same injury during a 16-mile run in Des Moines. However, this time it was more severe.

The crew at the Campbell Clinic got to know me very well over the past few years due to my nagging injuries and as usual, they took care of me and I was able return to training and would make it to the start line this time. Or so I thought.

Then the weather forecasters began to rain on my parade. They were certain that this historic storm was going to slam New York City. Why did they have to pick this particular time to nail the forecast?

Naturally, I sat up half the night watching the coverage of Hurricane Sandy and then when the sun came up that Tuesday morning, we saw the devastation. No way there would be a race five days later.

Not so fast, my friend! Mayor Bloomberg from the very beginning said the race would go on, showing that New Yorkers were resilient and that all the runners should plan on coming to town, this despite the fact that all three airports in the area were closed. Our flight was set to land at La Guardia Thursday around lunchtime.

As of Wednesday afternoon, La Guardia’s runways were still under water. No problem right? Right! We woke up Thursday morning and checked our flight and it was a go! Off to the Big Apple!

We didn’t know exactly what we would find when we got there, but were excited to finally begin the adventure. One thing we did know was the electricity at our Hampton Inn on West 24th street did not have electricity. They told us we could stay there anyway and we figured after a day or two we’d be good to go.

Rhonda was introduced to the art of driving in New York as our Super Shuttle driver showed his “confidence” in knifing in and out of traffic. Then, I saw the sign –“Queensboro Bridge Turn Right”. This would be the toughest part of Sunday’s course. It comes fifteen miles into the race and has an incline of nearly a full mile and provides the best view of the City. My adrenalin was flowing big time. How would I fare on the bridge?

I told Rhonda that things were going too well and that we would hit a bump in the road somewhere along the way, but it would just be part of the story we would tell when we returned to Memphis.

It turned out that bump would become bumps, with the final one being the size of Pike’s Peak. As we were getting out of the van in front of our hotel, I got a call from the front desk telling me that the decision had been made to close the hotel due to the electricity being out. There was electricity just two blocks away, but this part of Chelsea was dark.

After a good laugh, we went inside and these poor employees were full of smiles despite the fact they had been stuck there since Sunday. They apologized and immediately began calling around trying to find us a hotel. As we neared the one hour mark of these calls, I was having thoughts that we’d be sleeping at Penn Station that night. Another chapter to be written!

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.

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