Rolling to the finish

Published on July 31, 2008
Tely 10 runner Steve Hennessey stumbles before falling, crawls as medics help him; and finally rolls over the finish line. Belarusian teenager Maksim Khainiuk had to leap over Hennessey to avoid tripping over him at the finish line. - Video screen shots by Gerry Carew/The Telegram

When 40-year-old Steve Hennessey decided nine weeks ago that he wanted to run the Tely 10 for the first time, he had no idea video of him finishing the race would become a local Internet sensation.
"My friend and I looked at each other a couple of months back and said, 'You know what? We should do this.' I knew I could run it, but I certainly didn't expect to get into that mess I got into on Sunday," Hennessey, best known as the lead singer of the local metal group Sheavy, recalled Wednesday.
Severe humidity and dehydration caused Hennessey to collapse yards short of the finish line Sunday morning. Telegram staffer Gerry Carew captured the whole ordeal on video.
It's not pretty. With sweat-matted shoulder-length hair and stumbling all over the road, Hennessey looks better suited to George Street at 3 a.m. than Bannerman Park at 10 a.m.
With the line in sight, a hobbled Hennessey veered wildly off the road, briefly up onto the sidewalk, and back onto the asphalt before crashing to the ground, catching himself with his hands. His head came dangerously close to the sidewalk.
"I'm just glad I didn't skull myself on that curb," Hennessey said.
St. John Ambulance staff ran quickly to his aide. Hennessey fell onto his side, but quickly shot back to all fours. Hennessey knew if he was going to finish the race, it wouldn't be on two feet.
"I heard somebody say, 'Crawl' - that's all I remember," he said. "I remember feeling pain and I just recall thinking that if I'm going to finish this I'm going to have to crawl."
Like a toddler, Hennessey pawed his way to the line. As he finally reached the left side of the line, he fell onto his stomach. In a last-ditch effort, he rolled over the line like a barrel.
"I'm glad I didn't trip anybody up," he said.
In fact, he nearly did.
By sheer coincidence, Belarusian teenager Maksim Khainiuk, who was profiled by The Telegram on July 27, had to hurdle Hennessey to avoid falling over. Khainiuk couldn't be reached Wednesday as he was on his way back to Belarus.
Afterwards, Hennessey spent about a half-hour unconscious in the St. John Ambulance tent.
When he woke up, his legs were covered in ice. He had severely torn his knees crawling on the asphalt.
Medics asked him what year it was. He wasn't sure, but eventually managed to deduce it when they asked him his birthday, which he remembered.
"It was pretty scary waking up in the tent, but the St. John Ambulance people were so great. You felt like you were really being well taken care of," Hennessey said. "It was amazing - scary, but amazing."
After leaving the tent, Hennessey went to St. Clare's Mercy Hospital, where he was given fluids, a precautionary EKG, and topical anesthetic for his knees. Luckily, he was able to leave by noon.
When he got home, Hennessey's family members were shaking their heads in disbelief. His mother, Bridget, said she isn't surprised by her son's determination.
"If Steve starts something, he finishes it," she said. "No matter how difficult it is, he'll find a way around it."
To his credit, Hennessey is incredibly good natured about the experience - though that's perhaps not surprising considering he can't remember much after the seven-mile point.
"I passed my friends there around Colonial (Auto Parts) garage (on Hamilton Avenue) and waved to them and I really don't remember much after that," he said. "I guess I was just kind of cruising on auto-pilot."
Watching the video, and considering the unique way Hennessey crossed the line, it's easy not to notice the clock overhead. Hennessey rolled in at a very respectable time of 1:15:44, good enough for 246th overall out of about 2,100 entrants.
Still, Hennessey's experience is cautionary tale about the importance of hydration.
Sheavy played a show at the downtown bar Distortion Friday night.
"It was really hot and I sweat a lot," Hennessey said. "I guess I didn't hydrate enough on Saturday. I should have been drinking Gatorade to get my sodium level up. I just crashed on Sunday. Just crashed badly."
Things had looked promising. Hennessey and his running partner, Aaron Goulding - who finished 53rd - ran the course exactly a week earlier to gauge their progress.
"I had no doubt about the fact that I could finish it," Hennessey said. "We trained lightly over the week not to overdo it."
But the mix of dehydration and humidity proved his undoing.
"I think my training was good, just my preparation for the day was bad," Hennessey said.
During the day, Hennessey works at Memorial University's Help Centre. He took two days off from work to nurse his knees and a sore hip. He said the video, posted on The Telegram website Tuesday night, was the talk of the office Wednesday.
Hennessey will be back on stage with Sheavy later this week.
"We have to play a show on Friday night. I don't think I'll be straying too far from the mike stand," he said.
Hennessey initially told attendants he'd never run the race again, but has since changed his mind.
"Looking back on it now, I'm certainly glad I did it, and glad I finished," he said. "I wish it had been more graceful, but you can't always predict about how it's going to end,"
Hennessey said he'll be in next year's field.
"I would love to prove that I can make it across that line standing."