Training Partners

A few years ago I started running. Running for fun. It was the only type of exercise I’ve ever done that I actually enjoyed and it’s a good stress reliever too.

There are plenty of running groups out there, but I’ve always enjoyed running alone.

One of my favorite things about the sport is you don’t have to coordinate with anyone, or drive anywhere to do it, just lace up and go. Alone.

Last year I failed an attempt at marathon training. Miserably. You can read about that experience here, if you would like.

This year I wanted to train for and run a marathon and I wanted to do it all by myself. I didn’t need a group to train with or a running partner, like my three year old use to say, “I can do it myself, me.”

What I didn’t realize was I wasn’t doing this by myself, my family was doing this right along with me. Every Saturday morning when I would go out for my 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 mile runs, my wife would be there to take care of our kids. Relatives and neighbors also pitched in to help. I thought I was doing this alone, I was wrong and I never really understood that, until race day.

Race morning it was cold. 30 degrees at the starting line with the weatherman’s promise of 45 degrees later that morning and only a SLIGHT chance of rain.

The race started off great. I was keeping the pace I spent the last 6 months training myself to do. I knew my family would be cheering me on at around the six mile mark so I spent the first leg of the race anticipating seeing them. When I spotted them freezing cold standing on the side of the road, I grinned ear to ear as I read the signs they had made, “Go Dad Go!” I slowed down just long enough to give them all high fives then off I went. 20.2 miles to go.

As the miles went by, the crowds cheering on the runners were great. I saw lots of clever signs, two of my favorites were, “Don’t let Oprah beat you,” and “Chuck Norris never ran a Marathon.” There was even a group handing out Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and candy bars around mile ten. Tempting.

All was well until somewhere around mile 18. For some reason I just started to slow down. It became really hard to run, my body and my brain were calling it quits. My second biggest race day fear was coming true, I was hitting the wall. I’d read about it, but never thought it would happen to me. As my pace slowed down to what can best be described as a shuffle, it also started to rain. I don’t mean it sprinkled just a little either, it poured, sheets of rain were falling from the 35 degree sky. Then, just when I thought it was going to let up, it stared to sleet! I was in a personal hell, and I had willingly paid money to do this to myself!

After a couple of excruciating miles, my shuffle turned to a half hearted walk/run. I couldn’t feel my hands, my shoes and socks were soaked and my legs hurt so bad that I could barely walk. I saw a few people huddled underneath a bridge receiving medical treatment and started to think I could be next. I walked over to a light pole to hold onto as I stretched out my legs, then I bent down to stretch my quads and didn’t think I was getting back up. As a few people passed by, I could tell they were trying to figure out if I was stretching, getting ready to throw up, suffering from leg cramps, or praying. Honestly, I think I was doing all these things at once.

Once I got going again, the miles began to creep by. I also knew that somewhere along the rest of this race course, my family was standing out in this crazy weather waiting to cheer me on one more time. I felt bad because I knew the slower I went, the longer they would have to wait. As I thought of them, I began picking up the pace a little at a time.

Finally after a few brutal miles I rounded the corner at mile marker 23.

As soon as I made the turn I saw them. I was beyond mentally and physically exhausted and there they were, standing and cheering in the pouring rain, for me. As I got closer to them the weirdest thing happened, I got all choked up and almost started to cry. I guess I finally realized that I wasn’t doing this alone. It was just so awesome that they were out there, supporting me and cheering me on, I felt overwhelmed by all of it.

My wife was nice enough to jog along side me for a half-block or so. She told me she was proud of me and that was enough to get me through to the end. Somehow I managed to get it together enough to run the last three miles as strong and as fast as I had the first 17.

I crossed the finish line. I was a marathon runner, something I never thought possible.

As a volunteer put the medal around my neck, I thought about everyone that helped me reach this goal. I was so thankful for all of them and was certain I never could have done this alone.

I’m sure I’ll need their help for the next one too.


p.s. I mentioned that hitting the wall was my second biggest fear of the marathon, my biggest fear was pooping my pants. Happily, I can report my biggest fear did not come true. 🙂

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