I always disliked running while growing up and only ran in the Navy when I had to pass my Physical Readiness Test. I NEVER thought I would ever run a half marathon, let alone a marathon and honestly if it wasn’t for this particular race being on my wife’s bucket list, I still may have never had the marathon on my racing resume.
To be able to run the NYC Marathon, you have 3 options: qualify (with a really fast time that we’re not at; YET!), enter the open lottery and get picked OR join an approved Charity and raise monies to support their cause. We both decided to enter the lottery back in January and come lottery day in February, Sandy got picked; but not me. Maybe it was in her cards and not mine; not sure but thinking about how awesome it would be to run this with her, I decided to run as a St. Jude Hero and raise money for their amazing cause.
Fast forward to 20 weeks out from the race where I started my race training… I have a VERY BUSY schedule (yeah yeah, just like everyone, right?). But to give you an idea, I get up at 4:30AM four days a week to teach HIIT classes at our Fit4Lyfe gym and then I work as a CEO of an Orthopaedic practice (M-F) from 9-5 to then return to Fit4Lyfe to teach night classes (3 days a week), get home around 8:15pm(ish), hang with my family, eat and go to bed by 10:30pm to do it all again. So, yeah, it’s BUSY and hard to find the time for training BUT it’s also the lifestyle I choose and one that my wife and I take great pride in.
My workout schedule included going to the gym on my 1-hour lunch break to do whatever type of HIIT/short runs I could fit in and then doing one long run each week which usually occurred Sunday mornings with Sandy. I would also hit as many Fit4Lyfe classes as I could and during the early part of our trainings, we would run from our home to Fit4Lyfe and take a class as well; you do what you gotta do when you gotta do it. Training was ROUGH and it also included training for my bucket list item, the 2017 OCR World Championship that occurred in Canada on October 13 -15; which I completed with our amazing Fit4Lyfe Team.
Everything was going really well with my training and all on schedule until I injured my foot in the 15K OCR World Championship race on October 14th. Now I stood 3 weeks out from my first ever marathon, injured and freaking out. I saw my doc immediately and followed orders, which included no activity up to the race--- this had to be one of the hardest things to do!
I showed up in NYC, worried (but I am really good at hiding that from everyone), as I was about to attempt to run 26.2 miles in one of the biggest marathons in the WORLD with my longest run (EVER) being 17 miles and not running at all in the previous 3 weeks! I was calm and collected on the outside until we attended the St. Jude’s athlete luncheon. At this luncheon, Coach Kevin started to talk about all the amazing things about the NYC Marathon and how this was an incredible experience but he also mentioned how difficult this race was going to be and directly but indirectly said “if you didn’t train, GOOD LUCK”. I totally thought he was talking right to me right then and there… I started getting really nervous and doubting myself. You see, I pretty much doubt myself in every competition and I’m always nervous of failing and letting people down. I know it’s not what most would think but this is the truth of what goes on inside. So to say that I wasn’t nervous would be lying to all… I was the most nervous I’ve ever been!
Race day we get up at 430am to catch the St. Jude 530am bus from Central Park to Staten Island where we would then wait around until our 11am start time; talk about nerves on OVERDRIVE! I must have visited every single port-a-potty in that whole staging area as the more I sat around, the more my nerves would get to me. It was a rough start before the official start.
The “Village” set up was pretty cool. There were tents to hang out; Dunkin Donuts and other vendors were there and of course, plenty of Port-o-potties. We were hanging out in the St. Jude tent, well really I was pacing around a lot, for a couple hours and then it finally happened, they called our corral number. EEKS! We made our way over to the start line and then BOOM…a huge crowd of screaming people cheering us all on. WOW, SO OVERWHELMING!!! No turning back now, it’s go time!
3, 2, 1, GO…and we were running the NYC Marathon! Things started SLOW as there were so many people in our way. The first mile was spent jockeying for a good position so our pace was a bit all over the place. At about mile 2 we were able to start hitting a regular pace and begin running our plan; just as planned.
Man o man a marathon is such a mental game!! I run a fair amount and ran a lot to train for this marathon but only a few miles in my mind started telling me that my legs hurt. At about mile 5, my quads were hurting (so my mind was telling me), then about mile 7 it was my knees and I thought “what happed to your quads hurting” as they weren’t hurting anymore? We had a quick pit stop at mile 8 to say HELLO and grab some supplies from the amazing support group that was there for us (Kevin and Wendy Updegrove and Jessica Schoonover). That little break and cheer squad was a nice reboot for my legs as I felt fresh starting up again.
As the miles kept adding up, I really tried to focus on the crowd (which NEVER ended). All the people cheering, the signs, the kids giving high fives was absolutely amazing and helped take my mind off the fact that I was about to approach uncharted territory at 17 miles.
Runners talk about “The wall”? What the hell is that?? Did I hit it? I have no idea! All I know is at mile 16 I thought “HOLY SHIT, I HAVE 10 MOR MILES TO GO” and started doing math in my head to figure out how much longer I had to run. I mean you do know that every runner is a math genius, right? At this point I told myself to stop worrying about the miles and JUST RUN! That sounded good but mile 17 was approaching and now I was entering uncharted territory! Never had I run one step further than 17 miles and now I was a bit nervous…can I really do this? Will I fail? Will my body hold up?...those are just a few of the things that ran through my head at that time.
Mile 18 came and went, 19 came and went but things were starting to hurt worse with every step; especially my hamstrings which I thought at any minute were going to cramp up big time. We were approaching a bridge right before mile 20 and we saw our support group again and THANK GOD because I needed a break. We stopped, refueled and stretched and Sandy and I said we would start taking thins one mile at a time. After that pit stop I thought to myself “You got this, ONLY 6 miles to go”!
Those last 6 miles did not come easy. There were a lot of stretch breaks but we kept pushing forward at a decent pace. I told Sandy a few times to keep going as I was holding her back and I wanted her to hit our goal of 4 hours. However she would not leave me as much as I am sure it was eating her up inside.
The final stretch was absolutely frigging amazing! The crowd…honestly I don’t think I can explain it. It was a sea of non-stop screaming, cheering chanting people. The energy was palpable and just what I needed to get me through the end. We finally turned into the park and I knew we had shy of 2 mile to go and I couldn’t believe I was about to complete a marathon.
We approached the finish line like we started the race, together. I grabbed Sandy’s hand and we stepped on that finish line together, sticking to our plan of completing this race side by side. It is because of her that I decided to run this race and her training plan that I followed to be ready for this race. Unfortunately we did not hit our goal time and I attribute that to not being able to run for three weeks prior to the race, but who knows. There really is a lot that goes into preparing and running a marathon.
People have asked me if I will run another marathon and my answer is “yeah, probably”. Because now I want to know what I can really do, how well I can perform! This was an amazing experience and one I will remember; but it will also help me get better.
Again, I want to thank all of you amazing people that helped make this happen…my parents and in-laws for watching our little ones, the many people that donated to St. Jude’s, Kevin, Wendy and Jessica for taking the trip just to support us, and every person that sent a text, phone call or FB post! Most importantly, THANK YOU, Sandy, you are my motivation… I love you!