As Marathon Numbers Go, the Red Hills Kids are Number 1

David Yon, February 10, 2022

What is in a number? How about 4:41:57?

The Tallahassee Marathon has been run 47 times now and I have run it at least 10 times. The numbers 4:41:57 represents my time for the 2022 race and my slowest by a long shot. I know everyone who finishes should be thankful – and I am – but I had really hoped to run a lot faster. Something much closer to 4 hours.

So, what is in a number. What does the time on a clock mean when you cross the finish line of a marathon? How about 1:59:40? Even though it did not count as a world record, it is the fastest anyone has ever run the marathon distance and it represented the same kind of breakthrough performance Roger Bannister’s sub 4-minute mile did in 1954.

No worries however as Eliud Kipchoge, the man who ran that time, also ran the officially recognized word record time – 2:01:59 at the Berlin marathon in 2018. For women the magic number is a 2:14:04 run in the 2019 Chicago Marathon by Brigid Kosgei.

Red Hills relay team success story

Bryan Morseman ran 2:28:44 to win his 4th Tallahassee Marathon and Tamara Kozulina put her numbers on the board with a 3:24:14 which

was good enough to win the women’s title. More numbers that tell a happy story.

The story that cannot be beat arises from the numbers 4:07:58, 3:37:37, 3:06:55 and 3:08:39. Those numbers tell the story of the Red Hills Running Club relay teams. Two teams of middle and elementary school kids grabbed the top two co-ed relay team spots. Led by Trent Parsons and friends the first team averaged a 7:08 and second team a 7:12 pace for the 26.219 miles.

Each team had 4 runners. These numbers tell the tale of great things to come for this group of hardworking, fun-loving runners. They turned portions of the course into a scream tunnel as they cheered for other runners, their coaches and each other.

Running with Parkinson’s

So, what about that time of 4:41:57? It is hard to look at. Does it mean the Parkinson’s Disease is progressing at a faster pace? Maybe I just wasn’t in good enough shape to try to go 26.219 miles. I am getting older too.

The Red Hills Running Club relay teams, two teams of middle and elementary school kids, grabbed the top two co-ed relay team spots.

Flip back a few (OK a lot of) years to 1985. I ran my first marathon in the time of 2:58:24 through Killearn neighborhoods, on a cold day. Numbers under 3 hours earn a smile. 2:48:14 marks my first and successful effort to qualify for Boston in 1986. In 1994, I ran Boston in 2:43:57, the fastest time I would ever run. Of course, I started slowing down long before I was diagnosed.

Not many people enduring Parkinson’s Disease have been fortunate enough to continue running. Michael Westfall is one such person. He was diagnosed with Parkinson in 2006 and believed it probably began noticeably affecting him in 2003. Westfall has issues with what seems to be a fairly strong case of dyskinesia. He does not let it stop him.

In an interview with Runner’s World he reports: “My neurologist says that it is quite unusual for someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s to exercise and move as fast as I do,” he added. “I may just be the exception to the rule or just lucky, but I think part of my positive results of running with this disease is the runner’s high, or as the doctors might put it, the increased production of dopamine in my brain.”

Westphal reports he ran a 4:19 mile in school and after graduating he ran a 1:10:50 and 2:29:32 personal bests, respectively. Since his diagnosis he has run a 3:32:56 marathon and a 3:12:33. Those are tough numbers to chase.

Cheers amid the struggle

For me running is such a critical part of the battle with Parkinson Disease. It is the measure of the distance from today to “the battle for dignity.”

Three. That is the number of times I felt tears welling up in my eyes on Sunday. The first came at the exchange zone on Springsax Road. The members of the Red Hills Running Club were yelling for me louder than anyone ever has. While it was near the 11- or 12-mile mark of the race, I was already dying, slowing down.

They sent an electrical shock down my spine that got me though the next

few miles. They would show up several times around the course. That was number 1. The second was running back along the St. Marks Trail, maybe near the 21-mile mark. My pace was so slow and slowing down more.

Eventually, I made the turn onto Copeland Street and then right on Madison Street and headed for the finish. Somewhere along that route “the kids” from the Red Hills began running beside me and shouting encouragement to Coach David as loud as they could.

It was an hour and a half, at least, after they had finished. The numbers 4:41:57 didn’t seem too mean much at that time at all.

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