My First Marathon

I ran my first marathon on Saturday, February 14, 2009 in Myrtle Beach , South Carolina, and finished! It was an amazing experience.  I trained for this race for several months, Jen (my wife) and Peyton (my son - five at the time) helping me on all of my long runs (14, 16, 18 and 20 mile runs) and supporting me throughout my training.  What a great team!

The start was a little chilly at fifty degrees.  Jen and Peyton woke up with me at 4:30am (they had been such troopers putting up with my need to sign up for so many races over the past two years).  They drove me to the starting line where I waited with six thousand other runners and walkers.  I found a nice warm spot with about twenty other runners next to a generator until the start of the race.  At this point I was feeling nervous, but really happy.  I talked to this guy who was running his ninety-ninth marathon.  When I told him that this was my first marathon he acted more impressed than I did when he told me how many he had run.  What a crazy bunch of people I have joined...

Miles one through five were perfect, not too fast and not too slow.  Miles six through ten felt great - I was a little ahead of my pace.  I was thinking to myself that this is a piece of cake!  Miles eleven through thirteen were wonderful.  Mile thirteen was a little hard as the runners of the Half Marathon approached their finish line (this is a little daunting when you know you have another half to go).  Fourteen and Fifteen seemed fine and I was now counting down the miles (only eleven miles to go!).

At mile sixteen the first sign of trouble hit; my left calf started to cramp.  I kept thinking, "This is not happening.”  I slowed a little and the cramp seemed to go away.  Just then I hit mile seventeen.  I could see Jen and Peyton standing in front of our hotel waiving and smiling.  What an incredible feeling that was.  I was filled with so much joy.  Jen came out and gave me a quick hug and kiss.  Peyton watched me with big bright eyes and it made me feel like a hero!  This was the best.

Miles eighteen through twenty were getting hard.  I felt great from seeing Jen and Peyton, but I was worried about the cramps.  I drank and ate everything I could throughout the race, but it was not enough.  At mile twenty-one my legs cramped up again.  This was the worst pain I had ever felt.  It felt like marbles were rolling around in my calves.  I slowed down and I tried to change strides, but nothing seemed to help.  As I came to mile twenty-two I was thinking "Why did I do this? What is wrong with me? What made me think I could do a marathon?"  It was at this point that I felt that I could go no further; I wanted to quit.  I saw the first aid station and as I passed it, another runner asked me if I need to go back to get checked out.  I made the decision to go on.  I knew that if I stopped I would never be able to continue running (this is how I have felt for the past few years as I dropped a over ninety pounds – if I stopped, I would never be able to get going again).

In 2003 when my wife was pregnant it was one of the happiest times of my life, it was also the time of my life that I gained the most weight.  During that time I ballooned to 260 pounds (at 5’ 6” that is a lot of weight to carry around).

When my son turned two I decided to try to get back in shape.  I tried working out, but I found that all I was doing was exercising to eat.  I dropped a few pounds, but most of it came right back.

In 2007 at 235 pounds and 36 years old (and after running the Cooper River Bridge 10k in 1 hour and 17 minutes) I made the choice to eat right and start seriously running.

I am now working out with a boot camp group three days per week and I run on my own three days per week (I only take a day off because everyone tells me I have too). In February of 2008, I had dropped my weight to 164 pounds (it is July 2010 and I still weigh the same). My Body Fat went from 31.2% to 13.9%; my triglycerides went from 235 to 34; and my waist shrunk from 46” to 31” - my waist is smaller now than when I was in high school!
So with all this in mind and with so many miles behind me, I kept running.

Miles twenty-two through twenty-four are a blur.  I know that I was thinking about Jen and Peyton waiting for me at the finish line.  I was thinking about all the work I had put in for this race and the support Jen had given me while I went running for hours at a time.  Then I saw it - the marker for mile twenty-five.  At this point I knew I could finish the race.  Time did not matter anymore; it was all about finishing the race.

Mile twenty-six flew by until I saw the final shoot for the last two tenths of a mile.  I had no idea I would be so emotional about finishing this race.  Then I heard my name over the loud speaker and at the same time I saw Jen and Peyton waiting for me at the finish line.  Jen had tears in her eyes and that sent me off the deep end.  This was, at once, one of the most incredible and most painful moments of my life.

Finishing the race in four hours and twenty-seven minutes was not the goal I had originally set.  But the feeling of accomplishment, pride and joy of finishing the race was better than anything I could have ever imagined.

That race was in 2009 and my decision to make this commitment was in 2007.  My whole family is healthier.  The last time we ordered pizza was for the Super Bowl (this is a big improvement from when the pizza guys new us all by name).  I am now able to coach my son’s sports teams (so far it has been flag football, soccer and now baseball).  We took a family vacation to DC in October, 2009, for the Marine Corps Marathon.  I ran the marathon, my wife is ran the 10k and my son is ran the 1 mile kids run! (Click here for a recap of the Marine Corps Marathon).


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