Tonight’s workout was 40 minutes of TRX and stretching, so I thought I would write about my first half marathon.
In the summer of 2011, I was looking for a new fitness goal. I had already lost over 100 pounds (some of which has been added back) and was getting a little complacent with my workouts, so after some conversations with my future wife and people at my gym, I decided to tackle 13.1. I decided the St Jude Half Marathon would be great because it was a couple of days before my 30th birthday and was for a great cause. So I signed up and began to work. At this point, I had only run two 5K’s, and I wasn’t setting any course records in either one, but 13.1 seemed like a good goal. I was aided by a training course at my gym and began working towards my goal on August 1. I ran on Wednesday and Saturday mornings with the crew from the gym, and two other times a week on my own. My long runs would come each Saturday, and by week two, I was setting new career long runs. I didn’t have any running gear, was using worn out shoes, and seriously questioned why I was doing this to myself. If it wasn’t for the pack at InsideOut Gym, I would not have achieved my goal. Our coach Jessica gave us a structure to follow, provided hydration and nutrition tips, and pushed us to keep progressing. By mid October, when we were hitting runs in the double digits, I knew that I could do this. I revised my goal of just doing the 13.1 to running the entire race without walking at any point and a target time of 2:45.
The first weekend of November, I decided to run in the True Blue 5K, just as I had the year before. I thought it would be a good gauge of how much I had improved over the previous three months. In 2010, my time was 36:29; in 2011, it was 27:36. Finishing with a pace under 9:00 per mile was quite galvanizing. The rest of November was spent tapering my miles and trying to insure my legs were fresh for the big day. Several of our long group runs had taken place on the St Jude course, so I was confident that I knew it well. I went to the expo on the Thursday prior to the race so I could take it all in before the out of towners came in on Friday. My future mother-in-law cooked my carb rich dinner. I went to bed earlier that Friday night than I had my entire adult life, and of course, I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited, too nervous. My mind was racing 100 miles per hour. I finally did doze off and was able to get sufficient rest.
My mom, fiance Susan, her father and her best friend, all met at my house at 6:00 am to head downtown. Susan’s dad is a retired cop, so parking was no issue. We met up with the rest of the InsideOut pack at the FedEx Forum and we relaxed before the event. We headed over to the starting line to find our corrals. It was at this point that I realized just how many people were running this race. There was racers, spectators, and volunteers everywhere. It was nearly impossible to get back to corral 12. Crowd control is not a strong suit of the St Jude Marathon Weekend. Once I was there, it was time to wait. As each wave went, it was closer to realizing my goal. And then finally, we were off. It felt good. And as we rounded the first corner, I noticed several people walking. After the second turn, more walkers. We weren’t even a mile in, and I was having to dodge people going on a Sunday stroll. It was infuriating. It was fairly clear to me at this point that most people weren’t as rigid about the corral splits as I was. But, in hindsight, these walkers probably slowed me up enough to keep from using too much energy in the first few miles. The race started off in the typically chilly December air, but I warmed up rapidly. The first seven miles were a breeze, but once the race hit Overton Park, I was losing steam, but thankfully there was a water and GU station in the park that helped me maintain. Then mile 10 and the largest incline of the race happened. It was at this point when the thought of walking for a minute first entered my brain. I fought it back by telling myself that I had come too far and only had a 5K left to go. I forged on. Each mile felt like two, but I kept plugging away. And then a saw Autozone Park. The finish line was within reach. I had no clue what my time was, but it didn’t matter. I was going to finish, it was going to happen. As a crossed the finish line, I felt pure exuberance. I did it! And well under my goal of 2:45. I couldn’t wait to get my official time.
I collected my blanket, grabbed a water, and headed up to stadium stairs to get my beer, pizza, bananas, whatever other treats awaited me. Susan and company greeted me at the top of the stairs. It was at this point that Susan informed me that I was a freak. I was confused until she pointed out that they had stalked me most of the race and had gotten several pictures of me. And I was smiling in every one of them! Even the ones that I had no clue were being taken. Later that week when MarathonFoto posted their pics, more smiles. Maybe I did enjoy running after all! When I finally saw my official time, was completely floored and excited; my time was 2:16:26! I was nearly 30 minutes ahead of my goal! After talking with my friends that also ran the race, I had another shocking revelation, my time was better than every one of my friends! My first marathon couldn’t have gone any better!
On December 3, 2011, I could have beaten Mike Tyson in a fight, Michael Jordan in one-on-one, or get the game winning homer off of Mariano Rivera in the World Series, I felt so good. I know that I wasn’t even close to a course record, but that didn’t matter. I surpassed my goals and did something that just two years earlier, when I was a 320 mess, was seemingly impossible. My heart is actually racing just writing about this accomplishment.