COLUMN: Finishing the Ogden is a humbling experience
There are few things I have experienced that compare to rounding the final turn of the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon and seeing the finish line after grueling 13-plus mile trek through Wheeling.
They announce your name as you get near the finish, music is playing and in that brief moment, the pain, soreness and fatigue melts away into a sense of accomplishment.
Saturday was my third time experiencing this feeling as a finisher of what is considered to be by many the toughest half marathon course around.
The race, at least to me, is not about time. Yes, I had goals I wanted to meet each time I participated in it, but just finishing is the main goal — and that is quite the challenge in itself. Far better athletes than myself who trained a lot harder than I did have not been able to get to the finish line. Getting there myself for the third time is not something I take for granted.
The Ogden is an emotional race for me. The first time I competed in it in 2017, I had lost three family members within 13 months of each other and carried their names on my gear. That first half marathon was the culmination of efforts to be healthier and take better care of my body after going through those losses.
It was shortly after that I became a sports writer at the Herald-Star/Daily Times.
My foray into the Ohio Valley run/walk scene also has an emotional link, as I competed in my first 5k several years ago with my family as part of a group organized to remember a young man my own age that passed away from cancer.
Saturday’s experience became emotional around the halfway mark. It was the first time I was doing the race by myself. Runners and walkers often listen to music while they compete, I chose to listen to a podcast. On that podcast, one of the hosts talked about a soldier that lost his life oversees, and got choked up while doing so. Shortly after that, a soldier running the race in full gear passed me carrying an American flag. I got chills, and was suddenly reminded what this weekend is all about.
The pain in my legs, the soreness and everything I was feeling from the grueling course suddenly seemed so insignificant in comparison.
Just like in auto racing where the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Coke 600 are a big part of Memorial Day weekend, the Ogden, which has now been held 43 times, is a big part of the weekend in the Ohio Valley. The fun activities we get to do are because of people like the soldier I heard about in my headphones and the one that passed me. Remember that today.
Another aspect of the race that makes it so enjoyable as a competitor is the the amount of people that line the sides of the course to cheer you on. I got several high-fives from onlookers, and they gave me a needed boost — especially at the top of 29th street hill.
Thank you to those of you that took time out of your Saturday morning to give us encouragement.
The last five miles were a real grind. Thoughts of doubt whether or not you can make it the rest of the way creep into the back of your mind as the last, big hill looms in the distance. As my phone gave me updates on my progress, I started to silence that doubt. When I hit the 10 mile mark, a renewed confidence came over me. I had a 5k to go, and I know I can do that, right?
At the top of the hill, you can taste the end, and it becomes a push to get there.
When I rounded the turn and headed for the finish, this time felt different in its own special way. I got a fist bump from Times Leader sports writer Rick Thorp at the finish line, high-fives from several race volunteers, my finisher’s medal placed around my neck (another great feeling) and a big hug from my Mom, who was waiting to greet me.
It made my 3:56:01 journey worth it.
In the past several years of doing local races, I have been fortunate enough to get to know some wonderful people from the area that have made doing the races enjoyable. Congratulations to those of you that also conquered the course on Saturday.
Like all the races in the valley, the Ogden would not be the enjoyable experience it is without the people behind the scenes who volunteer to help make it happen –including Herald-Star/Daily Times city editor Michael D. McElwain (who’s congratulatory handshake is another highlight of my finish line experience), publisher John Hale and commercial printing/special events coordinator Maggie McGinnis. Thank you to those that made it possible, worked a water stop or were involved behind the scenes.
The competitors safety on the course is aided in a big way by members of the Wheeling Police Department directing traffic. I tried to thank as many of them as I could when I passed them. Their being there is much appreciated.
To those of you that were unable to make it to the finish, keep your head up. The struggles will make your finish line experience next time that much more rewarding.
I’ll see you on the course next year.
(Grimm can be reached at email@example.com)