Saturday, December 4, 2021

Even mediocre athletes can get thrills from running 26.2 miles

October 17, 2000

He’s an elite athlete from Kenya; I’m a beer-drinking college kid from the Midwest. But for some reason, I knew how he felt cruising past me on the Ambassador Bridge in the opposite direction - six miles ahead of me.

Joseph Maina, who won Sunday’s 23rd annual Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank International Marathon with a career-best time of 2:24:47 trotted past me like a gazelle, and I could only look on.

Many sports journalists think they have athletics all figured out.

They believe they provide “insight” even though they might have never played a competitive sport in their lives.

They can be the team manager, offensive coordinator, umpire, referee, quarterback or point guard after crushing losses, but many are quite similar to your average beer-guzzling tailgater exchanging pleasantries with opposing fans.

Well I had my “one shining moment” Sunday. I actually competed in an event that I am writing about today.

As Maina passed, I cheered him on, clapping while my legs were burning, sweat dripping in my face and warm blood in between my toes.

I have to appreciate greatness.

Maina dusted the competition, leaving Paul Aufdemberge of Redford, Mich. a distant second at 2:35:27.

I was 434 out of 2,157 athletes, with a time of 3:39:04.

I’m just glad I finished.

Completing my fourth marathon since I came to MSU in 1997, I was still proud of how I fared, just disappointed from the outcome. Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought I would ever accomplish the feat back in middle school, with an intimidating physique similar to Ralphie from “A Christmas Story.”

For the months of training and lack thereof, I had my doubts on whether I would be able to run a personal best, compared to the last three years where I made significant improvements in the event.

The difference between Maina’s training regimen and mine must have been night and day.

Maina: Get up, run 15 miles, eat scientifically engineered food, meet with top-notch coach, run another five miles, sleep.

Lacy: Get up, drive to class, get fast food, stop by work, tie up the running shoes and pound pavement for a couple of miles, go to the bar with the boys, pass out.

During my freshman, sophomore and junior years at MSU I was focused, working out with my old high school team every chance I could get. I made a vow not to break my regimen.

I was the cross country team’s MVP my senior year in high school. I had a hard-working reputation to uphold.

It’s funny how some of my old teammates now see me wobbling to Georgio’s from the bar at 3 a.m.

Two years ago I was striving to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon and was only 10 seconds away from doing so.

This year I was just trying to dodge the potholes in inner city Detroit, trying to find a way to get to the finish line.

How things have changed.

Athletes in general have a tough time facing reality, as was the case for me Sunday. I just wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t in good enough shape.

When I sprinted as fast as I could through the finish line I didn’t have any regrets, nor did any of the other athletes Sunday, whether they were elite athletes in high-tech, aerodynamic wheelchairs or senior citizens turned weekend warriors.

That’s what the marathon and the thrill of competition is all about.

Share your athletic feats with Eric Lacy, State News sports editor, at


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