“Look at that runner — he ran the race backwards!”
I was at mile 26 of the 2013 NYC Marathon when I heard someone shout this over the din. Then, as more and more spectators began cheering, I realized all the hoopla was for the marathon oddity in their midst — me. What had started as a humiliating, last-ditch attempt to keep moving forward, but backwards, was suddenly garnering me the most cheers I heard all day.
Moments earlier, I had been stopped cold by my two hamstrings. Clenched like angry fists, the muscles had finally rebelled against running 26 miles, much of that distance into a 15-mph headwind. To worsen matters, my marathon-brain had mistaken the 26-mile banner as the actual marathon finish line and I had given a final push to reach what I thought was the end of the race. I had run 26 miles, only to be stumped by the last two-tenths.
Now, anchored to the ground by two steel rods in the back of my legs, I was desperate. Spectators urged me to keep going as hundreds of runners flew past in their final push to the finish. Thoughts of shame crept into my head as I was representing the North Brooklyn Runners (NBR) and not closing out the race like a forward-running boss. After-all, I was only taking part thanks to NBR’s generosity, as I had been awarded one of their allotted team spots.
Ironically, besides the muscular problems, I felt amazing, and buoyed by the crowds I was experiencing a kind of runner’s high. Suddenly, due to nothing more than pure instinct, I turned around and started walking — then running — backwards. My body had subconsciously found the path of least resistance.
After a few steps of this unorthodox stride, the supporters lining the course began taking note of the one guy running the wrong way (in the right direction), and heaps of praise were directed towards me for having completed a marathon in reverse. I felt like a fraud, but it was too much to explain, so I gratefully accepted the cheers and smiled and continued butt-first. As I approached the actual finish, I gingerly tested a forward stride and to my surprise the hamstrings didn’t cramp. I crossed the line, feet first, in 3:17:40, 2372nd overall, spent and content.
Disposable Gear For Warmth.
Pre-Cramps, Sunday Funday.