I thought it would be fun to do 2 National 50K Championships
in one year. The first one was the walking championship on Feb 7,
2010 and the second was the running championship on Mar 20. One
had a median finish time of 5:09 and a dead last time of 6:15. The
average age of the finishers was 48. Stephen Quirke and Erin Taylor
were the winners at 4:23:02 and 4:57:11.
We arrived at the 50K site which is near the KC
Royals/Texas Rangers spring training baseball stadium in Surprise
AZ near Phoenix. It was 6 am and already 50F. It would get to 59F
and sunny by 1pm which is when the last of us finished. The volunteers
were in their long johns, sweaters and overcoats and thought we
were crazy. Meanwhile, I thought: Heat Wave!!
The course was an L-shaped two-way loop which was
1 kilometer long for a total loop length of 2K. There were pinpoint
turns at both ends. We did 25 of these. It was on a blocked off
city street. No trees, shade, entertaining sights or rock and roll
bands. There were six USATF judges on the course. Each saw us 50
times each during the race. We saw each other coming and going about
We got underway at 7am with 25 walkers attempting
the 50K distance along with others doing 10 and 20K. Since the field
was comprised of many elite walkers, I concentrated on going out
slow during the first loop while I got into my rhythm. At the end
of the 2nd loop, I got a dreaded bent knee call. Racewalking requires
that one maintain contact with the ground at all times, and that
the front leg land with a straight knee and that knee must remain
straight until vertical. This infraction was my first in four years,
and we were only allowed three in the race. I passed the infraction
board and noticed that someone (a 10K walker) had already been disqualified
from the race. At this point, I was forced to concentrate on each
step. This put a huge psychological burden during the remaining
46K of the race.
I was soon passed by an electric auxiliary vehicle
with a camera. This made me feel important, since the camera was
aimed at me. I soon realized it was aimed at the lead walker, who
was about to lap me. This happened several times during the race.
Fortunately, I’m a slow learner, and I got a psychological
pickup each time it happened.
After 2.5 hours, only the 50K walkers were left.
I saw the other walkers coming and going and watched as they become
more and more agitated. Walking forms started to deteriorate, some
walkers started talking to themselves and 7 imploded towards the
end of the race with a DNF or a disqualification. Meanwhile, I had
Lithium by Evanescence running through my head. It’s a song
about choosing the pain and sorrow of manic depression over the
numbness of medication. Later, I realized how appropriate it was.