There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.
If you see me collapse, please pause my Garmin.
Originally Posted on 3-31-2010
By far the most common reaction I get from non-runners when they find out I’m a long distance runner and marathoner is some type of obligatory comment like “that’s great!” or “wow!” but their body language is saying “I don’t get it” or “You’re Nuts!” Some people are even more direct in voicing their bewilderment. My favorite comments include:
- Running a marathon is more dangerous than smoking
- You know that you’re destroying your body
- Well, I only run when being chased
While these reactions are frustrating, it is something I understand. For the first 30 years of my life, I hated running with a flaming passion. Running was punishment. Something you had to do when you made a mistake in practice. I always looked at marathoners with a sense of amazement, but also with a feeling that they were some type of freak of nature (like an alien).
I tried numerous times to become a runner, but I never seemed to be able to go farther than 3 miles without feeling like I would (a) collapse or (b) die of boredom.
When I reached my 30s, I started a new job, and began working with a lady named Mary Anne who had run over 30 marathons. I told her over and over again about my hatred of running, and she continued to encourage me to try it again. Eventually I did try it again, and again I seemed to get stuck on my 3-mile limit.
On one particular Saturday, I decided that I was just going to push past mile 3 no matter how tired I was, and right on schedule I thought that mile 3 was going to be the end of me. Then somewhere in the middle of mile 4, something clicked. I fell into this trance-like rhythm, and was able to complete 6 miles. I was ecstatic. From that moment in the middle of mile 4, I have been hooked. How could this be? I hated running? Yet, the next weekend I ran 7 miles, and then next weekend 8 miles, and so on.
So what is it that “clicked” on that particular Saturday? How did this moment transform me from someone that hated running into a hopeless addict. How did I become a person that has completed 6 half and 8 full marathons? I guess on some level I agree with the one who says they only run when being chased. However, the things that are chasing me are not wild animals or bad guys. They are the things that drive me, that push me to run, and run, and run.
So what is chasing me?
A High Stress Life – While I love my life, I have to admit that it is extremely high stress. From my job, to frequent speaking/teaching engagements, to family and church responsibilities, I can’t seem to slow down. Running has become my outlet, and my solace. Nothing can drown out the noise of the world like the rhythm of running long distances. I used to think that activities like golf and tennis were good outlets for stress, but they bring their own stress, especially golf. The only thing stressful about running is finding the time to do it. Otherwise, running is like the greatest drug in the world to me.
An Inferiority Complex / Scars from High School – To say that I was not very popular in high school would be a big understatement. I was shy. I was a nerd. I didn’t date a lot. I didn’t “party” with the cool kids. I did not play football. I was the last one that got selected for teams in PE and recess. I got picked on constantly. Now, I often wonder to myself how many of those that tormented me through those years can do what I can do. All of this just adds fuel to my addiction.
Small Fiber Sensory Neuropathy – Approximately 6 months after the moment when running “clicked” for me, and 1 month before I was supposed to run my first half marathon, I began experiencing some bizarre neurological symptoms that started in my legs, and quickly moved throughout my entire body. Running only intensified these symptoms (including numbness in my feet, arms, and face), and I was forced to stop. It took 7 months, and a trip to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to discover that I have a rare neurological disorder called Small Fiber Sensory Neuropathy. This is an auto-immune condition that destroys the small nerve fibers in the skin, leading to intense feelings of burning and numbness. The good news that I received at Hopkins was that this condition would not affect my motor skills, and the symptoms could be controlled by medication. Even though I lost a year of running due to the disorder, the medication allowed me to return to training, and complete my first 1/2 marathon 8 months after being diagnosed. When I started running again after my diagnosis, I was even more driven than before to run, no longer taking this ability for granted. It continues to be a major motivation for me.
Family History of Hypertension – Almost every member of my immediate family is on some type of high blood pressure medication, and I began to see signs of this in my own life very soon after I graduated from college (1996). However, since I began running in 2007, my Systolic pressure has consistently been less than 125, and my Diastolic less than 75.
A “Type A” Personality – Mary Anne often tells me that she knew I had a personality that was perfectly suited to long distance running, and that is why she talked to me about it so frequently. I am a “Type A” perfectionist, to the extreme. I think this is ultimately why running “clicked” on that Saturday in 2007. Once I pushed past that 3-mile barrier, it was something I knew I could do, and I wanted to do it really well. For the first time in my life I saw the possibility of completing a half, or possibly a full marathon, and I wanted to go for it. This insatiable drive to get better continues to push me through every training run, every track workout, every cross-training exercise.
Fear of Failure – I set lots of running goals, though I rarely share them with others. However, part of my motivation to continue running is a fear of not meeting these goals. This fear is exponentially intensified if I do share a goal with someone.
Well, there it is….the reasons why I run (at least many of them). Why do you run? What is chasing you?
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.
Back in April 2010, I posted my first marathon bucket list shortly after completing my third marathon in Knoxville, TN. Since then, I’ve completed five more marathons including several on that initial list. Also, there are now more marathons that I want to finish before I leave this earth. To that end, I present a revised list, which includes my completed marathons at the end.
- Boston – My goal is to qualify before my 40th birthday (I’m 36). With the changes in qualifying standards over the next two years, it is going to be harder and harder for this to be a reality. Still, I will continue to train hard to meet this goal.
- New York – As the intro to Letterman says – “The greatest city in the world!” NYC is my favorite place on earth, and I can’t wait to run this marathon. All 5 boroughs, 2 Million+ spectators, 44K+ runners!! I missed out on the lottery for 2010, and am entered again for 2011. Should find out if I made it in early April.
- Big Sur (Monterey, CA) – 26.2 + The Monterey Coast = WOW! Considered to be one of the most beautiful marathons in the world. Might have to combine with a trip to play Pebble Beach.
- St George (Utah) – 5240’ at the start and 2600’ at the finish, running through beautiful St George, Utah. I’ve been told it is one of the best-organized races in the country.
- Walt Disney World Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge – My wife and I have been to DW 8 times since we were married in 1997, so we obviously love the place. The Goofy’s Challenge is to run the 1/2 marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday. Runners get a Donald Duck medal for the 1/2, a Mickey Mouse medal for the full, and a Goofy Medal if they can complete both. I was registered for the Goofy Challenge in January 2011, but missed the half marathon due to the flu. I was still able to complete the full marathon, but would like to go back and do the Goofy at some time in the future.
- Marine Corps. (Washington, DC) – Running through the monuments in DC with Marines handing out water & Gatorade at the aid stations. Sounds pretty special.
- Rock n’ Roll San Diego – The original Rock n’ Roll marathon in the city known for perfect weather. I know that all of the Rock n’ Roll events are incredibly well run, and are BIG!
- (new) Athens – The marathon course is based on the myth from which the race gained its name: Pheidippides, a messenger in Ancient Greece, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks’ victory over the Persians. The course begins in the town of Marathon and finishes at the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, a site for athletics competitions in ancient times and the finishing point for both the 1896 and 2004 Olympic marathons
- (new) Missoula (Missoula, MT) – Ranked by Runner’s World readers as the best marathon in the US in 2010.
- (new) London Marathon – One of the five World Marathon majors (along with Boston, Chicago, New York & Berlin). Can’t think of a better way to experience London than with 35,000 other runners on a fast course.
- (new) Berlin Marathon – Another of the World Marathon majors, and an extremely fast course. Home of the world-record of 2:03:59, set by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in 2008
- (new) Ogden (Utah) – Another marathon that is supposed to be among the most beautiful in the US, but without the steep climbs of Big Sur. 5400’ at the start and 4300’ at the finish.
- Miami – A flat, sea-level course in beautiful Miami. Finishers get a spinning palm tree medal.
- P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll Phoenix – I love the natural beauty of the Phoenix / Scottsdale area, and like the idea that the half and full are on different courses. As always, Rock n’ Roll events are a lot of fun.
- Little Rock – Another one that is about the medal. Like having a dinner plate around your neck.
- Cincinnati Flying Pig – Why? – Two-Sided Flying Pig Medal….
- Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey (Nashville, TN) – Basically 2 laps around the main drive in Percy Warner park (1 in each direction). I regularly train in PW park, and to say it is challenging would be an understatement. Each lap has over 1250’ of elevation change. Not certified, not a BQ, but I really want to do this one. Part of it is because it is my hometown. Part of it is the beauty of the park. Part of it is the cool, wood, flying monkey medal. Part of it is getting the bragging rights for finishing this brutal course. Plan to register for this one in 2011 if I don’t get selected in the New York lottery.
- (New) LA Marathon – A point-to-point, net downhill course through the second largest city in the US. I have never been to LA except through the airport. Seems like a fun way to experience the city.
- Chicago – October 11, 2009 – 3:53:05
- St. Jude Marathon (Memphis, TN) – December 5, 2009 – 3:42:22
- Knoxville – March 28, 2010 – 3:39:12 – Race Write-Up
- Country Music Marathon – April 24, 2010 – 3:52:55 – Race Write-Up
- Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) – October 3, 2010 – 3:25:38 – Race Write-Up
- Rock n’ Roll San Antonio – November 14, 2010 – 3:24:13 – Race Write-Up
- Walt Disney World – January 9, 2011 – 3:43:08 – Race Write-Up
- Mercedes (Birmingham, AL) – February 13, 2011 – 3:39:46 – Race Write-Up
So what great races are missing from my list?
Team Agee member @SaraG_Agee having a good time at Yolo’s for Sun brunch.
Finished my shadow box for the #MercedesMarathon medal & such.
Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.