Today was the day. Today was the day that
Lee and Chip would finally finish the damn running thing. Not that I mind physical fitness. Indeed, it’s essential in
our line of work. But truthfully, this marathon business has been a thorn in my side.
Pleasantly distracting enough to begin with,
once I personally got involved, it changed into work. Hard work. I even attempted
running myself. I’d wanted to show the boys my support in a more tangible way than the odd ‘good luck’,
and becoming a runner partner, or so I’d thought, would do just that.
though, I was soon disqualified for medical reasons. My shoes clipped, so to speak, I traded them in for a spot of sponsorship
of the Santa Barbara Marathon.
The perks I’d gained for plunking down
a goodly sized check? Well, a lot of good PR for NIMR. And a front row seat in
an air conditioned pavilion at the start and finish. Not to mention, behind the scenes access in the security station, full
of TV screens (camera’s had been planted all along the course), and there were dispatchers who could contact the volunteers
and medical teams by headset for when there was a ‘runner down’. These folks had been issued rather loud foghorns
as a secondary alert signal. From medical assistance to simply escorting a runner off the track (when they’d regret
having ever entered the competition) this was a sophisticated set up.
I arrived early, leaving it to Doc to get
the boys to the start up on time. Little did I know , that while I was being feted with one of the area’s finer
champagnes and some really delicious finger sandwiches, that they’d had a flat.
That Lee had already been injured from a falling
jack, I hadn’t a clue. Neither did Will, apparently as he finally joined me, after having given the official’s
the boy’s backpacks containing some nourishing goodies to be consumed along
the course at some designated ‘aid’ stations along the way. Decided on by
Chip, as Lee’s trainer. Trainer…that’s a word. It indicates someone
who has first-hand knowledge and experience. Only Chip had never run a marathon in his life. Lee
chose him, and all because of Chip’s mouth! Seems Lee thought with him along, he couldn’t dare give up if push
came to shove. And it had. Lee had entered Chip as a runner as well, so all the time in the car, according to Doc, they kept
telling each other they’d greet the other at the finish line.
In a way, they did, but in a convoluted way.
It’s a long story. So I won’t bore myself with the details. Suffice it to say that well into the race, Lee had
a bit of a collision with a lost dog, hurt his knee,(Lee’s, not the dog), hurt
his ankle, on top of an already damaged foot, which was going to make it a bit difficult for him to continue quite
as he’d planned.
The course medics did an expert job checking
him out to insure nothing was broken, or seriously injured. They also but also
put on some special braces when it became too clear to them that he wanted to finish the race, no matter what. And poor
Will, while appreciated as Lee’s personal physician, well, at least aboard Seaview, the course doctors refused to pull
Lee out of the race just because Will was ranting and raving. They stressed that
the ankle had only been slightly twisted, his foot only slightly swollen (from the trauma of a blunt force instrument) and
his knee simply bruised, (the skin only scraped).
told in no uncertain terms not to yell at the fallen runner anymore, and was given the choice of either begin escorted off
the course until after the race was over, or to my tent to enjoy my hospitality. I wondered if my check included additional
champagne and Lobster Thermidor. It was surely going to take that and my skills as semi host to calm him down.
When it became clear that watching a marathon is a little boring, we retired to the security truck and saw row upon row of monitors, from
cameras placed all along the course, as well as a wall of blinking lights and numbers. The runners had tracers. While not
originally the purpose of the mini electronics, it did make one instantly aware if a number stopped. Equipped with headsets
and radios, the course was lined with staff and volunteers ready to call when a runner was down or in need of medical assistance.
“Could use this aboard Seaview,”
Doc muttered. I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not.
We could even see the spectators and our own
crewmen waving banners and signs in the hopes of seeing their Skipper and XO along the course to offer a bit of encouragement.
Still, one could tell they were beginning to prefer the food vendors set up along the way for spectators.
While it was going to be a long day for Lee
and Chip, it was longer for us. Especially when it became apparent after a while that Lee was in trouble. Doc was beside himself,
forcibly held back, pleading with the officials to check on him.
But as there was no indication from the runner
to observant officials that he wanted to withdraw, no such luck.
And so we waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, down the stretch they came. Lee was limping, and wincing but he and Chip were engaged in some kind of verbal cadence.
United. Dead even. Neither was coming
in last without the other right at his side. A photo finish. Tied for last place.
I had to wonder what would have happened if
Lee hadn’t bumped into that dog; if the jack hadn’t fallen on his foot. Would they competed against each other?
Not unheard of. They do tend to have a competitive streak with each other at times.
Makes life aboard Seaview and at NIMR interesting, that’s for sure.
But it was a moot point. Right now, I was prouder of the both of them than if they’d won first place.
They’d finished the course. A grueling 26.2 miles. Not all of the entrants had finished.
had helped Chip and Chip Lee, all the way to the finish, in the true spirit of
brotherhood. My boys. My sons.