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.