April 30, 2012

Would you stop to help?

This is a question we asked ourselves at the Oak Barrel Half because at some point we saw a man down with two other runners helping him while they waited for medical. Eventually a couple other people stopped running as well to help him out.

So what would it take for you to stop a race and help? Hopefully I'm not the most heartless person in the universe to think that stopping is a sacrifice. You work for months to train for a marathon or half marathon, and you don't get bonus points at the finish line for friendliness. Though I wish we did because I could probably work that angle better than the speedy-legs angle.

We guessed that some runners are obligated to stop because they are medical professionals who take an oath to help others. Some might stop because they are running with the person who needs help. Maybe others just feel tired anyway and see it as an opportunity to quit running. Then there are just some really nice people out there who see a person in need and do what needs to be done.

Well, I found the answer to my question (for myself) at Nashville this weekend. Somewhere around mile 22, I came up behind a girl who had stopped running and was weaving back and forth. Three runners before me stopped running to check and make sure she was OK. She waved them off but kept weaving, so then I stopped to ask if she needed help. She continued to say she was fine, so I eventually kept going after she started stretching and wasn't weaving anymore. Nothing earth shattering, but I felt like I was in a zone where I wasn't into my music and more aware of my surroundings. Both of which helped me to be more aware of a weaving person who might have needed help.

I wish I could say that I did something heroic. Pretty much the opposite because I probably should have stayed with her even though she said she didn't need help, but I was glad to know that I'm not totally heartless when it comes to stopping a race and helping someone. Although at that point, I wasn't doing much racing, so I think that put me in the I'm-stopping-to-help-because-I-want-to-stop-running-anyway category. Oh well, it's better than nothing.

This situation reminded me of how independent runners are as well. Mostly when I race with friends (with the exception of my brother, who happens to be an awesome friend too), we do our own thing. We don't feel like we have to stick together, so if one of them got injured, I might never know. Also, if I got injured on the course, I wouldn't want them to stop for me, unless it was something that needed immediate attention. If I just pulled or tweaked something, I would want them to keep it moving. It's easy to say when this hasn't ever happened, so if you are my friend and reading this, this will be like my living will of running. Don't stop. Keep moving. Unless I'm dying. Then stop.

Knowing that I feel this way, it makes sense that the weaving girl in Nashville kept waving us on. She probably feels that similar runner's independence.

At the same time, the thing that helped me make it to the finish line on Saturday was talking with other runners, no matter how brief. I was in desperate need of some motivation, which wasn't coming from within after some point in the race. So even though we are independent as runners, all of us benefit from the help of others at some point in our running, even if it isn't a medical emergency.

I'm looking forward to finish line pictures from Nashville because as I rounded the corner to the finish some runner dude was like, "Let's do this. Push it. Push it. You've got this. Now raise your arms high for the finish." I wondered if that's what it's like to have a race pacer. He was awesome, and I really needed his help at that moment. I could have also used him at miles 18-26. I'm curious to see if it looks like we are a running team in our finish pics because for the last 30 seconds of the race it kind of felt like we were. Go Team Random Strangers!

I've been having a lot of random thoughts since the race, trying to reflect and learn from the experience. So you might get more of these Jack Handey-esque posts this week.

And since I brought him up, here are a couple Jack Handey-isms to send you into the night.

Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.
If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is...and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them.

Oh wait, and this one was always my favorite back in the day.

Anytime I see something screech across a room and latch onto someone's neck, and the guy screams and tries to get it off, I have to laugh, because what IS that thing?! 


I think I quoted that a million times through high school and college. Yes, we were nerdy.

Have you ever had to stop a race to help another runner?  

Do you run your races with a partner? I'm thinking it might be nice to have a partner for my next marathon.

Favorite Saturday Night Live sketch? Amy Poehler's one-legged woman. I could never get enough of that.

16 comments:

  1. I probably haven't watched enough SNL to have a favorite skit. I enjoy watching how bad the hosts can screw up their lines.

    Depending on the race (usually just 5K's) Allan and I will run together unless he's shooting for a new PR. It helps to have him push me.

    I haven't stopped to help another runner but I've also never seen anyone that needed help that didn't already have one or two people helping them. I think I would stop if someone needed help though.

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    1. My brother pushes me too! That's just one of the reasons I love running with him.

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  2. Glad to see you back from the marathon! Would I stop to help someone? I would like to think I would - probably not if there were others, though. I have no expertise to offer, so aside from support, I would be fairly useless and just in the way. I have to say, though, that after doing Pikes Peak - where so many people were dropping off the trail like flies -- and others were asking them if they were okay -- then, yeah, I would stop and ask.

    I don't race with a partner. I am not a strong enough runner yet to support anyone else besides myself. :)

    Sorry, I never seem to stay up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live. :(

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    1. Wow, Pikes Peak sounds cruel. And there are plenty of runners who would love your support!!!

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  3. I have "sort of" stopped to help a runner. I was running a marathon and a man was weaving and stumbling in front of me. He fell and got back up. I asked him if he was okay and of course he answered "yes". He continued to weave and stumble and I quickened my pace to find the next volunteer and to tell them to radio for help. It was the best way I knew how to help the man who obviously should be pulled from the course. The image of the stumbling weaving runner does stick with you for a while though.

    I do have friends that run races with, but we run our own race and plan to celebrate or commiserate at the finish line.

    As for Saturday Night Live -- I cannot remember the last time I was awake at that hour.

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    1. That's a good idea to tell the volunteers. I wish I would have thought of that on Saturday. Of course, I was just a notch above stumbling around myself, so that might explain my lack of ideas. But now that you've mentioned, I'm going to keep it in my emergency mind pocket for later use.

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  4. During the Chicago Marathon this past year when my family was waiting for me, a guy fell over and started seizing at mile 13. One runner was a doctor and stopped and my aunt was a spectator who helped while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. It took awhile for the ambulance to get there because of the chaos and street closures, so my aunt was glad that there were people there to help!

    Thinking whether I would stop and help is definitely a hard question. Sometimes when I'm running, I'm in the zone and not paying attention to those around me. If I was a pace leader or running with someone for support (and not trying to PR), I think I would be more aware and helpful. I guess saying that sounds kind of selfish.

    I have a few friends that I've run races with before. Maggie and I are usually a similar pace so we have a little friendly competition at local races and run/train well with each other.

    I have way too many SNL skits to name a favorite. I like when they do compilation shows. "Best Commercials" has to be one of my favorite episodes. So many great classics!!

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    1. That's scary, especially with such a crowded venue. I agree that being in the running zone makes it harder to even notice if someone goes down. Especially if I have in my headphones, which I usually do.

      Remember Will Ferrell's Goulet? Priceless.

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  5. I have run races with a partner before where both of us crossed the finish together and others where we stuck together for a good bit before we ended up separating. I have been on both the "leaving my partner" and "being left" end of things and really after 30 seconds of feeling guilty or like a failure for not being able to keep up, it was back to work trying to finish the race. But never any hard feelings.

    In my 1st marathon, I started running with random strangers at mile 22 (they had met at mile 21) and we all pushed each other to the end. It was awesome and I don't know what kind of (mental) condition I would have finished in without them.

    As for stopping to help, I like to think I would...last year at XTERRA the girl in front of me took a nasty fall coming out of the mudpit. I stopped briefly to check on her and make sure nothing was broken but when she said she was OK I ran on to the finish. But if there are already people surrounding the runner, I would assume they were getting the help they needed b/c I'm not a medical professional and don't have any special skills to offer.

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    1. That is so cool you found random strangers to run the last four miles of your marathon with. I so needed that on Saturday.

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  6. No...I've never stopped to help another runner because I havne't run enough races to really see the knarly stuff. I am a critical care nurse so if someone was really "DOWN" You better bet I would be the first responder, CPR and all, That;'s what I do but if it's a knee scrape, forget it, I've got a time to keep up:) I have NEVER run a race with a partner but I am planning a marathon with a fellow runner/blogger who I have never met. Should be fun and interesting! and I never watch TV because we're too poor for cable:) xoxoxo Hanna

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    1. Which race are you guys doing? That will be so fun. I've loved meeting other runner bloggers in real life.

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  7. I haven't stopped....yet....but I think I would. I tend to notice those around me and have seen one runner really down and out. I slowed to access the situation and realized there was a man with her calling in support. There was nothing more I could do except appreciate that I could still run on.

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  8. I've never come across someone who needed medical attention while I was racing, but my training partner once flipped out due to heat exhaustion and scared the crap out of me! Luckily, after lying in the shade for a bit and drinking water he was able to walk back to where we started. We gotta watch out for each other!

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  9. I had a pep-talk runner in Nashville too! I started walking (blaming that on the blister the size of Texas on my big toe) and a random woman reached for my arm and said "Just jog a little with me." We didn't talk much (probably because I was on the verge of tears for walking so early in the race), but just having her encourage me meant so much. She inspired me to pick up my pace again. I turned around to look at her bib number so I could make a mental note to thank her, but she wasn't even wearing a bib. Local runner, maybe?

    After that experience, I have made it a point to encourage others along the way. Sometimes as runners, we are a very selfish bunch... Thank you Random Runner Girl for reminding me that we all need a little help.

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    1. That's so cool that she helped you out! I swear I love these people who spread cheer on the courses. And blisters are the worst!

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