*This is the third post in a five-post series on my quest to complete the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon on June 3, 2012.
Running was never my thing. I grew up playing little league baseball as every American boy is destined to do. I actually regret that I didn’t play longer. I long for the days to go and play catch with my dad and my brother. But I had a bad coach when I was 12 or 13 which ruined the game for me.
So, I picked up tennis. And yes, the rest is history. I played and played and played so more. I made my neighbor and my dad play with me just so I could have someone to play with. Because of the two racquets hanging in our garage, I found a life-long love. I played on the high school tennis team. (Where I would meet me best friend.) I coached the team for one year. Then I went and worked for the sport for over five years.
But a back injury took me off the competitive streak I was on. And I really do miss it. In fact, the other day as I lay in bed, I imagined walking to the service line and the fuzz of the barely used tennis ball in my hand. Standing there, bouncing the ball and picturing the impeding serve in my mind. It is a moment of pure control. Your emotions. Your physical presence is all under your control. It is actually the only moment in the game when that is true. It’s like the pitcher in baseball. It is on you.
There are definitely similarities to that moment and the experience that comes from lacing up my running shoes each time. So, back to why I picked up running shoes in the first place. After my back injury, I was told by my doctor that my super-competitive days were over. I was crushed, but as an athlete, I knew I needed some kind of a physical outlet. So I, perhaps crazily, picked up running. Since then, I have logged over 1,100 miles which may not seem like a lot, but to me, it is beyond incomprehensible. I was never a runner. The other day as I ran my longest run of my life (18 miles), I thought back to high school when running a mile was a challenge. Not anymore.
When I was accepted to run the 2011 NYC Half-Marathon, I was elated. I knew the challenge had been accepted. And I ran. And ran. And ran.
I trained hard and all winter long. The race was on March 20, 2011 and all week, the weather had been unseasonably warm. So, that’s what I thought I would be getting. But as luck would have it, the night before, the mercury plummeted and the wind picked up. I don’t actually remember the temperature at race time, but the wind-chill could not have been warmer than 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit.
The race began in Central Park and by the time we broke into the city, I had already completed eight of the 13.1 miles. My energy exploded as I ran towards Times Square. I actually don’t remember much of the race after Times Square to be honest. Crossing the finish line was great, but I both of my knees were actually in quite a bit of pain by then, so just the feat of crossing the line was incredible. (Plus, my time shattered my goal by nearly ten minutes!)
I will never forget the moment, the experience of running through Times Square, the streets blocked off and fans on both sides of the road.
The journey last year was incredible and it was something I never ever thought I would do. But it was only a half-marathon. It, in reality, was only half of the journey I knew I wanted to go on.
*This is the second post in a five-post series on my quest to complete the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon on June 3, 2012.
The journey to running a marathon has not been an easy one to say the least. In fact, after my half-marathon in 2011 I was worried that my running days were over. I took about a month off from running after that race and upon my return, about two miles in, my knee hurt so bad, I had to stop my run and limp home. It was a terribly defeating moment.
But months prior, I almost gave up on the goal of even running the half marathon.
I remember exactly where I was. I was in Springfield, Missouri, one a work trip. It was a Saturday and I needed to get in a six-mile run. I went down to the hotel gym and hopped on the treadmill. I put SportsCenter on the television and started running. I felt great. My legs felt great. I knew that I was going to be able to pull off the half-marathon feat.
But sometime between five and six miles my right knee started screaming at me. Not a ‘I’m tired’ scream. No. It was a ‘get the hell off me or you’re going to regret it,’ scream. So I did. And somehow I limped up to my room. And I was scared.
I worked all day on my feet and then, perhaps stupidly, played tennis for about two hours that evening, but I was not moving well at all. My knee hurt. All the while, my mind ran wild with what could be wrong. ACL. MCL. Cartilage. Old age.
Immediately upon returning home, I got an appointment with a sports physician. The next four weeks were quite emotional as I went back a few times a week while we tried to work out my leg. I was diagnosed with the fear of all runners: IT Band Syndrome.
It took weeks of physical therapy, stretching and treatments, but eventually my IT Band began to relax. And I was able to get back on the road. Running towards 13.1.
*This is the first post in a five-post series on my quest to complete the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon on June 3, 2012.
They say that every journey begins with a single step. And it is true. Here I am 30 days away from lacing up my shoes for the “last” time in a journey that in all honesty, began in 2007. Yes, it has taken me five years to get to this point, but it’s about the journey.
To get to the end, I have to start at the beginning. In 2006, I played tennis. A lot. I played a few tournaments and back then I worked for the US Tennis Association, so I spent a lot of time on the courts helping to build and grow the game. Then in August, I played in what was going to be my last tournament of the season. Turns out, it was the last tournament I would play until 2010. But that weekend in Iowa City, I played three or four tough matches. That night as I walked into a restaurant chosen by my friend Tylor, I limped in. My back had never been tighter.
At that point, it wasn’t painful, so much as it was uncomfortable. That, and I couldn’t move. And it didn’t get better. I would be at home and I would bend over to pick up a pencil or a simple piece of paper and I would need to push off something to get myself back up. I was scared. So I went to the doctor and got an MRI done. Diagnosis: You won’t be able to play at the same level. (Years later, my chiropractor actually explained the problem with my back and I try to take are of it better now because of his teachings.)
So, I had to give up competitive play. In a phrase, it sucked. So, I picked up running. I needed to stay active and it was something I could do anytime and anywhere.
With tennis off the table, I started running in the summer of 2007. It was a brutally hot summer in Cedar Falls, Iowa, but I ran. The neighborhoods were peaceful and I would run in the middle of the day, early in the morning and late at night. Back then, I didn’t think I would end up here.
But as they say, it is about the journey …