Growing up, I HATED running! I only ran when I had to, usually the requisite 1 mile timed run in gym class which I barely passed each time. My father still shakes his head each time I finish a race and says “but you hated running before.”
During the summer of 2009, I was working on losing weight and decided I might want to try training for a half marathon. It would accomplish two things: help me lose weight and I would do something that I never thought I could do before. I even told a friend about wanting to train for a half marathon. My friend laughed at me and said, “No way are you ever going to be able to do that!”
Only one problem, I had no idea where to even begin. How does one train for a half marathon? I turned to my mom, MsMarti, because she always seems to know what to do and she also happened to have a friend, Jon, who had run a marathon and several other races. She asked Jon where I could find some training plans and where I could get some information on training properly. Well if you know Jon at all, he doesn’t do anything half way, it’s all or nothing with him.
Next thing I know, I get a package in the mail from him with a book “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener and Tanjala Kole. He said this was the book he used to train for his very first marathon. Now for those of you that don’t know Jon or his story, you may be asking yourself, why would you go to him for advice. All I can say is click HERE to read his story and you will understand why.
Throughout the course of my training, Jon and my mom kept encouraging me. Mom even signed me up for a couple of shorter races, a 5K and a 10-mile, to give me some race experience before the half marathon. I had never even run a 5K prior to training! Mom joined in and did the 5K races so I wasn’t the only one doing the race. In May 2010, I achieved my weight loss goal, ran my first half marathon and got hooked on running! While training for the half marathon, I can’t say that I enjoyed running, but I didn’t hate it. It served its purpose and I couldn’t find anything else that gave me the same results and feeling of accomplishment. During the summer of 2010, I participated in a couple of triathlons, but didn’t enjoy them as much as the running. I shocked myself and my family by signing up for a 2nd half marathon and completed that one in October 2010.
Throughout the summer and fall, mom would occasionally bring up the idea of me running the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and that Jon would ensure I had a spot on his team. I had never thought I would want to run a marathon, I mean seriously, who actually wants to willingly run 26.2 miles! Jon doesn’t know the meaning of the word no or can’t, they are not in his vocabulary. After everything that Jon had overcome, how could I tell him I couldn’t run a marathon? It really puts your priorities in perspective and it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
Well prior to Jon’s 3rd MCM, I decided I would give it a try. Yep, I committed to training and running the 2011 MCM prior to the 2010 MCM. I am weird like that! By committing to running the MCM on Jon’s team, I was also committing to fundraising for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. I thought if I am going to attempt a marathon, I might as well run for a great cause! It was a great motivator as I didn’t want to let Jon or the Semper Fi Fund down. The MCM sells out every year and the spots are coveted. This year, the MCM sold out in a record breaking 2 hours and 41 minutes!
Now that I knew I would be running the MCM, many people around me said you better start training. Mind you, it was 12 months before the race. Thankfully Jon set me straight and said I didn’t need to start training for the marathon until probably June depending on my training plan. Though he did indicate it would be a good idea to run some races and continue running in the spring in order to have a base of miles built up. That’s the thing about Jon; he always has wonderful and timely advice! It is up to you whether you follow it or not. I signed up for a 4 races in the spring, a 5K, a 10 mile and 2 half marathons. The half marathons were 8 days apart, but I wasn’t too worried about it as Jon had told me he had done that several times before. (Famous last words!!)
Well my body obviously had other ideas because after the 1st half marathon, my leg was pretty sore but I figured it was a sore muscle or something. 10 miles into the 2nd half marathon, I realized it was definitely not a sore muscle, something was wrong. The pain was shooting from my ankle all the way up to my hip. Needless to say, I somehow managed to finish the race. I went to the doctor and found out I had a major stress fracture of the tibia (the bone right below the knee). I had to use crutches for the month of June which meant I couldn’t start training for the MCM and wasn’t sure I would even be able to run the MCM at all.
In July, I was able to start walking as long as I was pain free but still no running. I was pretty worried at this point about my chances of participating in the MCM. I was in contact with Jon throughout all this and he kept saying to take it day by day and I wasn’t out yet.
Finally in mid-August, after getting a 2nd opinion, the doctor said the stress fracture was fully healed, cleared me for running and he said it would be ok to train for the MCM as long as I listened to my body and took walking breaks when necessary. In retrospect, my injury was nothing compared to everything Jon has gone through and comeback from, but he never once belittled it. He just kept encouraging me to keep going.
One month after resuming running, I completed my 5th half marathon injury free. I owe a lot of that to my mom for going out with me on some of my training runs and to Jon for always answering my many, many questions about training. Somehow Jon always knew when I was starting to really struggle with the training and he always had a pick me up. Remember, “No” and “I can’t” aren’t words in his vocabulary, so you just keep pushing on.
One thing to note also, at this point, I had never met Jon, we had only e-mailed and had the occasional brief phone call. To my friends and family, he is always known as my on-line training buddy (not sure he knows that!). I wouldn’t have the privilege of meeting Jon until the day before the MCM in 2011. We met for a carbo loading meal the day before the race and it would be an understatement to say I was nervous about the marathon. I think the only thing I wasn’t concerned about was the weather, though everyone else was!
The race was on Sunday, October 30th in Washington, D.C. mind you, and the day before, it was snowing, big, fat snowflakes! Coming from North Dakota, I am used to snow and have had to run in it too. Thankfully on race day, the snow had disappeared even if it was a bit chilly when the race started.
While walking with Jon to the starting area, he asked me at one point what I was thinking about as I had gone really quiet. I told him, “I am not thinking about anything,” to which he replied “Good you shouldn’t be.” His point was, you are about to start the race and there isn’t anything you can change at this point. Just go out and do the best that you can and finish the race. He said he would wait for me at the finish line no matter how long it took me.
Well I finished about an hour after he did and true to his word, he was waiting right there for me! It was such an accomplishment to finish the race and to have him tell me great job. It didn’t matter to him how fast or slow I was (and trust me, I am slow!), but that I had finished the race. He always believed in me even when I didn’t always believe in myself.
One of the things I remember after finishing the marathon was when we met up with my family and someone said to us, “Boy, you guys are sure walking funny.” You just have to laugh and shake your head, and I remember thinking, you would be walking funny too if you had just run 26.2 miles!
One thing many people don’t realize about training and running a marathon is the amount of support a runner needs. Yes, the runner is the one that puts in the miles and completes the race, but there are many people behind the scenes supporting them throughout the process. Running a marathon is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. I was lucky because I had a huge amount of support from my parents; especially my mom and I also had Jon! His support was and continues to be invaluable because he not only knows what he is talking about but it’s never a competition with him.
I am again this year running the MCM on Jon’s team, I actually decided to run again prior to even completing my first MCM (told you I was weird). I was recently e-mailing him regarding training plans, I was freaking out about which one to use and I had told him my goal this year is to run the MCM in under 5 hours, last year my time was 5 hours, 20 minutes and 39 seconds. His response was “You did great last year and will do the same this year. You have plenty of time and all the stuff that didn’t make sense last year will start to make sense this year.” That’s Jon, always positive and encouraging. He only asks that you try your hardest and do the best that you can!
Let’s all help Jon and his team “Team For Those Who Can’t” raise as much money as possible for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Every dollar counts and helps more than you can ever know, so please consider donating anything that you can.
To donate, please visit http://www.active.com/donate/semperfifundmcm2012/TeamForThoseWhoCant
My page can be found here. All donations to an individual's page also will show on the team page.