In a running, there are winners, but there are no losers.
Fred LeBow, co-founder of the New York City Marathon once said, “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.” There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
For the approximately 6,000 runners who participated in the Glass City Marathon, half-marathon, relays, or 5K on April 22, there was a sense of achievement in reaching a goal, a personal record, or simply crossing that finish line. Each one has a unique story as to how they began running and what it means to them.
This is my story.
In April, 2011, I ran the Glass City Half-Marathon after training for four months. That was a monumental achievement for me. Prior to December, 2010, I had never ran an entire mile in my life and at one point I was 283 pound and would get out of breath just walking at a slow pace of 2.5 mph.
It was such a positive and empowering experience, that it made me want to try to run a full marathon. I set my sights on the 2012 Glass City Marathon.
In January, 2012, I joined the Dave’s Marathon-in-Training Group determined to run a full marathon. It was a fantastic experience!
There were around 150 people who signed up. We were divided into groups based on our abilities and goal times for finishing the half and full marathon and met twice a week for 18 weeks. We had excellent coaches, who volunteer their time for the group. They are some of the best runners and coaches in the area.
On my first long run, I asked one of my coaches, “Why are you doing this?” He told me that he had gotten so much from running that he wanted to give back to the running community by helping new runners to discover their potential and achieve their goals.
He is passionate about running and enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. All of the coaches were so positive, encouraging and motivating. They helped me to believe in my abilities and push myself to run faster or longer than I thought I could.
It was more than just running a certain number of miles each week. Guest speakers came to talk with us about proper running form, different types of shoes, nutrition for marathon training, and we learned different drills, exercises and stretches to prevent injury. We all received a team running jacket and a tech shirt for our training and a tech shirt to wear for the race.
Before the race, we had a pasta dinner to celebrate our accomplishment of completing the training and to encourage one another and share in the excitement and anticipation of the race. I made a lot of new friends from the training group – both coaches and participants.
While training for the marathon, I realized that my body wasn’t quite ready to run a marathon even if my heart was, so I switched to the half-marathon. I was a little disappointed to have to switch, but I knew I had to listen to my body. I was afraid if I pushed myself too much, that I would get injured and not enjoy running. This year, when people asked me, “What is your goal?” My answer was, “To beat myself – to do better than I did last year.”
The night before the race, I set out everything I would need in the morning. I got up at 4:30 a.m. to eat breakfast, so it would have time to digest before the race, and drank some water to hydrate. I did a little warm up jog for 5 minutes and got ready.
When I arrived to the race, I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year because I knew where I had to go, I knew the course, and I knew that I had done it before so I told myself, “You can do it again!”
I found the pace sign in the crowd at the starting line that indicated the pace that I expected to run each mile. I found many of the people from my training group. We were excited and cheering, taking pictures and just enjoying ourselves before the race. Then the starting gun went off.
I had to wait several minutes before I was able to make my way across the starting line, since I was toward the back of the pack. It is important to hold back and watch your pace at the beginning, so you don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in the excitement and start out too fast. I wanted to stick with a pace that I could sustain for the entire race.
I was able to run with a woman from my training group for almost the entire race, which was great because we kept each other company, talked and just encouraged each other to keep going forward. We would call out the miles as we passed each of the mile markers. The crowd was very supportive, which helped to urge us on.
As I was nearing mile 13, I got a fresh surge of energy as I saw, Eric, one of my coaches standing there with a big smile on his face and words of encouragement to help propel me to the end. He ran beside me for a bit, which helped a lot — giving me that determination to keep pushing myself.
When I saw the Rocket Bowl Stadium, I felt a renewed sense of energy, knowing that I was almost at the finish line. As I entered the stadium, I heard the cheering crowd and my name announced over the speakers, but I only had eyes for the finish line.
When I crossed, the first person I saw was Coach Tim, who was the one to put my finisher’s medal around my neck, making the experience extra special. Then I saw several of the people from my training group and Coach Amy. We all hugged and congratulated each other and took pictures. I was elated — I beat my time from last year by 25 minutes.
Then, to top it off, I saw my friends, Laura, who ran the half marathon with me last year, and Joy. They had made signs, brought me flowers and surprised me by bringing my daughters to the race to see me finish. My heart swelled with gratitude and happiness and I had tears of joy in my eyes. What a great finish to an amazing journey!
Am I a fast runner? No. Will I win races? Probably not, but I am still out there running.
I enjoy having the ability to run, experiencing the beauty of nature, and knowing that I have improved my health, quality of living and extended my lifespan. Most of all, I love the sense of community and spirit among runners and the amazing friendships that I have developed through running.
While I may never be a great runner, I strive to improve upon my previous efforts and I can say without a doubt, there is a lot of satisfaction in that.