[This is my column in the Sept. 28 issue of The Commercial Review.]
At some point in our lives, we’ve all come across a hero.
We may have seen them on TV, throwing a football, blasting a baseball or making a championship-clinching hoop.
Perhaps they were wearing a different type of uniform.
A firefighter rescuing us — or friends, or family — from a blaze. Maybe it’s a police officer or a paramedic pulling us or a loved one out of an automobile accident.
It could even be a medical professional who helped with rehabilitation, or a doctor who discovers an affliction before it worsens, or a surgeon who saves a life.
There are even fictional heroes. Batman. Superman. Wonder Woman.
But heroes don’t always wear masks or capes.
More often than not, they don’t even have a uniform. They’re just everyday citizens coming to aide someone in need.
I gained two heroes Saturday.
At 8:45 a.m., myself and more than 400 others congregated at Memorial Park in St. Marys, Ohio, awaiting the start of the Grand Lake Half Marathon.
I had a couple goals in mind: I wanted to stick to my plan of running for 2.5 miles then walking for a half mile to conserve energy. These intervals, I hoped, would help me beat my time of 2 hours, 34 minutes, 45 seconds, from the Indy Mini in May.
Six miles in, I had adhered to the strategy and was feeling good despite the humidity and heat — Celina had a record temperature of 93 degrees Saturday. I took full advantage of every water break to stay hydrated.
The third running interval also went smoothly, and I reached the next walking marker at 8.5 miles, near Northmoor Golf Course. As I got to the 9-mile marker, I was looking forward to one final push of 2.5 miles before I got another breather ahead of the last mile.
A quarter mile later I felt it. My left calf started to cramp. At that point, it was minor, so I stretched it out and carried on.
I walked for a little bit more before trying to run again. I needed to get to my next break at 11.5 miles.
The calf cramped again.
Two more times this happened as I tried to get through the final 4 miles.
But I could no longer run. I had to walk the rest of the way.
I looked at my watch and was disappointed for the first time; I surpassed my time from May.
No personal best would be achieved that day.
The 13th mile took us south along the lake on Lake Shore Drive.
I passed Pullman Bay Park, made the second-to-last turn and headed toward an incline. My watch buzzed, telling me I had hit 13 miles. Because I wanted to finish strong I was going to run the final one-tenth of a mile.
Four steps in, my calf locked up.
It felt like I got shot.
I couldn’t relieve the cramp. I had to force my foot to bend to stretch the muscle so I could walk, but even that proved difficult.
I panicked. I wasn’t going to be able to finish.
Out of nowhere came 55-year-old Lisa Masonbrink and 61-year-old Sandra Delzeith.
These two wonderful women provided support, helping to prop me up while I worked out the cramp.
Instead of worrying about their own finish — Sandra was part of the half marathon relay — they never left my side.
I hobbled the final one-tenth of a mile with Lisa and Sandra as my crutches, sunglasses hiding the pain and suffering. As we approached the finish line, I spotted Chrissy at the end of the chute, trying her best to see around medics and other race personnel with concern in her eyes.
Lisa, Sandra and I crossed the finish line — 3 hours, 6 minutes, 13.1 seconds, after I began — and I got placed in a wheelchair and was taken to the medic tent.
There, a Community Sports & Therapy employee provided temporary relief for my cramping muscles.
But the damage was done.
I had never felt more defeated in my life.
If not for Sandra, a St. Henry resident, and Lisa, who’s from St. Marys, I would have never reached the finish line.
I would have been picked up on the course somewhere in the beating sun. Instead I fought the pain, the heartbreak and the mental anguish of not being able to finish on my own.
Some heroes wear capes. Some of them wear masks.
On Saturday, my heroes wore pink and purple; one of them wore a skirt. They had water bottles, running shoes and smiles on their faces.
Most importantly, they had a couple of shoulders to lean on.