July 4, 2011 7:30 AM
Owen's recollections of July 4th, 2011:
We awoke at 5:00am, got our running gear on that we had set out the night before. We were staying in the Courtyard Hotel, about a mile from the finish line. The race didn't start until 7:30am, but we needed to catch a train to the starting line, as it was a point to point race and we wanted to secure our positions early. Here is how Kyle and Alicia were sleeping as we left.
Michael and I walked about 1/4 mile to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station. There, we bought our passes and boarded a train headed North. Once on the train we noticed we had boarded the wrong train, this train forked away from the path we wanted. Some other runners mentioned we could stay on and just walk a tiny bit further and it's actually better because there are less people coming from that direction. I decided I wanted to stick to my plan so we got off at the next station and waited to board the correct train.
Gary, Michael, and I had a nice conversation while waiting for the train to arrive. He asked where we were from, when we answered Charlotte, he mentioned how he was once injured while running at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Michael and I had just ran 8 miles there a couple of weeks earlier and had decided not to do it again for fear of injury. They welcome runners, but the paths are more designed for mountain-bikers. Tree roots are everywhere, Michael tripped and fell 5 separate times during our run. I turned an ankle, but did not injure myself.
Once the train arrived, we boarded and sat across from Gary. We asked him to take our picture, below:
Saying goodbye to Michael in the streets of downtown Atlanta, in the dark, knowing that 60,000 runners and 150,000 fans would be in the area was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. We had purchased a pre-paid cell phone that he carried with him, and we had plans of what we would do at the finish area to reunite.
Because we were so early, I was able to secure a position at the front of start wave 'D'. From there I snapped the following pictures and video.
|Still very early, Michael is down there under the flag in starting wave 'A', while I am back in starting wave 'D'.|
|Michael's group is starting.|
|Group C is starting, I'm next...|
I had to wait about 90 minutes by myself, hoping Michael was OK. I called him once and he was just as brave as can be. Two noteworthy memories during this 90 minute wait: 1) While waiting I was talking to a stranger, making small talk. I asked if he had kids and if they were running. He said he did have a son, but that he was not running because he was only 10. Pretty funny in my position with my 10 year old son down there out of sight, preparing for his run. 2) They sang the National Anthem, concluded by the most amazing F16 flyover. That was an amazing moment, I thought the buildings were shaking they were so low and loud.
When the race started for group 'A', tears were rolling down my cheeks, as they are now as I write this. Just a few minutes later, they were marching us up to the start line and I was off.
I wanted to take pictures and/or video during the race, but it was so crowded I was worried I'd run over someone if my focus wasn't 100% on weaving in and out of the slower runners. My goal was to be below 50 minutes (8:04 per mile). I think I could have achieved that if I was up with Michael, but back in start wave 'D' I had to navigate constantly to pass people, slowing down, speeding up, etc. At the end of the race my Garmin said I had run 6.35 miles (on a 6.2 mile course). My time ended up at 51:06 (8:15 per mile).
After I finished, I collected my finisher's shirt, and started to make my way over to the area we had planned to meet up. I called Michael, but he had accidentally turned his phone off! Luckily he did that after talking to Malissa and they had already met up. I talked to Malissa and told her exactly where I was and we reunited with no issues.
Come to find out, Michael had met up with Gary (from the train) during the race. Gary took Michael under his wing and really helped Michael, by pacing him, helping him at the water stations, etc. Michael finished with a time of 48:19 (7:48 per mile).
We made our way back to the hotel room, collecting free popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, peaches, and Powerade along the way. We showered, called our parents, and relaxed for a while at the hotel room before packing up and heading home.
While on the ride home, Malissa and I discussed Gary and how awesome it was that he was there to protect Michael. We decided we would try to find him (at the time I didn't even know his name). When marathonfoto.com released their pictures, we were anxious to find every one with Michael in it so we could get Gary's race number, then use the results to find his name. I was quite disappointed when he wasn't in a single picture with Michael.
We then received an email from Gary, who had looked at the results for 10 year olds and found the fastest one, then Googled his name. He remembered we were from Charlotte, which is also listed in the results. His Google search led him to this blog, where he commented and gave us his email address. We have now exchanged emails and are friends on Facebook. I hope to meet up with him again one day.
Here are some pictures Malissa took at the finish area.
Kyle, Alicia, and I woke up at 6am. While I was getting dressed I got a phone call from Owen saying he had just dropped Michael off at starting wave 'A'. I began to panic a bit because I thought Owen was going to stay with Michael until right before he started. Owen reassured me everything was going to be okay and then a few seconds later I got a call from Michael. He sounded so little but grown up on the other side of the phone. He was telling me about the train ride and how he was so excited for the race to start.
After I got off the phone with Michael we finished getting dressed and then started walking to the finish line. We walked a little over a mile, weaving in and out of people. I was focused, all I wanted to do was get to the area where the runners would be as soon as they were finished with the race so I could get my baby! I was standing next to a lady who was waiting for her 13 year old son. Like Michael, this was his first 10k. We both were waiting anxiously looking for our sons to come through the white gates. We were getting a little nervous when we didn't see them come through the gates at the time that we thought they would. I worried that because Owen was not there to pace Michael that he might have started out too fast and was having a hard time finishing. Then I got the call I was waiting for (I'm so thankful we bought Michael the prepaid phone). He finished the race and was waiting for me at the A balloon. In the park where I was waiting to pick Michael up they had balloons set up with each letter of the alphabet on them so you could make plans ahead of time to meet at a specific balloon after the race. We told Michael to meet us at the L balloon and then give us a call. Again I was so glad that we gave him the phone because he said he didn't hear us tell him that and that he decided to go to a random balloon.
As soon as I saw Michael's face I was a happy mom and was ready to have fun.
Here are few pictures I took of the massive crowd of finishers. It was so crazy!
While we waited to get a phone call for Owen we went searching for a Georgia peach. You can't run in the Peachtree Road Race and not eat a peach afterwards.