Hit by crippling, heat-induced leg cramps at mile 20, I was certain that the First Place, L.A. Marathon title that I had promised Daily Pilot readers was out of the question.
Devastated by disappointment, I sat quietly during the ride home, while the Saturday Runners socialized in raucous celebration.
Arriving at my house, we left the rented van and painfully climbed the steps to the dining room, where my husband waited with hot pizza and icy beer.
Then home and hot showers drew the sore-legged crew to their cars, so I climbed the stairs to the computer room, looked at my time and let out a whoop: "First Place, four hours and 54 minutes" for my age class.
I'd reached my goal, after all!
Elated and ashamed of throwing a tantrum because I walked the last miles, I wrote my Daily Pilot article. Slow finish time, but I didn't have to disappoint everyone. First place!
In the midst of writing, I revisited the runner's results site and blinked.
"Second Place" by my name.
My heart sank. I rewrote my article, but the impact was gone.
I gave up writing and went to bed depressed, fantasizing that whoever beat me was 21, not 71. The mistake would be discovered, returning me to first.
The next morning I rolled out of bed gingerly and groaned as I mounted the 15 steps to the computer room to start editing my column.
Verifying timing, I looked up "race results" but landed instead on "email questions."
I typed, "Why was I first place but demoted to second?"
I was back to editing when I noticed a reply.
"You will be in first again later this morning," the reply stated. "The runner who came in ahead of you had no chip times for the first half."
Runners wear chips, which set off sensors at points along the course.
"I'm in first again," I yelled to my husband.
Later, I called to interview John Magnuson, owner of Emtek Race Results. He's in chilly Duluth, Minn., but flew to L.A. to tabulate results and enjoy the heat.
"I like races in warm places," he said. "You betcha!"
Appreciating his Midwestern lilt, I asked, "How'd you discover the problem with the bogus first-place winner?"
"We look for suspicious activity," Magnuson said. "When a finisher is at 95% of the world record, we check chip times."
"Does this happen often?" I asked next.
"Oh, yeah, runners want the medal or can't manage 26.2 miles, so they just run the last leg."
Then he signed off to leave for a race in the Dominican Republic, and I returned to my computer to say:
Thank you, Saturday Runners and Daily Pilot readers.
I crossed the finish only 2 minutes and 11 seconds ahead of the second-place winner.
I owe that two minutes to Saturday Runners and the scrutiny of Daily Pilot readers.
I achieved first place at the L.A. Marathon for my age class — in my 70th year.
No doubt in my mind: I couldn't have done it without you.
Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK trained to run the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70. Read more about her adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org.