Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half 2011

From James:

Short version: Sunday was our first non-metaphorical race together. So Young has run many miles alone. On Sunday, she ran 13.1 long miles shoulder-to-shoulder with her best friend. And then fainted. And went to the hospital. (Don’t worry. She’s fine.)

So Young's Bib: 20/20

Long version:

This race started months ago. I figured out the day we needed to start: February 21.  That was just three weeks after radiation ended, but So Young had been walking or running throughout treatment, so she was ready. When training started, she ran three times per week, sometimes less if circumstances didn’t allow or she was too tired. Two short runs, one long run. We even ran together maybe two or three times, culminating in a 10 miler on May 8, one week before the race.

It is very difficult to run all of those miles exclusively on a treadmill. At first, I questioned whether she could run alone outside at all. Could she see cars if she had to cross the street? Would she trip and fall? What if something happened to her far away from home and nobody knew?

I took So Young on a couple of test runs.  I was extremely cautious at first, holding her hand most of the time in case she fell and calling out cracks and curbs before they came. This became very irritating to her. She would tell me to stop, she would stumble, and I would start again. We figured out that the key was for her to lift her feet more. The stumbling stopped, for the most part, although to this day she still trips on irregularities in her path.

So Young also passed the car test. She could see cars driving down the road with 100% accuracy. She just had to pause and look carefully. Finally, she was not allowed to leave the house without her cell phone.

I write the above as if she waited for my approval to run, but honestly, she did not. I would call home and she would be running without my permission many times before I had a chance to test her. She was ready to hit the road.

With almost three months of training behind us, we left for Fredericksburg Saturday morning. There was great complexity in the childcare this time. So Me, Laurie, and Mom and Dad juggled pick-up times and endured much inconvenience to cover for us.

On the day before the race, you go to the expo, get your bib number, and are plied with MCHH gear, fitness products, and sport food samples. There also always seems to be a pull-up contest that I can’t resist (and lose). So Young and I spent the rest of the day on an extended date, carbing and resting up.

We awoke at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. We ate a small breakfast — a bagel and a banana, So Young less so than me — and rushed to WalMart. WalMart is the epicenter of the MCHH. It is very close to the start line, so a lot of people park there and everybody (it would seem) takes a pre-race potty break there.

We didn’t plan to meet anybody before the race, but at WalMart we accidentally ran into many of our friends who were there to run with us or cheer us on: Tongil, KT, Alvin, Sungjin, and John. Paul (So Young’s brother) and Scott (a colleague from work) were also at the race. We saw Paul but never Scott, for reasons that will become obvious later.

Group Shot

The race, which was run by over 5,000 people, started at 7 a.m. So Young ran strong for the entire course but slowed down as it progressed because of pain in her feet that she has had for several years. I think that the after-effects of radiation slowed her down considerably as well. Still, she never walked and was in good spirits until perhaps the last three miles, when the pain became almost unbearable for her.

I have to admit that I was like a giddy tourist for most of the race. I have never run a race this large or this long. I have only seen the MCHH as a spectator (four times). I carried my camera throughout and took pictures so numerous that as I write I wonder what I was thinking while I was taking them. I’ve included a few of the better photos below. This is decidedly not a boring race.

Couple Shot

Looking Very Energetic Before the First Mile Is Done

Big American Flag

American Flag Above the Course Between Fire Truck Ladders


Tongil Rushing to the Finish for Reasons that Remain Unexplained

Tiny Pony

Miniature Horse Near the Halfway Point


Poignant Reenactment of Famous Hugh Mercer Statue

Marine and Reenactors in Old Town

A Marine and Reenactors in Historic Fredericksburg

Real Marine

A Real Live Marine Gives So Young Her Medal While Paul (Also a Real Live Marine) Looks On

We Made It

Bling! We Made It!

After the race, we met up with Sungjin, John, Paul, and Alvin. (Tongil had already left because — like a superhero — he was off to his next gig, which was leading his small group.) We had planned to spend some time together afterward, but we briefly parted ways.

Paul, So Young, and I took the very long walk to WalMart, limping along. I told Paul to stay with So Young while I went to get the car. Moments later, I saw Paul running toward my car. He told me So Young had passed out. I parked and came running. People were calling 911. She was still sitting on the ledge but was clearly disoriented. A woman who was standing there happened to be a nurse from Fairfax. She helped to get So Young to the ground and elevate her feet.

Very shortly, an ambulance arrived. So Young was conscious and now was more aware of her surroundings. They asked questions and examined her. The EMT said that, because So Young has a brain tumor, he recommended that she be taken to the hospital as a precaution. He didn’t think it was anything serious, but just in case. They drove her to the hospital in the ambulance (emergency lights off), and Paul and I followed.

We spent what seemed like an eternity at the hospital. The doctor took great pains to explain that we might be there for a long time, maybe even overnight. So Young underwent many tests: a chest X-ray, bloodwork, a CT scan of her head to check for bleeding, pulse and blood pressure monitoring, etc. Everything turned out normal. They pumped her full of fluids. She felt great. Meanwhile, Paul and I were pretty sure we were going to faint too from a lack of food and end up in rooms 24 and 25 next to her.

We were very surprised to see Dad in a short while. I had called him but didn’t expect him to come down. When I called, he was in church and passed a note to JP saying that So Young had fainted. The entire church prayed for her at the end of the service. 

Dad, if you are reading this, I want you to know how much you encouraged my wife — your daughter — on Sunday. She was very heartened that you cared enough to be there. We really needed somebody right then. Paul and I were pretty spent and useless at that point. You were the right man at the right time, as usual. So Young is still talking about how much that meant to her. Thanks also for the candy! We had run out of money for snacks and were starving.

When it was all over and we were on our way home, So Young remarked that it wasn’t great to go to the hospital, but it sure made for a more interesting story. We also continue to feel very loved by our family and friends through all of this. The many phone calls, text messages, and tweets we received proved it to us, as did the dear friends and family who prayed for us and even physically showed up to be with us.

When we arrived at home, there was a big poster on the door signed by all our neighbors, the kids, and Mom and Dad, along with a bunch of balloons. The poster said, “Way to go So Young! So brave. We’re so proud.”

Front Door

Our Beautifully Decorated Front Door

So Young jokes that she wonders if God is making her go through all of this to convince her that she’s popular, an answer to prayers she’d prayed in middle school. I think it’s more likely that He’s making us go through this long and difficult race to prove that, in the end, He loves us.


7 Responses

  1. I just love the telling of your adventure. Your life together is not boring! I am so happy that this adventure has a joyful ending.

    As always, I am grateful to all of our family, your friends, your neighbors and our church. Above all, I give God the glory for your story.

    • PS: I love the pictures!

    • Hi, Mom. Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Great race report- expertly done :o) So glad So Young is doing well…we will make plans again in the near future. Hugs to you all!

    • Hey Debby. Thank you!!! You are always so encouraging. It was refreshing to see you and enjoy lunch together. You make my heart glad. XOs!

  3. sitting here, in my new living room in PA, crying my eyes out. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! I wish I could have been there.

    • We were hoping to see you too. Enjoy the new place. Until we meet again,

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