Racing the Giants: Girl Accidentally Runs Half Marathon

Amazing feat reminds one of the classic "death crawl" scene in Facing the Giants.

By Al Perrotta Published on April 30, 2016

In the movie Facing the Giants, there’s the so-called “death crawl” scene. A football player has given up hope his team will win an upcoming game. The coach asks him to crawl 50 yards with a teammate on his back, and do it blind-folded. The kid is convinced he can’t do it. “Promise me you’ll give me your best,” says the coach. Finally, the boy agrees, and with the coach in his ear, urging him on, he gives all he has.

He’s hurting. He’s sweating. He’s straining. He’s crying. He’s insisting he can’t go on. But further he goes. He collapses, thinking himself a failure. “Look up, son,” says the coach. “You’re in the end zone.” The young man not only went 50 yards, he had made it across the entire field. (Grab a hankie if you haven’t seen it yet.)


Last Sunday morning a 12-year-old girl from western New York lived her own version of the death crawl.

LeeAdianez Rodriguez signed up to take part in the Wegmans Family 5K race at the Rochester Regional Health Flower City Challenge. But Lee was running late. She saw the runners moving at the starting line on the Broad Street Bridge, so she rushed to join the pack. Off she went.

What Lee didn’t know was she wasn’t running late at all. She was running the wrong race. Instead of the 5K race, which covers 3.1 miles, she was running the 13.1 mile half-marathon, which kicked off 15 minutes before her 5K.

“She just saw people running and thought it was her race,” said Ellen Brenner, co-owner of Fleet Street Sports Rochester and YellowJacket Racing, which operated Sunday’s races.

As the 6th-grader worked her way through the hilly streets of Rochester she began to wonder why the race was taking so long. Finally, about halfway through the race Lee discovered she was running a different race than planned. (Who hasn’t had that experience at some point in life?) However, rather than stop and begin celebrating having gone farther than she ever had before, Lee kept running. She would try to complete the race before her.

Living a Nightmare

Meanwhile, as Lee was living an inspirational sports movie, her mother was living a nightmare. Brendalee Espada had been waiting near the finish line. As runner after runner completed the 5K race there was no sign of Lee. As the completion window closed, Espada grew nervous. She sought out race officials and the police. To her shock, she discovered her daughter had never started the 5K.

“She gave me a really big scare,” Espanda told the Rochester Democrat & ChronicleFor nearly two hours, Espanda searched for her daughter at the finish line and the nearby Blue Cross Arena where post-race festivities were being held. No Lee. Police were also on the hunt.

Unaware she was the subject of a police search and a mother’s panic, the 12-year-old girl kept on running. Eight miles, nine miles, ten miles. It wasn’t until a couple miles before the finish that police and race officials spotted her. They jogged alongside. Lee was still not ready to stop.

“She just wanted to finish the race,” Espanda says. “Two hours after I started looking for her, I see that one of the officers found her. And I see she has a medal.”

Lee completed the 13.1 miles in 2:43:31. Out of 2,111 finishers, she placed 1,885th. But, of course, she finished first among those who didn’t know they’d be running a half-marathon.

“It was such a scary moment, but rewarding for her in the end,” said her proud and relieved mother. “I don’t even know how she did it.”

Next up for Lee, The Color Run in Rochester next month. That one is a 5K. But there’s no telling how far this young girl will go.

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