Chad Roberson, a Eugene native now living in Dundee, was a participant in the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon. Six months prior to running, Roberson was struggling with nerve issues in his calf. In hopes of subsiding his medical problem, coupled with aspirations to run alongside his family, he began training for his first half marathon.
After months of conditioning and strength training, Roberson arrived to the starting line alongside his daughter and brother. From his first steps, shin splints and muscle tightness made it challenging to keep up with his family. As they started walking faster, he let them know that he couldn’t walk at their pace. Soon after, his family ended up going ahead without him. “I was told that running in a marathon was a mind game, and that if you can focus on a person ahead of you, it will help you keep going,” Roberson said as he recalls his early struggle to continue on.
It was at mile two that he saw Ethel Hinkle ahead of him. She was an 80-year-old woman dressed in bright green and yellow with a flower in her hair. He was determined and focused on catching up with her. Once he caught up and began to chat with her, he realized that Ethel wasn’t just a target to pass, but rather a new friend. Roberson, liking the pace she was walking told her, “I’ll stick with you.”
As the two walked and shared stories, he learned that Ethel was participating in her third Eugene Marathon. Ethel related to Roberson’s troubles as she was also struggling with some discomfort. A few weeks prior to running, she had been under care for severely blocked arteries. Walking with Ethel helped Chad put his discomforts in perspective, realizing that if somebody Ethel’s age can walk with a smile on their face then so could he. Approaching mile 6, the newly formed team was now far behind all the other runners. Stopping at a water station to rehydrate, Ethel began to feel dizzy. Eventually it got so bad that she had to grab onto Robersons hand to stop from falling over. “We can quit any time,” Roberson assured her, still dealing with pain of his own. Holding hands from this point on, Chad and Ethel were inspired by each other not to give up as they stopped for what they joked to be there 20th “second wind.” The team pushed on with the end in sight.
“When my feet hit that red asphalt at Hayward, and all my children were there in the stands watching, it brought me close to tears. I really do feel like I’m a big part of history running this marathon,” Ethel said as she explained her feelings of tremendous accomplishment. Although the team had finished in last place, they were both very proud of their finishing and attributed it greatly to each other’s support. “We were there for each other every step of the way, If he hadn’t have been there for me I would’ve probably collapsed and not been able to finish and if I hadn’t been there for him to convince him that we weren’t going to quit, he may have not finished either.” Upon finishing, Ethel received a first place plaque for her age group. This was the second age group race she’d won.
Ethel says that Chad is her hero and that he will always be her hero. “A lot of 40-year-old guys wouldn’t care much about an old lady struggling along. They would’ve passed me and kept on their way without a second thought.” It’s this empathy that forged a friendship that will live on past the 2018 marathon. After last year’s race, the two reconnected and plan on running together in the 2020 Eugene Marathon.