May 26 marked the 5-year anniversary of the day that I first started running. On that day back in 2010, I went to the Kokosing Gap Trail, which for the first 20 years of my time in Mount Vernon had gone unused by me. (That itself is a shame since it’s a great 13.3-mile trail!) I weighed 235 pounds and needed to make a change because my life as the sports information director at a small college was taking a toll on me. I worked a lot of late hours, drank a lot of late-night Mountain Dew, and grabbed way too many fast food meals and bad snacks just to take care of my hunger pangs during my busy, over-worked schedule.
I can still remember that first run on that early morning….it seemed like it took forever to get to the one-mile mark to turn around and go back. I didn’t take an iPod and I really had no idea how to set a pace and just took off thinking that it would be no problem. By the time I got to the one-mile mark and was turning around to head back, I was thinking to myself “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” I was able to finish and headed for home, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
The next day, I came back to attempt two miles again. I was fine for the first mile. However, as I approached the half mile mark on the way back, I was ready to just walk the final 800 meters. I passed an older lady who was walking and had been on the trail the previous day and said to her “I think you’ve got the right idea.” She came back with “well, you sure seemed to have a lot more energy yesterday.” Well, that was the kick in the pants that I needed to get back into a jog and finish the two miles without walking.
I only ran a total of three miles over the next two weeks as I debated whether this was something I really wanted to commit to doing or not. During this time, I came up with lots of excuses of why I was too busy or didn’t need to do it. However, every time I voiced one to my good friend, Jay Stancil (a fellow sports information director in Kentucky who had also just started running), he would tell me how busy he was, but that he still put in the time to run even if it meant getting up at 5:00 a.m.
So, after two weeks of coming up with excuses only to have Jay shoot them all down, I headed back to the trail on June 12th with a new frame of mind. I also took my iPod along this time. I went into my run that day planning to do two miles, but kept pushing myself and ended up running to the two-mile mark instead. Before I knew it, I had run two miles out and two miles back and had four miles under my belt in a time that I was pretty pleased with. I went back the next day and ran three more miles. It felt really good to have done seven miles in the span of two days.
From June through August, I stayed pretty regular with several solo runs a week while listening to my iPod. I did all of my runs on the Kokosing Gap Trail so that I would know my mileage since I had not yet invested in a Garmin. Then, in late August, I found out that there was going to be a 4-mile race in town. Several people I knew where going to do it and I thought it would be fun to try something different.
Needless to say, I had a blast and I was hooked!!! I had always been a marginal athlete at best growing up. But when I finished second in my age group and 21st overall in this race, I realized that I had found something that at least on a small local level I was decent at. It fueled my fire to work harder and also to run with other people. I began to train a little more seriously and signed up for inaugural Emerald City Quarter Marathon that was a week later and ended up once again finishing second in my age group and this time 12th overall out of 709 people!!!
From there, running just continued to take off. I did the Columbus Half Marathon that fall and finished 2010 with 559 total miles. I was excited to continue my running journey and see what I could do in a full year. I also saw my health and fitness improving. My weight was dropping and I was doing a better job of getting to sleep earlier at night since I was getting up to run predawn most mornings. I was eating a little healthier and had cut soda out while drinking a lot of water.
2011 proved to be a full year of racing with two half marathons (Cap City and Earth Day) in the spring, the Erie Half Marathon in the fall, and then my first full marathon in October when I ran the Columbus Marathon in 3:52:04 even with walking most of the final 6 miles. I knew that day even before I got home that I would do another full because I had so much room for improvement. I finished 2011 with 1,818 miles and set my sights on going for 2,000 miles the next year.
And then they hit….INJURIES!!! 2012 started off well with my second marathon (Earth Day) as I improved to 3:41:39 and only walked about three miles. I also did the Cap City Quarter Marathon with my oldest daughter who was 10 at the time and then the Pittsburgh Half Marathon the next day. However, after that, I started to battle shin splints. Then, they turned into full blown stress fractures. I walked two races and then was only able to do the first of my three scheduled legs at the Hood to Coast Relay. I ended up taking about three months off from running and finished the year with 1,505 miles. However, by late fall and after supporting friends at the Columbus Marathon including some unplanned running, I knew that I was on the mend and I was ready to start fresh in the new year!!!
2013 started off with a bang for me as I set a new PR in the First on the First 5K at 19:52. Then, in February, I posted what is to date my only race win as I captured the title at the Granville Winter Run 7.5-Mile race. That gave me the confidence that I would need to go after my first Boston Qualifier (BQ) just a week later at the Last Chance for Boston Marathon in Dublin, Ohio. That day on the one-mile loop course I dropped 28 minutes off my marathon PR and finished in 3:13:33!!! (Unfortunately, I would later find out when registering for Boston that due to increased interest in the race after the bombing that I was still 11 seconds too slow to get in for 2014.)
I did three more half marathons in that spring (Xenia, Earth Day, and Pittsburgh) and also my second relay event (Relay Around Columbus) and then set my sights on the Erie Marathon in the fall. I was a little too energetic at Erie, though, and ended up running what would have been a new PR 1:30 first half to that race and then struggled the second half with some walking at the end as my fourth marathon finished in 3:21:47. I was bummed because I knew by then that my chances of getting into Boston in 2014 were slim and now I would need to work hard again to get another BQ for the following year.
So, I did what a lot of crazy runners do….I quickly signed up for the Columbus Marathon that was less than a month later. I knew that I was well-trained and that if I could just pace myself better that I had a shot at another sub 3:15. When race day came, I followed my plan perfectly. I just kept plugging away and ended up knocking 8 more seconds off my PR with a 3:13:25 to secure another BQ. I finished 2013 with 2,214 miles.
In 2014, I put together my most consistent and healthiest year yet as I credit taking up biking and swimming as some of the key factors to this success. I was able to pace two marathons (Myrtle Beach and Monumental) as well as set a new half marathon PR at Cap City with a 1:32:04. After a 1:32:29 Emerald City Half Marathon in August, I again returned to Erie to try to lower my marathon PR. Running my smartest race so far, I managed to knock three minutes off my PR and finished in 3:10:25 and knew that it looked good for me to get into the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2015. I went on to finish 2014 with 2,489 miles and felt great!
2015 got off to a great start as I averaged 250 miles for the first three months, but all of the miles began to slowly catch up to me especially after attempting to PR at the Last Chance for Boston Marathon in February on a snow-covered course. However, I have managed to run through them as best I can and really enjoyed the opportunity to run and finish the Boston Marathon in April. Then, less than a month later, I tacked on my first ultra marathon experience by taking part and completing the Playin’ Possum 50K. It was a tremendous new experience and will make me a better runner because of it.
As I finish up this recap of my first five years, it is amazing to think that I’ve amassed 9,661 miles during that span or an average of 1,932 per year. That’s nearly 5.3 miles per day for the past 1,826 days and there have definitely been a lot of non-running days in there…especially when I was injured.
However, more importantly than all the miles or any awards or medals that I have received from running are the friendships that I have gained. The running community is an amazing group filled with inspiring people who each have their own story to tell. I have really enjoyed getting to know so many great people on this journey.
Here are just a few facts and figures from the past five years:
Total States Run In – 16 (Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.)
Different Shoes – Asics Gel Kanbarra (3 pair), Asics Nimbus (12 pair), Adidas Boost (2 pair), Puma Ignite, New Balance 980
Starting Weight – 235
Current Weight – 205
Marathons – 9
Half Marathons – 11
Complete List of Races – Athlinks Page
With five amazing years in the books, I cannot wait to see what happens over the next five years!