Saturday, October 26, 2013


In 2009, my friend Daniel got me to start running. I had flirted with running before, but had never been able to get past the DTR discussion. I would run for a week or so, then give it up because... couch. But this time, I used the Couch to 5k program. It was already popular then, now it's uber-popular! I ran my first ever 5k in June of that year.

I floundered with my running until the next summer, when I picked it back up. At church, my friend Nate said he wanted to run the USAF Half Marathon. I volunteered Daniel and I to run it with him. I spent the whole summer training for the Half and ran it in September of 2010. I'll never forget, after the race, Nate asked me if this made me want to run a full marathon. For him, there was no chance, the half had convinced him that he wouldn't be running a full, ever. I had the opposite reaction, I wanted to run a full at some point.

In 2011, I didn't do a lot of running, just periodically. I actually finished the year really strong in 2011, joining a couple of friends in a challenge to run every single day from Thanksgiving Day through New Years Day. I didn't miss a day, and finished the year with a 10-miler (which was my longest run since the half the year before).

Late Spring of 2012, my friend Nick asked me if I'd run the Columbus Marathon with him that year. I eagerly said YES! Well, in June, I was fired from my job. I kept running until the end of July, when it all fell apart. I didn't start running again until 2013.

This year, I started running in the Spring, then decided that I'd run the Columbus Marathon. I invited everyone I knew who was even mildly into fitness/running. They all declined. Solo training would become the mantra of my summer. I was absolutely determined to run in the Columbus Marathon, no matter what happened in my professional life.

Last Sunday was finally the big day! Training had gotten old and boring for me, I had been missing lots of days, so I was eager to finally get the marathon over with, that way I could cross it off my list and be done with the race.

I had looked over the course all week, agonized over what I'd wear and what kind of pace I'd be able to run. I got into Columbus early in the morning and found my corral, which I eagerly considered my first win of the day. (On a side note, Columbus Marathon, it'd be nice to direct toward the corrals a little better. I found the A corral with no problem, a sign indicating "B, C and D corrals this way" would've been awesome!)

I waited in the corral for over an hour (early to get there, woot woot!), nervous. My teeth chattered the entire time because I was so nervous. There was a guy in the corral who was talking to some women who were about to run their first half-marathon. He said, "There are 18,000 people running today. That represents one-half of one-percent of the population of Central Ohio. You've already won today because you showed up." He repeated this about 25 times between the first time I heard it and when we finally started running. Seriously, this guy was the bomb. Greatest stranger motivation I'd ever heard!

Finally, we moved into the start position. One of the cool things about this marathon is the staggered start. They rerun the start four times, so each group gets to experience the magic and awesomeness that is the starting line. Fireworks, cheers, music and the surprisingly loud sound of thousands of feet hitting the pavement. I looked, in vain, for my wife and her parents who were at the starting line to wish me well. There were so many people!

The early part of the run, I maintained a pace that I knew was faster than what I'd be able to keep throughout the race, but I didn't want to slow down. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake. The spectators were amazing, I saw my super awesome friends Penny, Adam and Micki! They were cheering all the runners, but I suspect most of Micki's cheers were for her husband Troy who was running in his first ever half.

The signs all over the course made the day WAY better! I saw one twice through Bexley that said, "I don't know you, but I'm proud of you!" Seriously, stranger motivation, ftw! On the way into Bexley, we saw the people who were going to win the marathon and the half-marathon. They were absolutely killing it, I hoped to see my friends Dave and Ryan running the opposite way, but I didn't see them. The runs through Bexley and then through German Village were awesome. I'm super familiar with both parts of town, so it was nice to see them on foot, since that was a new experience for me.

I knew, from my looks at the course all week, that High Street was going to be the mentally difficult part of the course. It's not the hardest part of the course (that comes later), but it was going to be mentally difficult. Midway up High Street, the half marathoners turned off the course and got the wonderful blessing of being finished! There was a huge sign at the 13.1 mark that said, "Now the fun begins" Nothing about the next 10 miles was even remotely fun. I promise.

Towards the end of High Street, at mile 16 (or so), I hit the mental wall. I started walking. Once we got near the Horseshoe, I decided that I had to do some more running, because... Buckeyes. Running into Ohio Stadium was an awesome experience. The super steep hills that await you to enter and exit weren't that welcome, however!

Miles 20-23 were brutal, that's the most difficult part of the course for a few reasons. First, it has the most uphills and second, it's just boring. You run through residential areas and parking lots. The half marathoners are gone, so there are considerably fewer participants. It's just grueling to get through it. I walked/ran through this part, lots of stiffness and pain.

I was very frustrated with myself for walking so early, it just killed my momentum. I was determined to finish, and I really wanted to finish running. At the 22.5 mark, I thought to myself, "At 23, all that's left is a 5k. Even on my worst day, I can run a 5k. Even right now, I could run a 5k." So, I committed to running the entire thing after the 23rd mile marker.

Once I passed the marker, I started running, and I didn't stop. I had to mentally tough it out a few times as I'd think, "Nobody knows the deal I made, I could just walk a little bit." But I knew the deal I had made, and I wasn't willing to let myself down in such a way. There were SNACKS at one point near the end! Orange pieces, Oreos, pretzels, skittles, bananas! I grabbed all that I could carry so that I could get a little snack in to finish strong. I was most excited for the banana, then the girl running next to me dropped her banana on the ground after unwrapping it. She stopped to pick it up. Read that again. She stopped to pick it up. She was going to eat it. I couldn't let that happen, so she got my banana, and I got karma (which I don't believe in, even slightly).

As I was in the final mile, I saw an older guy on a stretcher about to go into an ambulance. My heart broke for him because he was so close! It was at that point that I began to think about the gravity of what was happening in my life. I was never even remotely athletic in my entire life and I was going to do something amazing. I was about to finish pushing my body over 26.2 miles! I genuinely started to tear up before I had to snap myself out of the emotion. I told myself that I couldn't, under any circumstances, waste any hydration on tears!

As I neared the finish line, I saw my friends Penny and Adam!! I actually stopped for a second and gave Adam a great big kiss on the cheek. I had to celebrate! As I got closer, I saw my wife and family cheering me on! They were right at the final turn on the course. This was the moment pride kicked in.

As I passed them, I waved, and a girl passed me on the course. There was no chance I was letting her finish that race before me. She may not have known we were racing, but I had about a tenth of a mile to pass her! I turned on the jets and made my way up to her, I caught up and passed her on the left. Just as I passed her, though, I tripped on something! I caught myself from falling by a tiny fraction. Seriously, a tiny, tiny fraction! The entire crowd on the left side of the street took a huge breath as they saw me almost face plant onto the bricks outside Nationwide Arena!

I didn't fall, and I ran across the finish line! Took me 5 hours and 3 minutes, but I did it!

I was, am, and always will be, a Marathoner!

Final Thoughts:

1. The greatest sign of the day said, "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon."
2. The second greatest said (there were a few of these), "You are running better than the government!"
3. There was a guy on a bike who met the course 5-6 different times and had great motivational signs. He was awesome, even got a high five from me at one point.
4. High fiving all the kids was definitely the way to go! It made the course a lot more fun, even if it did add some time and distance to the race for me.
5. If you ever get the chance, go spectate a marathon, or volunteer at a water station or something. You'll be amazed at what you see.
6. I finished the race and said it was my first and last race. I'd never do it again. By Tuesday, I was already thinking of how to do better the next time. I think it's official, I'm an addict.