Heartbreak in the Heartland – Michigan State #30, Indiana State #31, Illinois State #32

20140610-191039-69039261.jpgMy well orchestrated plan was  to run 6 marathons in one week. Granted this was a very ambitious goal and as it turned out maybe a little too ambitious. Much to my dismay I was only able to add three more states to my goal.
By the time I got to the first race in the Heartland Series I had already been in the Great Lakes area for 4 days. I was more anxious than ever to finally get a marathon under my belt especially after the Minnesota race canceled. (refer to post “Medal of Shame”)

The morning of the Michigan Marathon in Niles, Michigan I sprang out my sleeping bag at 5:00 am and folded my tent away then I stuffed it in the back of the mini van. I hurried and got all ready just itching to hit the road. Not more than 10 minutes after the start of the race the downpour began that lasted for entire day. (Just as a sidenote, no one even thought about canceling the race so I’m still a little embittered about the Minnesota cancelled race)
I felt great the entire race, so good I in fact I accidentally ran an extra mile. Actually it had nothing to do with my feelings truth is I just got lost for a short time. I finished at 27.2 miles with a time of 5:20. The trail ran along a river.
As the marathon progressed bunnies, ducks and a variety of forest inhabitants started migrating to the path trying to get dry since the grass was soaking wet. This would seem to be nature watching at its best but have you ever jockeyed for position with a duck? FYI they don’t get scared and are more than willing to fight for a good dry spot.
My running buddy Blaine has a reputation of removing his shirt during races. Some say he does it for the ladies. Others claim he does it to make the men jealous of his Greek God like body. But I found out the truth. His sensitive skin chaffs badly when he gets too wet from sweat or rain. So about half way through the race off came the shirt. If you asked Blaine why he removes it he’ll say it’s to scare anyone with eyes.
This was the most beautiful course of the entire series it was around a Thomas Kinkade style lake with a tree lined path. The trail was flat and paved. Large turtles rested on floating logs in the lake.
While looking for a place to put my tent near the starting line the night before the race I saw an above the knee amputee with a pair of shorts on walking his dog. I got very excited to talk to a fellow amputee but first I had to get his goat.  I walked up to him and said, “Hey I like your fake leg!” he had a stunned expression of shock. He couldn’t believe someone would be so brazen. After a few seconds of awkward silence I picked up my pant leg And said, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” When I saw the smile appear on his face I knew he got my joke.
He was just as excited to talk to me as I was to talk to him. We exchanged stories that night. He was very interested in seeing how I looked when I ran. I invited him to come watch the race next day and sure enough he and his wife showed up to cheer me on. I challenged him to start running and maybe even try a marathon. Maybe I planted a seed of hope that day.
We where able to see a lot of territory in Illinois. The City of Chicago was very crowded. In other areas I was met by a lot of farm land. Nothing but wide open spaces and corn growing everywhere.My impression of the state was that it was having some hard economic times.This was my least favorite course of this series. Boring, flat and no trees for shade, I got baked by the sun beating down on me for the entire run. The heat slowed my time way down.
As I was running the marathon three little girls I ran by looked at my prosthetic running blade. I stopped during the race and took time to talk with them. The younger one, probably five, asked me “why do you have such a weird leg”. I explained that I had been in an accident and lost my real leg and that I had this one made for me so I could run. They were fascinated. The older sister thanked me for stopping and taking a moment to talk to them.As we neared the end of race we were all told at the water table that the course was too long and it had been modified! The race director shortened it by a half a mile. I was all for running a little less. Because there were no trees you could see everyone in the park just by looking up. Very strange but I guess it would prevent anyone from cheating.
When we were done Eddie Vega, the ‘Barefooted Bandito’ and I got a great photo together. Three marathons down and I was feeling great I could hardly wait for tomorrow.

The one Barefoot bandito and the One Leg bandito

The one Barefoot bandito and the One Leg bandito

 After Illinois we drove Iowa to get ready for marathon number four. Once again we met right next to the Mississippi River.
20140719-162420-59060968.jpgThis place was very cool. There was a beautiful restaurant on the docks close to our starting line so most of the runners met there for a fun get together and dinner. I could barely recognize anyone. All the ladies had makeup on and their hair done. Instead of sweaty, smelly running clothes they were dressed nice. The men were all cleaned shaven with absolutely no snot running from their noses. I was in a crowd of strangers.
Just across the street from the restaurant was a ball field, a public swimming pool, a concert stadium (with a rock band performing) and a really nice RV Park. For a few bucks we rented a spot and settled in our minivan for the night. I slept like baby and dreamed the dreams of a man without a care in the world. I was doing what I loved to do and there were two more days of fun marathons left!
Everything was perfect and nothing was going to interfere with this wonderful week of marathoning. I had all but forgotten about the fiasco in Minnesota. Like I said, everything was perfect….that is until the next morning. I awoke at 4:00 am feeling great and was so excited to get going on this race. I dressed as quickly as I could, opened the van door and stepped out onto the parking lot. The instant my foot landed on the pavement and I attempted to stand a lightening bolt of pain shot up my leg from my Achilles’ tendon. The shock from what I was feeling confused me so much I nearly fell onto the ground. Grabbing the vans door I sat myself down and tried to figure out what had just happened.
I had never had a running injury before. I’m Tim Hurst, Super One Legged Marathon Running, Tim Hurst. I don’t make excuses, I don’t get hurt, all my injuries ended when they cut my leg off! Things don’t wear out on me, I’m Tarzan. There is no pain only miles to run and medals to collect. I’m here to inspire not expire.  I limped like a handicapped Grandpa to the starting line wincing the whole way. ( Oh wait…I am a handicapped Grandpa. Denial is an ugly thing!)
Was someone playing a joke on me? Yes that’s what was going on. I’d start the race and run a mile or two and all the pain would melt away and I’d be back to my old self in no time. I’d run four marathons in four days before without a hitch so why should this time be any different? Sure, a little searing pain shooting up my entire body was not going to slow me down.
The starting signal was given and as I lurched forward I experienced what felt like an ice pick being driven into the back of my ankle sending me down on to the pavement once again. As I sat there I thought to myself, “Only 26.199999 miles to go. For five and a half hours I struggled to walk this marathon getting only to the half way point when I made the correct decision to stop.
I did earn a 1/2 marathon medal but in my heart I felt like a gigantic quitter and my runner heart 20140717-213838-77918412.jpgwas broken. Later that day I Googled Achilles injuries and that’s when I realized I did the right thing by stopping. An injury like this is very serious and could end a runners career.
The next day in Wisconsin I did not even dress for the race but went and got a haircut and did my laundry instead. I was far too embarrassed to face the other runners. It’s not often I listen to my logical self over my fun self but I didn’t want to do any permanent damage because of my stubbornness.
After I got back home I couldn’t run for weeks but just rode my bike to workout instead. That’s the longest I’ve never not run since I started my running routine years before. I guess the lesson I had to learn is that I’m not invincible and that I too can get hurt and need to rest, slow down and take care of myself. Running is fun and I plan on doing it for a long, long time so I’ve got to do what I need to do and if that means not running a race then I have to be willing to suffer through and sit there while every one else is having all the fun then so be it. years before. I’m all OK now and am training full time once again for more marathons.

You can’t keep a one legged runner down.


2 thoughts on “Heartbreak in the Heartland – Michigan State #30, Indiana State #31, Illinois State #32

  1. Hi Tim I am a BBC journalist. I work for Outlook on the BBC world service. We’d like to get in touch to talk about your story. Please email me at Alice.Gioia AT bbc.co.uk

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