When I was a kid I always emulated my parents. They were both marathon runners and to me, going to the playground really meant going to a track where my Mom and Dad were running, probably hammering out laps and repeats. I may had figured out what 800 meters was before ABC’s.
Now I am coming up soon to 10 years of marathon running. After 24 marathons and a huge amount of half marathons and 5k’s and 10k’s behind me I realize how much running has changed my life and has taught me so many lessons.
The first time I crossed the finish line of a marathon was probably one of the greatest moments in my life. I had finally accomplished that pinnacle I had grown up admiring so much. But I truly felt like at that moment I was changed forever and my life would never be the same. Since crossing the finish line of that marathon I went on to become certified as a coach through USAT&F and give back to running what running has given to me.
I once ran a marathon and then ran back on the course to mile 17 to get a runner/walker who was running her first marathon. She was a unique story because just a year and a half prior she was rushed to the hospital with heart issues and soon enough had triple bypass heart surgery. During her recovery she was told by the doctors if she didn’t change her life she would probably be at risk to die. So she figured she would start walking and then commit to running a marathon. At the time I was coaching the Roadrunners in Los Angeles and she came to my program determined and scared. I promised her that day when she first came to me with here concerns that If she committed and gave everything the program asked of her and I would in turn do the same. I promised her on race day I would come back for her and bring her into the finish line. We shook on it and as the program progressed, I kept my end of the bargain. To prepare for race day I practiced my endurance on Saturdays. As a group we met Saturdays for the long run and I ran the required mileage that day and I would run back to her and run the rest of the way in with her. Our longest run was 20 miles and after running 20 that day and running back to her, there was no doubt in both of our minds we were confident for race day.
On race day at the start line I gave her a hug and she asked me if I was going to come back for her, you could tell she was very nervous. The gun went off, I ran my race with my runners, crossed the finish line and turned around and made my journey back to find her. Most runners were telling me I was going the wrong way or giving me the stare like what is this guy doing. Eventually after a grueling long trek back I found her at mile 17 and she was struggling mentally, as many first timers do. We walked and ran and walked and ran. It was an amazing 9 miles of true grit and inspiration. We were so far back in the race that the roads were reopened and we had to move to the sidewalks. The sun was starting to come down on the LA skyline and pretty soon we were in the dark. By the time we got to mile 25 we were both really depleted from the day of being out on a 26 mile course all day. We were almost 11 hours in and coming closer and closer to the finish.
As we approached the 26 mile banner which was still up, I told her she would have to make the last point two in by herself. I told her the finish line was something she needed to experience on her own. I did my part to get her there and wanted that to be HER moment. She gave me a hug and cried on my shoulder because she knew her dream had come true. This finish line up ahead was more than just a line on the road, it was the rebirth of her new life. I stood there in the middle of the street and watched her run in. As she got closer to the finish, about 20 yards or so away she ran with her hands above her as if she was about to come in first place to win the race. It was an amazing moment as she crossed. As I watched, tears were rolling down my cheeks as it was an amazing moment to finally see come into fruition. I walked down the street to the train station and went home.
To this day she continues to run and running is now a part of her lifestyle. Running in a big way did SAVE her life as well as CHANGE it. People often as me how I managed to put in 44 miles that day running back and forth and the answer is simple. I was born with a gift given to me by my parents who are runners. That day I went back I felt like I was honoring my parents for giving me that gift and gifts should never be wasted.
Keep dreaming, keep believing, keep moving forward and keep running!