I’ve told the story hundreds of times, maybe more. I’ve referred so many people to the famed blog posting, “Paying the Price at Wineglass” that the bits on the disks where it is stored on that anonymous blog server in the sky are worn out. But I’ve always wondered, what really happened? So given the opportunity, I went back to check it out.
I am, of course, referring to the great Wineglass marathon tragedy of last fall, that fateful day when the foot went snap and the face went plant and life became utterly more complicated within a span of just under three hours.
My standard story is this: The finish line was on a downgrade, at the line where the asphalt of the pedestrian bridge met the brick walkway of the park. I tripped over that junction – the spot sis had pointed out the day before as a hazard that someone would fall over – and had nothing left to catch myself. Not knowing that one big toe was out of commission from what I didn’t yet know was the snapped tendon from 50 feet into the race, my brain didn’t process why I wasn’t able to catch myself. It’s like stomping on your brakes when you haven’t seen any warning lights and not comprehending that they’re not working. Splat. Faceplant.
What haunts me to this day is the word “collapse”. Was it a trip? Or did I simply crumple at the line, utterly spent, pushed well past the point of prudence, yet somehow maintaining myself mentally until that point? That latter option is frightening indeed. It speaks to the horrors of what might have been, the headline that could have happened, but thankfully didn’t. I know there’s an element in me that’s probably capable of such an excessive push. Did I bring it on myself? Or, did I simply trip, as I’ve always hoped was the case.
The day of the race, I really couldn’t get a close enough look. Even after being patched in the med tent, runners continued to stream through the finish for hours. I really couldn’t interfere with finish line operations to the extent needed to really examine the scene of the crime.
And since then, I’ve wanted to do just that.
The Thanksgiving Pie & Glove race came within 3 blocks of the crime scene, but that was mid-race, and afterward we had a big dinner to get home to. The next day, however, we took the kids down to the Corning Museum of Glass, which I hadn’t visited in probably 15-plus years – and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The museum is exactly one block north of the north end of the famed bridge.
By the time we’d finished doing the museum thing, the weather was windy, gray, and spitting, but I would not be denied. We slogged across the bridge (nice shot of it, by the way, in the January 2010 issue of Runners’ World). For my wife and nephew, this was a silly adventure. For me, I was trying to get back into my head that day last October as I trod this same approach and almost stumbled across the bridge. Across the flat mid-section we went, and down the other side, not seriously down, but still down.
And there it was. The end of the asphalt, the start of the bricks. I half expected to see a 2-inch lip, something obvious, something that said, “Of course you fell over this, you idiot.” But that really wasn’t the case. The lip was pretty much flush, indeed, more of a depression than a lip in many places. There was, however, a pretty significant hole where a few bricks had long since gone AWOL. Not quite on center, not in a likely spot for crossing the line, but possible. Was that it? Did I cross the line a little right of center – quite feasible – and more or less fall into the hole, lose my balance and go down? Quite plausible. Or perhaps I just…crumbled.
I’ll never really know. I looked at it from every angle. We took twenty seven 8x10 color photographs and added circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one to be used as evidence (this was, after all, Thanksgiving weekend, and we had played Arlo’s classic as we travelled through Stockbridge, Massachusetts a couple days prior). Including the imaginative shot of how steep the downgrade seemed in retrospect…
…but of course wasn’t:
I analyzed and reanalyzed in my head, even re-enacted if for the prime time crime shows...
But I’ll never really know.
I just want to make damn sure I never do it again.