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The Half Marathon

The morning of the half marathon arrived a teensy bit too early and we were thankful for not totally being adjusted yet to the two hour time difference in LA. The previous day we walked over 15K steps and my feet were already feeling it. We got up at 5am, snarfed down some banana nut muffins, globbed sun screen all over, and scurried out the door to meet my family at the metro station.

Green Bay has a small bus route that I’ve never used and certainly nothing fancy like a metro so this was an experience.

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Ok, an experience for maybe 15 minutes 😉 because clunking along for over an hour wasn’t all that great. Plus, I was jostling with a full cup of Starbucks iced coffee in my tummy and really, really needed to pee. lol We got off the metro and looked around and there was literally NO place with a public bathroom. Ben and I darted ahead of the family to find some port-a-potties or restrooms along Long Beach. We found the port-a-potties and 4 out of the 5 had no toilet paper (and this is at 7am folks). Bad news for the rest of the day!!

So after a little more excitement than I needed, we were all settled and able to walk around and check out Long Beach prior to the race start. There was a hustle and bustle of pre-race excitement in the air but also a sereneness that only comes from the early morning.

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It was slightly humid but wonderfully overcast which was exciting after the previous day’s unrelenting sun.

Alex was the only guy on the USA team – which was pretty exciting. We also learned that they opened the race up to the public so people could “run with the Olympians” 15 minutes after the official start for the athletes. There were a ton of spectators and even a “dream team” cheering squad.

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Now, I usually get slightly nervous and emotional anytime Alex runs a big race and seeing him in the starting corral at the WORLD GAMES – I was a blubbering mess. It’s nothing you can put into words but there is such pride in knowing where he was as a little kid who couldn’t talk and couldn’t feel his feet to being on the Olympic stage representing his country.

I couldn’t handle being right at the start, so I walked a little ways down the road to see him as he passed the first turn.

And they’re off…

HM Start

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The runners turned down the road and then would loop back on the first mile so we were able to get a very early sense of where people were settling in.

half 6At that point we were fairly limited due to a lack of transportation, so we scoured the course map and found a spot where the runners would loop by at 5 and 6.5 miles in. So we slowly walked and enjoyed the sights.

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Dad split up from us and tried another spot on the course where he was able to get an Alex sighting and report back on how he was looking…

half 7Meanwhile we ran into the public restrooms at Long Beach! I was excited for a non port-a-potty… until I walked in. OMG! The bathrooms at Long Beach are wide open. My jaw hit the floor. You have a stainless steel toilet without a lid and only a half-wall without a door so if you’re sitting on the toilet and looking forward, you won’t see the person next to you, but anyone walking in would. Wow – port-a-potties with no TP are looking better and better all the time! I think I’ll have nightmares about those restrooms for years. 🙂

We settled into our spot along the course and suddenly the clouds seemed to disappear and the hot, hot heat was back! It was a quick scramble for shade.

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I’m not joking; it was HOT. I was dying under the shade and that was just standing. I have no idea how the runners plugged along… but they did. Mile after mile we got reports and pictures of Alex’s progress.

half 8 19593697323_7aa9617d7c_o 084 After he passed us and was screamed, yelled, and cheered at – we walked back to the finish line to wait out the other half of the race. Ben and I found the family tent (which was thankfully out of the sun and had more cold water!) but I got more antsy and worried. Alex never runs in this heat and we weren’t sure how he’d hold up in the final miles.

Unable to sit anymore, I dragged Ben and we slogged along Long Beach away from the finish line so we could position ourselves to cheer Alex one final time and hopefully give him a needed push at the very end. It was picturesque but brutal. Long Beach is LONG and unforgiving without trees to break up the hot sun. The course had a long stretch out and then a loop back in and across the finish. We walked about a mile out, decided that was as far as we could go, and tried standing in the shadows of the walking signs for what tiny bit of shade they could give. As we waited for Alex to loop back, we could see all the other racers running out and they looked beat. They were sluggish, grimacing and HOT. So Ben and I started wildly cheering for every single person trying to eek smiles and give encouragement where we could.

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Before we knew it Alex was whizzing past and we whooped, screamed, and yelled until I was hoarse and completely in tears as he raced off to the finish. We didn’t know how everything ended until we walked back to the finish but everyone else captured the final moments.

half 10 half 13 Half Marathon Finish Half Marathon Finish 2 HM Finish

That final picture above was one of ESPN’s “top ten sports photos of the week”

In temperatures over 90 degrees, Alex trimmed 4 minutes off his personal best, broke the USA national World Games half marathon record by more than 8 minutes… and got the medal we’ve been waiting for.

half 11 Alex Podium

No words, even now… Just so much pride and happiness.

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6 Responses

  1. Congratulations, Alex! Alex and his family should be so very proud. A great experience for all of you. I have a “special needs” daughter, so I understand how you are feeling about Alex.

  2. A BIG congratulations to Alex! What wonderful pictures that brought tears to my eyes. My family and I wanted to attend the games this year but as you know it was just too hot. My grandson is 17 months old and is disabled. He was born with CdLS (Cornelia de Lange Syndrome). He was born without hands and only the ulna bone in each arm. I hope, dream and know that one day he will be competing because he has such a drive to show people that he can do the things they never thought he could.

    • That’s wonderful that he already is showing drive and determination! Special Olympics has a great CA program and we met several of the LA athletes while we were there. It would definitely be a great program for him when he’s older! Good luck to him 🙂

  3. OH my gosh! How amazing! That photo at the end is incredible, too!

  4. What a GORGEOUS location for a run!!!

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