A Tale of Two Race Days: Runner’s World Hat Trick*

When you are in the race medical tent, they give you a card, and this card lists levels of severity. One of the categories is “deceased.”  Even though I was bummed out by my first DNF, this card put things in perspective:  I was still alive to read it.

As far as the heart palpitations and shortness of breath at Mile 8 of the Half Marathon portion of the Runner’s World Hat Trick?  That put a scare into me for sure.  It takes a lot to get me to stop during a race, and being frightened for my life was a good enough reason for me.

Maybe my comments to Bart Yasso the night before the DNF were ominous, but at the pasta dinner, I told Bart that I felt like I was pushing my luck with the Hat Trick.  Also, in speaking with Meghan Loftus, Senior Editor at Runner’s World, we were discussing our goals for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon.  I mentioned that if “I can survive the next eight days, weather-permitting, I should be in good shape for a PR attempt.”

Pushing my luck” and “Survive

Who knew those comments would take on such heavy weight?

Aside from this scare, there were reasons to be relieved and happy.  Just the day before my DNF, I had an adult PR in the 5k (17:43), and came within 3 seconds of an adult PR in the 10k (38:29).  Second, it was a wonderful weekend spent with my wife in Bethlehem, PA, a great place to be in October (or any month for that matter).  Third, Runner’s World puts on a great show. We had a blast.


…it was hard not to worry about my health and the uncertainty of my next run.  As runners, we want to get out there and…well…run.  Also, I knew dropping out of the race was the right decision; however, I was down about the race.  I felt like I didn’t close out the Hat Trick (hence, the asterisk).

Then, just the day after my DNF, my wife showed me an article about a runner from Northeast Pennsylvania who died of a heart attack after a 5k on Saturday. Her name was Jen Stec, and she was only 38. Well, that woke me up.  I felt silly and selfish for dwelling on my own race.  In hindsight, I was lucky. Jen Stec was not so lucky.  When she laced up her sneakers for that local 5k, she had no idea it would be the last time she would be lacing up her sneakers.  There is no other word for this but tragic.

Sometimes I am morbid.  My wife will tell you that.  In my last post, I joked that the Reaper is undefeated, and our time here is temporary.  Also, I have been guilty of telling my wife that if I ever died during a run, that would be fine with me.  The truth is: this is a load of crap.  My race-scare only confirmed that I am petrified of death.  The jokes are a way to deal with this fear.

Since the race, I have followed up with my doctor, and I even ran again.  When I laced up my sneakers for that run, I was nervous.  I thought about Jen Stec.   She was no different than you or me.  She loved to run.  We love to run.

I am still here, and, if you are reading this, you are still here too.  Let’s not take that for granted.


The Good Day


The Scary Day

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