Receiving Finishers Medal
After a few years of relative inactivity during graduate school, I decided that it was time to get back in shape. I kept the weight relatively under control during my 17 years working as a plumber and heavy equipment operator. My weight went over 220 pounds in my early forties and I decided to start walking a couple of miles a day to get my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol down again. It was frankly embarrassing to pass by a store security monitor and see myself.
One thing led to another and 2-mile walks became 10K runs then my first marathon. It was a small marathon called “The American Odyssey” in 1991 in central Wisconsin. The course was hilly and I had not prepared for that. It took me about 6 and a half hours and I was the last one on the course. The chalk finish line had washed away in a thunderstorm that came up during the final hour of the race. Someone came out of a bar and told me that I had crossed the finish line. I was given a finisher’s tee shirt, which became a prized possession. I also did four other marathons before moving from Wisconsin.
My life motto has always been “Everything worth doing is worth overdoing.” I also did my first ultramarathon before moving to California from Wisconsin. Some running friends talked me into doing the Voyager 50 miler in Minnesota. During the run, someone spotted a bear and we all worried about that too. The stragglers I was running with made a wrong turn near the end and we wound up running an additional couple of miles. I went to bed so exhausted that night thinking I might not wake up.
After moving to Fresno, I fell in with a running group that required me to pick up the pace. Most of them had qualified for and run Boston. The first year was quite a struggle keeping up but I ran my first sub four-hour marathon at age 49. It was the rather dull but flat Sacramento Marathon. I weighed 190 and could have signed up to run in the “Clydesdale” division. I realized that running is a gravity sport and decided that I would need to be at my best running weight if I was ever going to qualify for Boston.
I lost another 30 pounds while training for the CIM that starts in Folsom California and ends at the capitol in Sacramento. At 17 miles, I looked at my watch and realized my pace was 8:01. I needed an 8-minute pace to meet the sub 3:30 time to qualify for Boston. I decided it was now or never and pushed even harder. I made it. I have always been a marginal athlete who is on the time bubble. A month later, I ran the same time in the San Diego Marathon in Carlsbad. I was supposed to run with my cousin but he was a DNS because of shin splints.
Over the years I have probably run over 100 marathons and ultramarathons including completing The Kettle Moraine 100 and Western States 100. There is nothing quite so free as running on trails and knowing that you can run all day long.
Yesterday was my final marathon. This was the Two Cities Marathon in Fresno California which begins one half mile from my house. The temperature was perfect and the air clean. My times are getting too long and a 6:37 was good enough for my final marathon. It is about where I began 23 years ago. It was also good enough for second place in my age group. I owe so many wonderful friends and memories to running. I literally owe my life, health and self-discipline to running. The discipline and training has kept me lean, fit and sound. The early morning runs and weekly long runs mollified the life and career stresses. While I also bike, swim and cc ski, running has always been my drug of choice.
There are many “first marathon” reports out there and congratulations to those who have run their first marathon. You are a different person now aren't you? For some, perhaps most, it will be their last marathon. I would encourage anyone reading this to train for and run a marathon if their health will permit it and their doctor gives the go ahead. When you finish, the first words out of your mouth may be, “Never again.” In a week however, you may be considering the next one.