Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Half

 Photo: Francis Marion Dirt Dash

We're already signed up for the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, but another half on September 11 has my attention, the Francis Marion Dirt Dash. The race blog is here and they are on Facebook here.

The last few years before I ended my able-bodied running career, I could not have considered this race as it will be on uneven dirt roads. My old right ankle begrudgingly tolerated smooth asphalt and profusely complained with every other step. Walking on an uneven surface caused shouts of pain and why I had to give up cutting my lawn. Those are silent cries these days, muffled with some phantom pain that I deafly ignore.

Before I sign up for this race I am going to run at least part to see how well it is maintained. I believe it will be well within my limits and I shouldn't have any trouble negotiating the small stones and dips with my blade. After all, if Amy Palmiero-Winters can run Western States, I can make 13.1 miles on a dirt road. (Note: since writing this I have signed up for the race and Jennifer will run the 5k.)

As a boy and through high school, one of my favorite running routes was through several fields and by the clay pit mine. Homes have long since sprouted in the fields and an elementary school is situated near the clay pit; the latter you can hardly see anymore with erosion and vegetation reclaiming the mine. But when I was a boy, running in my nylon shorts, cotton tops, canvas shoes, and a sweatband to keep the river of sweat out of my eyes, this was home to many a run.

When I was not running around the block I would run these narrow field roads: sandy, rough, with some hard packed clay and pieces of brick filling larger holes. I rarely saw anyone, but was shot at once when I rounded a bend and startled some trespassing hunters; I suppose I had the "deer-caught-in headlights" look. The shotgun blast rattled leaves in the woods and my heart outran me all the way home.

Most days were peaceful, just me and my hand held Hanhart stopwatch. I recall my pace as typically being in the 6:30/mi range. I can see myself now there now as I write this, a tall, bespectacled goofy kid who ran not because of talent, but because of love.

 My old stopwatch kept by someone who knows good time
So now when I think if this half marathon I have set my sights on, I see that same boy. Now and then, changed but not changed. Oh, I will wear a GPS watch on race day; my old stopwatch hangs in a place of honor in our workout room. One day I hope I will know someone who will honor it, and it will be passed along with joy. Time, precious time, it is stored within that stainless steel case.


These are some of the thoughts this race brings back to mind. The fact the course will be more of a challenge than a road race draws me to it. Knowing I could not have run it with my old ankle brightens the prospect even more. It will likely be my slowest half marathon ever but definitely my fastest as an amputee runner.

I am hoping there are no nervous hunters in the vicinity. "Bagged me a one footed geek, boy howdy!" "Throw 'em back for bait, ain't no meat on those bones, what's left of 'em anyway!"

 Photo: Francis Marion Dirt Dash
Proceeds of this race goes to help the Mount Pleasant Fire Department Wildland Firefighting program.


  1. Richard -

    This sounds like a great event and one that will not only bring back some old memories - but will create some new ones for sure.

    You really make me miss the low-country more and more with every visit to IIAGDTR .... can't wait for the CRBR in the spring.

    Best from steamy Austin, TX - J

  2. Hi Joe,

    I am already looking forward to this race, surprises me just how much. I suppose that is subject matter for a future post.

    Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder and the shrimp and grits taste better. Or something like that.