It’s Thursday night, my last training run before the marathon, and I’m getting ready in an almost unconscious routine. The dog is looking at me as I put on my shoes, and I know she’s thinking; “there here goes again, off without me, not like when he used to take me along”. Strap on the iPod; U2, the Chili Peppers, Cake, Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Merchant to get me through, and I leave somehow with a smile on my face. This is what I’ve trained 16 months for, and I’m feeling impossibly a mix of exhilaration and terror. House key – check; water – check; Garmin set – check; and I’m off down my street. So anxious I even shorten my usual methodic 5 minute warm-up to 1 block. Starting to jog slowly, I cannot believe how much I’m actually enjoying this, even though it’s at a pace 30 seconds faster per mile than I can possibly run in the marathon.
So much water under the bridge now, and so many people that have helped me paddle down this river. It all started in late Summer 2008, after finding out I had diabetes and high blood pressure, and was aging quickly well beyond my years. At 48, and pissed off now at my bad ‘luck’ it somehow stirred a new determination in my quest for health that was never there before. I knew that faced clearly with my own mortality significant lifestyle changes had to be made. Coincidentally one July evening (or with some lucky guidance from above), as I ventured out to try something you might marginally call ‘running’, I came upon my friend Celeste Ellich walking her dogs. As we chatted she casually mentioned how funny it was that my ‘running’ was in-fact no faster than her walking pace. Of course she then mentioned that there was a group out there ready to help, Friends in Training. And so on a sunny Saturday morning in early August 2008 my journey began as I joined FIT, not really sure where it was going to end.
With this last training run in full swing now, I cannot stop the thoughts running through my head. I’m playing out all these little scenarios of the marathon on Sunday, with it now closing in on the 48 countdown mark. What I need to pack, what I need to tell Beth to have ready for me at mile 20, what it will be like to run this ‘crazy adventure’ with all my new FIT ‘buds’, and cross the finish line…I’m actually practicing my fist pump now…but then reality stops me; hey stupid, don’t do something now that could cause a dumb injury so close to the big event. I finish up close to the fastest 3.25 miles I’ve ever run, and I don’t even want to stop when the Garmin tells me ‘workout finished.’
Proceeding with the ‘cool down’ walk home, I begin to think about Marcela’s persistent request for me to write a success story to publish in the FIT newsletter. It’s supposed to help inspire other ‘newbies’, but I’m barely past that classification myself. How can I claim any success on my own already? I can recognize what I’ve accomplished since that August Saturday morning in 2008 when I took off with Celeste’s 3:1 group for a 2 mile jog. But what I’m feeling now doesn’t seem like pride.
Humbled, a verb is partially defined in the dictionary as “causing awareness of your shortcomings” or “cause to be unpretentious” or even “small beginnings”. That word just seems to be a better fit for my feelings over the past few months as I approach the ‘secret’ goal I set for myself back then. I am really humbled by what any human can accomplish now, having recognized my own success, and I realize now; this is probably one of the single most difficult things someone can accomplish in a lifetime, but also one you truly must plan and execute methodically if you are to succeed…it almost makes you think: “Hey, maybe I finally am a grownup” if you can pull it off. In my case it just took me 50 years to reach this point. But with my pride of success, I am really just humbled, because of the path that took me here, alongside many other folks who helped in both large and small ways. FIT is really the foundation of my success. I’m also a little embarrassed, because I wasted so many years in poor health, with all my various ailments most likely of my own making. That’s hard to admit. If I have another 50 years left, I know now I’m going to run through each and everyone, smiling as I am right now on my cool down walk home; spent, happy, and ready for a good final stretch.
The dog is there now looking out the window and waiting for my return; kids off in college (funny how their departure coincided with my new found health focus); and my wife having arrived home after closing her shoppe, cooking us a healthful dinner. Yeah, it’s taken 100’s of training miles and over 50 pounds have ‘disappeared’ for me to get here, but have I really ‘arrived’? As I walk inside, some frustration also comes to mind. You see, I wanted this ‘marathon prep- week’ to be so calm and relaxing, but my work is interfering; but isn’t that just what everyone deals with in life? We all have faced some individual challenges to get here, but this week is in-fact different, and our next ‘long run’ will actually be on Sunday, January 31st at the Miami ING Marathon!
It’s Sunday morning, 3:30am, and I’m wide awake going through my pre-race preparations, with a sense of calm urgency. I know the Miami course, or at least the first half of it; one year ago I ran my first ½ marathon with FIT, and immediately after that I made a ‘secret promise’ to myself…even woke up for the registration blast 2 days later, and signed up for the ‘full’ to make sure I had committed myself to this moment. I guess I was always headed here. We travel down to Miami in our various carpools, and then the pre-race excitement comes to full fever as we gather on the steps of the AA Arena for our FIT group photos. So many friends and mentors here for each and everyone one of us. As we head to our assigned corrals, some of us will start together, some inside a group of running strangers; but none of us are alone; FIT is our constant companion now, as the race will bring to light. The gun and fireworks go off, and it’s a race now to our 13.1 or 26.2 goals. The race itself is worthy of another story, as we each can replay our own full length movie of the experience in our head. Throughout many of us see those familiar yellow shirts, and rely upon the friendships we’ve built to pull us along. The miles scroll past, many faster or slower than you may have planned, but we all end up crossing that same glorious finish line. We celebrate each others’ success, as the shear will of each and every FIT member is evident today. What we have accomplished together breeds a sense of new optimism. I’m sure some of us may have been able to accomplish this on our own, but certainly not with the same humility that participation in FIT develops. We should all be humbled by what we’ve accomplished. Savor the moment, buy most of all recognize the unbelievable commitment that our coaches, assistant coaches and running friends in FIT have made to let us arrive today here together. I hope to see you all in the many running seasons to come, as we continue this ‘adventure’ of life.