Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To Life

My passionflowers

This past Sunday I was to run 16 miles to perform the acid test on my leg; if it started bleeding again I was going to have to bail on running the Charleston Marathon. My plastic test socket was never comfortable during the run and I could feel something wet against my skin only about 6 miles out.

Sweat or blood?

I knew sweat would definitely be inside the liner, but if I stopped and found blood I'd have to call Jennifer to come retrieve my sorry carcass. I decided not to stop...what would it really matter if I was bleeding now or after the 16? Either way I would be calling the race off, BUT if there was no bleeding I would have the semi-long run done and would still feel capable - in the most inadequate sense of the word - of doing the marathon.

My pace waned throughout the run until it reached "excruciatingly slow" on the dial, right next to "dead stop." And I did stop a few times, feeling a sharp pain and discomfort and wondering what I was doing to myself, and how in the hell was I going to run 26.2 miles in such a state. Random thoughts criss-crossed in my mind. I thought of my friend Ashley. I remembered waking up in the recovery room. I thought of how much work and time I had put into this effort. A vision was conjoured up of my dad and our walks to "the rock" in western North Carolina. Inside I could feel the dirt beneath the feet of a boy running through the woods.

Was I to abandon if I could not run as fast I as capable of even if this run went well?

I made a peace with myself, that if I was not bleeding I would do what it took to run this marathon, something was tugging at my soul that it would not be about the finish time, but the time running and seeing that finish line.

Nobody said it would be easy.


It took over 3 hours to run the 16 miles. I ran 13.1 miles 3 weeks prior in under 2 hours.

But I was not bleeding.


I write this from the ProCare lounge where I am hanging out while my first new test socket is being built. As mentioned in a prior post, I have changed prosthetists. Stephen Schulte is methodically working to build a state-of-the-art running prosthesis that I will almost certainly wear in my marathon attempt. Any athlete knows it is usually a very, VERY bad idea to change equipment right before the main event; many a runner have spoken the words "woe is me" or more likely "$*&^!" for changing shoe models days before a race.

This is to say I know the danger I am courting, but it is a risk I have to take. I know my current socket is trouble, it proved that at Kiawah. Even if my new socket feels good right away, from experience I know small imperfections may not show up for a week or two; but in 9 days and a few hours I will be somewhere on the streets of Charleston or North Charleston running my first marathon as an amputee.

Perhaps I will look back in the time to come and say: "Richard what a fool you were to think you could run on that low mileage and on a brand new prosthesis in a marathon! Idiot."

But the gamble I am willing to take, and put my very body on the line for, is to remember hearing this for the rest of my life: "Richard Blalock, from Mount Pleasant, has just finished the Charleston Marathon!"

I will see my dear friend Ashley there. My sweet wife Jennifer will be waiting for me. And the only time that matters will be the here and now.

To life.


  1. This is what you want to do, and where you want to do it. You have come this far so give it your best shot. You will make it, you're a man of real strength. Have a great week.

  2. Hi Ian,

    I am busy preparing myself mentally for the distance. You are right and I feel compelled to do this race, I know there would be deeper pains of regret for not being there in the starting line.

    Thanks for being such a good friend through this journey. The support from you and everyone is more appreciated than I could have imagined, it does help me in a very real way move forward to this goal.

    - Richard