Last place finisher’s words of wisdom

CApuF8gUIAELnq1Some races just aren’t your day. Saturday’s Rodes City Run wasn’t mine. But it was Asia Ford’s.

Ford, 35, was in last place. Some 6,300 other runners and walkers were ahead of her. Behind her, just the vehicles noting the end of participants. Not the place you want to be. But for Ford, being there at all was enough.

Ford has lost more than 200 pounds in the past two years, down from 474 pounds. As she walked with her son, she began to feel sick around mile 4.

Louisville Metro Police Lt. Aubrey Gregory noticed Ford was struggling. He checked on her, and Ford said she was determined to finish. They ended up walking the last 2 miles hand-in-hand. Lt. Gregory said he got goose bumps watching Asia raise her hands as she crossed the finish line.

“There aren’t words to express the way I felt seeing her be successful.”

As runners, we’ve all seen the mantra: “DFL > DNF > DNS.” While Ford may have been the last finisher, there’s an awful lot of people who didn’t finish, and even more who didn’t start.

She said it best herself on Facebook:

“WE MADE IT!!! This 6.2 miles meant more to me than any race ever so my message today is, You don’t have to be 1st, AS LONG AS U DON’T GIVE UP AND U FINISH…YOU ARE A WINNER ( :”

I’m taking Ford’s to heart. I didn’t have the race I wanted. I struggled. But I finished.

Historically, 10k races have not been my favorite distance. But, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg scenario — I’ve also only toed the line for six of them, I think, since 2007. To my credit, there also aren’t that many. I can only count two in the spring in Louisville, and one of them is smack in the middle of the Triple Crown.

But, I ran a solid one last July, with some perfect negative splits and a strong kick for a huge PR. When I looked ahead to the Rodes City Run 10k, I was hoping for another PR. Another PR wasn’t in the cards, but as one of my New Balance Louisville teammates said, “Don’t let one race get you down.”

There were a lot of factors, I suspect, that contributed to not running as I had hoped. My preparation on Friday was totally off, having taken a half-day off work to watch basketball with my husband. My warmup was short, ended early to spend 10 minutes waiting for a port-a-john. No strides … heck, I didn’t even have my bib until I got into the corral.

And if I reflect farther back, I didn’t feel great running all week and I got some new — and challenging — exercises from my physical therapist on Wednesday. So for three days before the race, I added ski jumper squats and one-legged squats to my regimen, along with some other treats.

The first mile felt fine and I was right on pace. But, RCR is a trick race that goes slightly downhill for the first mile and then straight into a tough climb. I slowed down, but I made up ground going up the hill. I thought as I crested, things would click into place. No dice. I had pain in my left quad and my right calf kept cramping/giving out every time I tried to pick up the pace. I gave up and struggled/hobbled in at 41:03, well off my 39:30 goal that matched my McMillan Calculator predictions.

Despite how I felt about my own performance, race organizers did a great job. They modified the route this year because of downtown construction, but managed to keep the hard hill in there. The elite corral was nicely organized, and there were probably enough port-a-johns if I hadn’t waited to the last few minutes. I would’ve liked to see more crowds out, but it was a crazy day in Louisville with the NCAA tournament also going on downtown. Some parts of the course aren’t easy for spectator access, either. That didn’t stop former Louisville Mayor/former Lieutenant Governor/current White House advisor Jerry Abramson (also a runner) from finding a corner to cheer from — and people saw him both coming and going, so he was there for the duration!

In particular, I want to give a big shoutout to race organizers and the Louisville Water Company for replacing 30,000 water bottles with biodegradable cups. We are proud of our Pure Tap water here in Louisville and it’s great to see the city finding ways to be greener.

The post-run area was nicely organized, with plenty of room to move around and find your snacks. I’d give a big thumbs up for that and point to it as a great option for other races to consider.

In addition, we had a great team day … with a win (again!) in the women’s team division, six top-25 finishes, four age group wins and two personal records (both by some 90-plus seconds)!

635625421251388846-03-21-15-RodesCityRun-05Team New Balance Men:

  • Andrew Danner – 8th (1st in AG)
  • David Grieshaber – 16th (1st in AG)
  • Brian Lindsey – 22nd (5th in AG)
  • Nate Dotterwich – 42nd
  • Mike Leghart – 80th

Team New Balance Women:

  • Shannon Knabel – 10th (1st in AG)
  • Jenna Lee – 15th (1st in AG)
  • Tracy Green – 18th (3rd in AG)
  • Jacki Cassady – 63rd
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