Davey Stacy's First Half-Marathon

The 2008 Dayton River Corridor Classic was my first half-marathon. I was 53 at the time, and I had taken up running in 2007 to keep off the 50 pounds I had lost that year. The 2013 DRRC will be my 8th half marathon – 4 of them the DRRC.

The 2008 route went north on the west side of the Great Miami River to the Washington Street bridge, then south on the east side of the river to Sunwatch Village, and back again.

October 12, 2008 was a sunny fall day – perfect weather for a race. I had weeks of preparation under my belt, based on a training plan I found on the web. Nevertheless, I still felt anxious. As I stretched, I marveled at how alone I felt among 500 runners. I didn’t know anyone there.

As the 9 a.m. start time closed in, the runners migrated to the starting line on Edwin C Moses Boulevard. As we formed for the start, my “butterflies” subsided. Somehow I knew I was right where I ought to be on this beautiful fall morning.

The race began. The mass of runners started up like a slinky. Those at the front were running immediately, but those near the back, like me, couldn’t move at a running packing for the first few steps.

Once up and running, we ran north on Edwin C Moses, then crossed the Great Miami River at Washington Street and headed south. I found a pace I thought work for 13.1 miles.

As we neared the Carillon, I was surprised by a young man sprinting past, swerving right and left among us. “He’s fast,” I thought. “Maybe he got lost and had to start late,” I surmised as he disappeared into the sea of runners ahead.

As we turned onto Carillon Boulevard, he re-appeared, walking. I assume he pulled a muscle, but then he began to run again. This went on several more time. Finally, I caught up with him, and said something that sounded like my dad, “Young man, you’re not going to make it that way. You can run my pace. Then when we get near the end, you can take off and sprint to the finish.”

Without a word, he started to run beside me. I began to wonder, “What am I doing? I’m not even sure I can make it, and here I am promising him he can finish.” The stakes were suddenly higher.

We were running side by side and descending the bike trail to the Great Miami River. Most of the runners were in single file, but we ran side by side.

We introduced ourselves. In a cadence in between breaths, we began to chat. His name was Jamar. This was his first half marathon, too. We talked about our jobs, our families, our beliefs. He was studying for a career in law enforcement. We were also brothers in Jesus.

By now the lead runners were returning on the trail. Words of encouragement were being exchanging by runners as well as spectators. I had never before experienced the sense of community there is among runners. Maybe it’s the shared distress, like soldiers in foxholes. Whatever it is, it helped me carry on.

We reached the turnaround point near Sunwatch - halfway with 6½ miles to go. I had started the race feeling alone, but now I had a brother to run with. We had been encouraging each other with an occasional verse from the Bible. However, as the miles wore on, I noticed that Jamar was talking less. At the hydration station near the 10 mile mark, where the trail headed uphill from the river to Carillon Boulevard, he stopped.

He complained of leg cramps and told me he had never run this far before. I urged him to keep going. He did, but more slowly than before. He told me that he signed up at a friend’s suggestion. He had not trained. I marveled – how do you run a half marathon without training?

He also said that his brother bet him he would never finish.

“You’re going to finish,” I assured him.

We were returning north on Patterson Boulevard across from NCR World Headquarters when a runner (his name, I later learned, was Mark) came alongside Jamar on the opposite side. Mark and I were saying a few encouraging words, but Jamar was not talking. He was hurting.

We made it across the Washington Street Bridge, and headed south on Edwin C Moses. After passing St. E’s, we had about a mile to go. Then Jamar stopped again. As we pointed to Welcome Stadium, our finish line, just around the bend, he pulled it together and continued on.

As we neared the Stewart Street intersection, a woman was shouting at Jamar. She was animated. Maybe it was his mom, but whoever it was, the effect was immediate, as Jamar quickened his pace.

As we turned right into the stadium parking lot, heading down the slight grade to the north gate of Welcome Stadium, the end was in site…. a welcome site. One lap around the track and then the finish line.

Once inside the stadium, I was buoyed by the sight and sound of the crowd of spectators and runners who had already finished. The 3 of us finished the half-marathon together in 2 hours and 12 minutes, and Jamar crossed the finish line 9 seconds ahead of Mark and me.

I downshifted to a walk, and accept the bottle of cold water handed to me. I looked around for Jamar, who was surrounded by friends and family. (I secretly hoped one of them was his naysaying brother.) He came over and gave me a hug. No words were necessary.

Then I saw my wife walking toward me. “Ginny, you won’t believe the morning I had…”