02 May 2012
Easily blinded by the failures of my past while believing I have been focused on mythical goals for the future - somewhere I became lost. Engulfed in the stratospheric rise of running mileage, the message became jumbled. Love, but not in love. Running had betrayed me, or so I had felt. In reality, I dealt myself a hand nearly impossible to play. Now, the move forward.
Running, I had thought, was the key to everything. It kept me alive in the very literal sense and made me feel alive in a very ethereal way. To date, I have been fortunate to have kept off 125 pounds, which is something I never thought possible. And yet at the same time, I have become complacent. A victim of my own successes and efforts and hopes and dreams. No more.
With the recent changes in my personal life since the latter part of 2011, I have been striving - albeit very slowly - on figuring out what it means to be me. What I want to do "next". Needs, wants, desires. All of these things are crucially important in the overall development of the self.
On a whim and at the request of some close friends locally, I took a chance and registered for the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon in February, 2012. This trip came at a time when I truly needed the escape from what had been a vicious cycle of pain, both self-inflicted and otherwise. The result after some focused training and a clear mind? A nine-minute PR. Suddenly, things were starting to click again.
A string of minor injuries and a dip in running desire once again, and focus dwindled.
Again, at the behest of those same local running friends, I registered for the Air Force Marathon, scheduled for mid-September 2012.
Without anyone else's prodding, I flew off the reservation and registered for my first ultramarathon - New River 50K, set for October 13, 2012. It is as if I just needed something different. Something more, while still being a little bit less in a way.
Why dump all of this in this particular space? Well, it is for me, a part of my process in self-betterment. The ability for me to openly and outwardly express the inner feelings I have throughout this journey.
There is a sense that I am so close to finding that balance I have sought for so long, yet it seems forever out of grasp. Maybe I am reaching for the wrong carrot. Time will tell. Until then, it is all about lots and lots of easy miles.
This space will continue to be filled with meanderings. Hopefully more positive affirmations than in times past. My hope is to be the water more than the rock. That would be the next great stride forward in this journey.
13 December 2010
Still as I sit here, I find it difficult if not impossible to be proud of what I have accomplished. Had anyone else done what I have, it is with great confidence I can say I would hold nothing but the utmost respect for him or her.
The root (or in reality root-s, plural) of this issue stem from two separate yet likely inextricably linked issues.
It has never failed that as soon as I accomplish something great, my attention immediately turns to "what wasn't". Whether it be the desire for a faster race time, a bigger loss on the scale, whatever the case may be, the unnerving and unsettling itch to shy away from the positives in an effort to unearth the negative is, in my lay person's view, likely a deep seeded study in psychiatric turmoil. Surely, there is medication for that.
Generally I am not of the belief in instantaneous reward for my efforts. I do not fall into the reality TV show line of thinking. I neither ballooned to 355 pounds, nor learned to run a marathon overnight. Surely, all of the other obviously far more positive changes in my life would not take hold and manifest themselves in a nanosecond. At times, I feel I would welcome that. Then, in a fleeting moment or less, I quickly realize that results without effort, a journey without a path, offers little in the way of true reward.
While this may make my journey far more challenging and filled with detours, delays and other frustrating encounters, there is perhaps no other way I would want this to be.
The other obstacle, perhaps far more fatal in nature, is the unwillingness of my soul to accept that things are different. There are times when I, still, see myself as a morbidly obese man, struggling to survive all the while wishing life would no longer continue. It was that difficult to live. Worse, I would argue that what I was doing was anything but living. In the end and without much effort at all, I was mounting my own assault on my very being in an attempt to no longer be. There was no effort to play a lead role in my own life, rather I would take satisfaction from others "doing".
At some random points during rather nondescript runs, I am forced to remind myself how amazing it is that I am able to run. Something so simple. Seven years ago, this was a pipe dream of epic proportions. Now, slow as I may be, I am the doer.
Losing sight of myself is still easy, although these days in a different way than before. At least now, I am playing the lead and directing and producing. Still not thrilled with where things are today, I am saddled with both a blessing and a curse. I am better and yet still want to be so much better. I am a winner and still cannot win.
I am learning... just not fast enough to unlearn what I already know and perhaps never knew.
07 December 2010
By the time 2010 comes to an end, I will have run about 500 miles more than in 2009 - an incredible accomplishment. Still, I am greatly disappointed in myself. The most important goal for 2010, in my eyes, was to get my weight down to the level I wanted - about 200 pounds. Never in my adult life have I seen that number on the scale, unless someone else was being weighed.
It is ridiculous, I understand, to consider this entire journey a failure given all things accomplished, amazing people met and experiences had. Too, there are so many more miles to be run, races to be finished, memories to be made.
With all of the successes over the past few years, it amazes me equally how easy it is to toss my soul - my very being, if you will, under some mythical bus that exists, at least from what others tell me, in my own mind. How unfortunate.
Never let it be said that I desire to be "that person" who enjoys beating up on himself. In the same breath, it almost appears that may be the case. Reaching some perhaps arbitrary weight goal may [or may not] lead to a certain sense of relief, complete with a release of this omnipresent tension that seems to virtually suffocate me at times. Hardly exaggerating, it is difficult if not impossible to make it minutes without considering nutrition choices past, present and future.
I am not sure what to make of all of this other than to say I will continue to work to be better, hoping to find "it", whatever that may be... that perhaps singular notion, feeling or thing that can help me dial in to my journey just a little bit more.
Again, I say... This is who I am today. I could be better. I could be worse. However I will always work to better than the day before.
01 November 2010
Well, THAT was a good idea...
Or so I felt at the time. The hows and whys of what came to be my registration for the 2010 Spinx Marathon are still, even to the most well-informed, at issue. Nevertheless, perhaps through my sheer idiocy and willful and wanton desire to prove something [or nothing] to myself, it was decided that running this marathon - a mere 20 days after having run Chicago Marathon - was the right thing to do. Again, it was a good idea.
While I was excited for the race, I did have SOME sense of calm in that my only goal was to finish, not to PR. At times, mentally, I struggled with that. More often than not though, I was comfortable with treating it as a "long run."
Going in, the weather was going to be perfect, the weather I wanted in Chicago, really. Temps at the start hovered in the low 40s and the sun rose shortly before our 8:00 a.m. marathon start. No gun, no cannon, no air horn... just a "GO!" and all 700-plus marathoners were on the way.
The first 13 miles were about as I expected. This was after all, by and large, my back yard from a running standpoint. Familiarity with the area, with the rolls, camber of the roads would be assets to my run for the day. At the halfway mark, after having seen my wife for a Gatorade refill, I felt pretty good. My pace splits were "about" where I wanted, give or take. Actually, a little faster than I had hoped. Yet still, I felt decent.
The back half of the course, I am sorry to say, was a little bit of a different story. Rolling hill after rolling hill seemed to begin a constant onslaught on what was an already sore pair of hamstrings. Truth be told, I have been fighting a bad right hamstring for TWO YEARS now. You would think I would learn... Suffice to say, the constant climbs did not help.
Yet with all of that, even through mile 21, I was on pace to PR or at least come very close to it. The last 6 miles were set to be on a portion of our glorious Swamp Rabbit Trail. A portion that I thought, or at least dreamed, was a steady decline. In a word - no. What seemed like a gradual yet unrelenting uphill the entire time continued that tension on my hamstrings. Then, the cramping set in, especially in the calves. Much like in Chicago, the decision was made to "live to run another day", manage the pace, and finish with a flourish.
With a finish time of 4:51, I am proud to say I was about on par with my finish time at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon. Even though I felt as if I understood my goals, I wanted better. I think I always want better. The stadium - a minor league baseball park where we crossed the finish line, was rather empty when I made the turn around the warning track. No matter. It was for me. The silence, to me and at that time, was nothing compared to the feeling of crossing that finish line. Addiction. Twelve steps. I think the rest is known.
It is clear to me that my love for the marathon runs deep into the recesses of my soul, not just in the running aspect, but also deeper and into the heart of all things pre-running for me. My ability to be a marathoner does not define me, although I find it hard to think of myself as many things other than a runner these days. At the same time, I want to be better. Constantly. Better at running, taking part in better nutrition. Everything. I know, it is a process.
So, 10 weeks from now will be Marathon #4 - Charleston Marathon, followed by Snickers Energy Bar Marathon in early March. My goals between now and than are simple... Stretch, get this hamstring in some better shape, recover with some nice and easy runs and slowly get my base back up.
Part of me, perhaps sadly so, wants to be disappointed in my efforts or, at the very least, in my results. I cannot be. That, I believe, is still the prior me looking for that easy way out, the path of least resistance.
Amazing but true.
So, through nutrition and some easy running, I will get back up there... Wherever there is.
25 October 2010
Prior to running Chicago, I was already committed to and registered for the Inaugural Charleston Marathon on January 15, 2011. For months now, I have been registered for the Spinx Runfest Half Marathon... or so I thought. In checking my registration late last week, I noticed I was registered for the Full Marathon. Well then...
Sure, the race director was quick to offer to knock me down to the Half Marathon, but... I just couldn't do it. Somehow, a quick and fleeting sense of clarity in that special way that normally only affects great artists, geniuses and speed chess players brought me to the decision to run the Full.
Sure, recovery from Chicago is still ongoing, to some degree, although I will say that I feel good - both mentally and physically. Part of it, I believe, is retribution. I voluntarily left everything I had on the streets of Chicago.
The Spinx Marathon, aside from being just a mere couple of minutes from my front door, offers the opportunity to continue to learn about myself, in the whole sense, as well as in the marathoning sense. My goal for this race is simple and two fold: Finish and treat it like a long slow day. Not all races, I have slowly learned, have to be raced.
I continue to be amazed where running has taken me, the people with whom I have been so incredibly fortunate to spend time.
This weekend will be another step down that path. Here's to hoping the weather is a bit better.
Share the ride.
In closing this chapter of running for 2010, I nearly forgot to post the ceremonial post-marathon medal-with-beer picture. So, without further delay:
I have a feeling there will be another picture, similar to this, posted within a few days time.
Share the ride.
14 October 2010
The shoes unlaced, race bib put up, soreness leaving. The 2010 Chicago Marathon took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions and a wide spectrum of physical conditions. The 2010 Chicago Marathon helped me learn a great deal about myself as a runner, marathoner and a person.
As a whole, the Chicago Marathon experience was stellar. From the Expo to the course to the post-race resources, the entire deal was top notch. I truly enjoyed finally meeting the other Chicago Marathon Online Diarists as well. A truly great group of people and a wonderful cross section of the running community as a whole.
Chicago is a beautiful city, filled with amazing architecture and history. As you undoubtedly know by now, I was also rather enamored with the food culture of the fine city of Chicago as well as its great local haunts for pints of Chicago's finest ales. Visits to such mainstays as Lou Malnati’s, Al’s Italian Beef, Gino’s East, Garrett’s Popcorn and Goose Island Brewpub made the Chicago experience that much better. But back to the matter at hand…
The morning of the marathon was met with some trepidation. I knew temperatures would be "higher" than initially anticipated, but few knew what would be in store. With a start temp of about 60 degrees though, I felt comfortable enough with my training and abilities to make my top goal of 4:22 happen. As the runners started and made their way through the Start, I slowly began to realize what was ahead. This was going to be a big day.
The morning started off well enough. Temps were right at 60 degrees and the sun slowly began to rise with the hopes of a triumph on this day. After a good luck hug and kiss from my wife, I made my way down to the start area… the 15 minute walk did me some good, shaking out some early morning nerves. The air felt good, although not the crisp and cool air I had been hoping for or remembered at MCM last year. Not surprisingly, I was not the first into the “open” corral. Nevertheless, I found a place and settled in. This, I truly believed, was going to be awesome.
The corrals all filled quickly. Random strangers making comments about the weather, possible concerns, race goals, anything you can imagine to anyone and everyone who would listen. Anxiety was clear.
By 7:30 a.m., there was nothing left to do other than the simplest thing a human being can do… RUN.
The emotion and grandeur of the start of the Chicago Marathon is hard to put into words. Running down Columbus Drive and under the bridge, hearing the screaming voices, U2’s “Beautiful Day” blaring over the loud system. Amazing.
Before I know it, I am in a rhythm. My goal for this race was a simple one to track: 4:22 or 10:00 minutes per mile. The early portions of the race, through the heart of the city, were fantastic. Slight rolls in terrain here and there but, by and large pancake flat. My splits were good. No, great. By the half way mark, I was at 2:11:31 – a hair over where I wanted to be, but still well within striking distance and I still felt strong. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of my amazingly supportive wife at the half way point. That could not have come at a better time. I lost only a little time through the 25K mark.
By 30K, the sun was fully up and blazing. No more skyscrapers to shield the sun’s strength-sapping rays. I stopped, felt sick, and pulled off to the side. Not thinking about 4:22 any longer, my thoughts went very, very dark. My mind hurt, my heart hurt. My soul hurt. In sum, things were not going well. The notion of waiving down med staff came into my mind. But… I… couldn’t…
About 100 feet ahead of me, I see a female runner, pacing me, slow down, stop, wobble and collapse in the span of about 5 seconds. Medical staff were to her side quickly. Sobering, beyond belief.
I stammered on. Miles 20 through 26 were a mix of slow running, some walking, and a great deal of cramping, despite hitting every single water stop on the course. Survival was my goal. And I was not going to die to be victorious on this day. It just was not a day for me to hit a 4:22. I could live with that.
Crowd support for this event was, to say the least, outstanding and virtually non-stop. Without that, it is difficult to say how I would have fared on this day.
With 800 meters left, seemingly every leg muscle cramped, I wanted to finish strong – make that, as strong as possible anyway. In the distance, I see a flag waving. Largely insignificant to 95% of the runners on the course, it was the Flag of Bavaria, Germany – where our family is from. The strength I pull from my late Uncle, with whom I shared amazing times and a stunning visit to Germany cannot be understated. Losing him to metastatic prostate cancer a couple of years back has been both a point of deep sadness, still, as well as a source of strength to move forward. Seeing the “Blau und Weiss” flying in the distance made my thoughts shift to that place. True, dark as those thoughts were at the time, there was NO way I was not going to finish and finish STRONG.
Thinking back to what my late Uncle used to say: "If you are not progressing, you are regressing", I kept moving forward. The final left turn made, the Finish in sight, cruise control set… We are coming in for a landing – albeit a rough one. Mugging it for the cameras, finishing upright, all victories today. Space blanket, medal, water, banana. All of these were great things. Sadly, all I wanted was to get out of the sun. The long mile-long walk back up Columbus to our hotel was painful, filled with pauses for possible nausea, pauses filled with massive cramping, and bouts of quick, flaring emotion. Proud yet sad and disappointed. It was strange. The hug from my wife outside our hotel seemed to give me some of my long lost strength back. I was not “human” again. Not yet, anyway.
After an hour of so of lying around in our hotel room with my legs in the air, drinking any kind of liquid I could find, I cleaned up and my wife and I went out to a great little bar, Dublin’s, for a burger/beer celebratory meal. A great day, ended with whom and in the manner I would not have better prescribed.
Chicago Marathon taught me a great deal. For one, you cannot control everything. When it comes to marathons, you can control even less. My training, or so I felt, put me in a position to be successful. Little did I know, on this day, that it would take me about 23 minutes longer to achieve that success. Running – and marathoning – for me, are hardly about times and all that comes with that. Sure, I want to improve. I think that is a reasonable expectation for anyone taking on this endeavor. What I found, despite the trials, traps and darkness along the way was a sense of self within the greater whole of it all. I knew I was a marathoner. What I did not know was to what lengths I would have been willing to go to be that very thing. MCM in 2009 was not this drama-filled. Chicago Marathon 2010 made it clear to me just where my heart and soul lie. Running has, in fact, saved my life. The best way I can give it the respect due is to be the absolute best I can and give what I have on that day. That day, 10 October 2010, I left it out there and then some. Time could have been better. Headaches could have been less. In the end, it was about something so much more.
21 March 2010
The remainder of 2010 is getting rather booked. Coming up is the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon (April 25th), Chicago Marathon (October 10th) and Spinx Half Marathon (October 31st). Under serious consideration is one more marathon before the end of 2010 with Thunder Road (Charlotte, NC) and Rocket City (Huntsville, AL) vying for my registration fees. Both are on the same weekend in December.
Even 2011 is getting some attention. Marathons such as Snickers (Albany, GA), Big Sur (Monterey, CA), Grandma's (Duluth, MN), Marine Corps (Arlington, VA) and Philadelphia are on my radar. It is so preliminary right now, but it is rather fun to consider the possibilities.
23 November 2009
When I started running, about six (6) years ago, I quickly got caught up in speed. My desire in races to beat as many people as possible was my utmost goal. That vibe quickly permeated other areas to the extent that each training run had to be faster than the one before in order to avoid the feeling of failure. My desire to reach my goal in the fastest possible way, regardless of what I needed to do to get there or how it negatively affected my big picture Self Care plan, got in the way of my true goal... to be better. Instead, I became a "racer". The goal was clear, but I completely overlooked the amazing things there were to see, experience, and learn along the way.
Of course, you can certainly choose to do nothing. That, of course, is the easiest thing to do. Sitting by, passively, and observing others working, striving towards a better, higher quality life is a simple thing to do. There is little effort involved and there is no risk of failure resulting from your efforts. On the other hand, knowing you have the ability to affect change in your life, in a positive way, and be a stronger and more resolute person is empowering the degree to which I am not sure I could accurately put into words. Time constraints and other obligations are fine excuses. In the grand scheme, your health - your Self Care - is the most important thing to you when it comes to how you take care of yourself on a daily basis - in the hopes of living a better life.
Being a participant - an active player in the game of life - YOUR life - allows you the luxury to call the shots on which directions you take with your Self Care. This would seem to be the easiest of the three options. Yet it is so easy sometimes to get caught up in the tunnel vision that is our end goal, whether it is a goal weight, goal race, or whatever have you. Being a participant includes taking in all that your journey has to offer, including all of the auxiliary experiences, ups and downs, trials and tribulations. No one said it would be easy and, in reality, Self Care is not easy. It is a devotion of time and effort and an uncanny sense of honesty to yourself. Just knowing however that you hold the ability to make change and pave a way to a stronger you is, in and of itself, one of the biggest rewards possible. Just remember to enjoy the process - the sights and sounds - along the way.
22 November 2009
Running, for want of a better word, has been difficult if not awkward since October 25th. Tight, stiff, forced, unnatural - all of these words seem to sum up just how running feels to me right now. Dealing with a left leg injury (soleus and posterior tibialis strain) is not helping. Mentally, perhaps more than physically, it has been uphill all the way.
Nutrition has been questionable and excuses are rampant. So, it is clear, someone in this relationship (see: the third element of Self Care, the intrapersonal relationship) needs to draw a very real and very firm line in the proverbial sand. This - the running, the nutrition, the overall want for a better life - is not a short term thing. This much I know. My life, I hope and pray, is too long, too valuable to me, for anything less than maximum quality for the rest of my days. I demand that of myself and, let's face it, I want to be around for those who matter most to me. Selfish, I am, like that.
So, here I sit, sputtering away on the keyboard, with yet another "pick yourself up off the ground" message. Let this be a lesson to all who adopt Self Care as a way of life: There is no finish line, there is no end date, there is never a time when you can take Self Care and put it on the shelf to admire from afar. Self Care, much like a great cast iron skillet, progressively gets better the more you use it.
02 November 2009
So, that said, while race registration has not opened and will not open for another few months, I have already locked up (what may or may not be my final) hotel reservation. For me, that's it. I am set.
There may come a time when what some could perceive as a novelty for traveling for "destination races" might wear off. I cannot see that happening. Not any time soon. The ability to experience an event, much more than just running in another city, is the draw. I want to feel the vibe, the pulse.
So, between now and October of next year, my goals are simple. Run, refine my body composition and run some more. It is shaping up to be a great ride.
It occurred to me though, at yet another nondescript point in time, when I least expected it: What is there to do when seemingly all obstacles once thought to be in the way now seem so insignificant?
The answer is obvious: Everything.
For some, the desire to run a marathon begins at the starting line of their first marathon and ends exactly 26.2 miles later – if not sooner, as many decide to never run the distance again while still on the course. Not a great idea.
Yet I was somewhat surprised that my attitude quickly shifted from thoughts of if I would run another marathon to when I would run another marathon. What was once considered impossible if not implausible is now a reality. My experience at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon was exactly what I expected and still far exceeded my expectations, all at the same time. The people, the environment, the crowds, the organization, the emotion, and the event itself all made for a fantastic ending to a 20-week journey within the journey.
Even though there have been some notions, I think it is only now, finally, I think I understand why I got into running in the first place. The knowledge that there are no more obstacles in my way when it comes to my Self Care provides a freedom that is, absent a better word, calming. It is now that I know what I can do… and that is “anything.”
I still have a long road to go. More groups to lead, workshops to offer, and races to run. Now, somehow, the air is different. No longer is there the ceiling of self-doubt that once defined my existence. Accepting a challenge and taking it on with full effort is not frightening, it is necessary.
There are more places to go, people to meet, and roads to be run. Every stride offers more insight on where I have been, where I am now and where I still have yet to go. I am not done yet, not by any stretch of the imagination. Life continues to amaze me.
27 October 2009
We arrived in Rosslyn on Thursday afternoon and had a great hotel location for the start and finish of the race. Friday morning consisted of a light 30-minute run, including the finish of the marathon, which had already been barricaded for the event. The finishing hill seemed a little more steep then I had imagined, but that was the least of my concerns. There were many more miles to be run prior to dealing with that.
My wife and I really enjoyed the race expo. The organization of this entire thing was nothing short of top notch. I was amazed with the efficiency of packet pick-up and the layout of the expo as a whole. Many other events had tables set up and the vendors were all knowledgeable and pleasant enough. I was lucky enough to see former Marine Montel Williams doing a radio spot during the expo – Williams is living with Multiple Sclerosis and was kind enough to spare a moment with me as I thanked him for being such a huge inspiration to my Mom, who also has this degenerative disease.
Bart Yasso’s lecture at the expo was great. His dry southeastern Pennsylvania wit combined with his experiences on the road made me feel a little more at ease. He was kind enough to sign my book and pose for a photo. Again, class all the way. Amby Burfoot once said that Yasso never forgets a name. I contacted Yasso once on Facebook and, wouldn’t you know, he remembered me, my name and where I am originally from. Again, class all the way.
Saturday was all about taking it easy. My wife and I did some walking through Arlington with some of our best friends to see the Cemetery and other points of interest. If that kind of thing does not stir some emotion, there is something wrong with you. My fear was that I was going to continue my inability to get a good night’s sleep for the race. I have to admit, I slept well Saturday night.
Not surprisingly, I was up before the alarm was set to go off at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning – race day. We knew going in that this was going to be a fantastic day for running from a weather standpoint. Cool, low humidity and good amounts of sunshine. My wife and I made the 2-mile walk from our hotel to the starting line. It was pitch black out at 6:30 a.m., as expected. The Marine Corps War Memorial was light only by spotlights – a sobering reminder of where I would wind up later that day.
We got to the starting line with me shaking from the chill of the morning and my wife toting the essentials in my “support bag”. Hugs and kisses were given and I got into the corral. The Osprey fly-over and the Howitzer send-off were moving to say the least. It took me almost 20 minutes to get to the starting line, but I was not complaining. The slow movement did me some good to get to some blood flow. I crossed the twin arches and started my Garmin – the game was officially afoot.
Going into the Marine Corps Marathon, I was aware of the two rather significant hills in the first nine (9) miles or so. My goal was to start out easy and run a negative split. More on how that worked out later…
The support on the course was fantastic. Marines were out there cheering and encouraging every runner out there. Many runners, myself included, were running for someone or some cause. That was special for me, knowing that I was by no means alone.
Musical entertainment throughout the course was a great way to break up the rhythmic “thwapping” of running shoes on the blacktop.
I had no intentions of seeing my wife on the course. Getting around the race area is difficult so as it is, let alone 21,000 runners and who knows how many times more supporters. Nevertheless, at mile 16, there she was… Just what I needed, when I needed it. A quick kiss through the fence, and I was on my way.
Beating the bridge (having to make it past mile 20 by 1:15 p.m. in order to avoid the sweeper bus), aside from a catastrophic injury or meltdown, was never a concern for me. The bridge, however, was long, arduous, and probably the least interesting part of the course. Although the grim reaper standing on the bridge with a sign indicating “The End Is Near” was a great touch.
Miles 21 through 24 were also tough as they comprised an out-and-back. Difficult. Once I got to mile 24, I felt the end was in sight. I ran onto the ramp to get down by Arlington Cemetery and I knew I was close. There were a few points from there on, I will not lie, where I started to get choked up. Thinking of my late Uncle who died of prostate cancer in 2007 and my Mom who lives with Multiple Sclerosis. Never a complaint from either. Their strength became my strength. Giving up was never in his and is never in her vocabulary. No matter what, I was not giving up. I kept saying to myself, over and over… “I… am… not… done… yet.”
Running past all of the monuments was not only inspiratonal but set an amazing backdrop for the race as a whole. Passing by the Arlington Cemetery brought on more emotion for the obvious reasons the place normally provides. Always earned, never given. The bend to the left let me know I was close. My back straightened up, shoulders back and head up. The crowds all along the corridor were several deep. The cheering and applause were incredible. Truly moving and humbling. I saw my wife and our friend at the fence to my left. I made it.
Unlike many races before, I was sure to mug it for the camera and get all the way across the finish line before messing with the Garmin or anything else. I wanted photographs that would really “make” this event for me. Mission accomplished.
Receiving my space blanket and finisher’s medal from a Marine was the best. After a congratulatory salute to the Marine, I was off to the Iwo Jima Memorial for a finisher photo and then off too get some food and liquids. After a cool bath, shower and nap, and some much needed Ibuprofen for a killer migraine, we spent some time and had a great meal later that night in Georgetown with our great friends, Lee and Sharon. I would not have had it any other way.
I truly struggle to put into words just how humbling this race was for me. I finished well, achieved two (2) of my goals, and sit here with confidence when I say I will run another marathon. At the same time, I will learn from this experience – and what an experience it was. To run my first full marathon somewhere other than Marine Corps Marathon would have been a letdown. That may be a bit over dramatic, but I think not.
I learned how far I have come from the person I once was and how far I still want to go... I learned that trusting in your training can prepare you for the marathon distance, yet you still have no idea what will happen on race day until race day. I learned that respecting the distance prior to the first marathon is one thing while respecting the distance after the fact is ever so different. I learned that I am not a "one-and-done" marathoner. I will continue to say this... I am very proud and humbled to have been a part of this event.
There are so many people who are deserving of my thanks, although my thanks is nowhere near enough.
To my wife, Jeannette, of course, for her unwavering support and tolerance of all things me during this process. She put up with a lot of crap throughout this whole deal but always knew how important this was to me. Seeing her at mile 16 and again at the finish made me realize just how much she took from this journey as well.
To my Mom for her support and strength. She was not there with us, but she was. To my Uncle Tom who is gone but by no means forgotten. His strength also fueled me and will continue to do so.
To my running partners – the Lee ("the Colonel") and Sharon ("Her Royal Highness") and Lee's friend Adam. The past twenty (20) weeks have been filled with ups and downs but I am proud to have such amazing running partners and, more importantly, fantastic friends. I used to think that running alone was the only way to go. Now, I cannot imagine running without them. Adam was someone new to me, but his calming influence the days before the race was a great help.
To every single person associated with the Marine Corps Marathon, Marine, civilian, or volunteer – Thank you for making this slow newbie feel like this event was especially for me. An absolutely top notch event from start to finish. Never once did I feel like just another number in this process.
To my runners in No Boundaries, past, present and future. Let my experience show you that, while you may never choose to run a marathon, hard work and dedication will get you exactly to where you want to be. Remember… One Stride at a Time…
To all of the amazing runners I have met over the past two (2) years at Fleet Feet in Greenville. Your advice, inspiration and counsel have been and will continue to be greatly appreciated.
As I continue these “closing credits”, I would also like to thank some other, supporting roles… Mizuno for making my running shoes for the past 5 months and Upstate Pedorthic for the orthotics that went into those shoes. Snickers Almond for being my preferred post long run fuel of choice – the hard part will be putting them down now. I would also like to thank Zing Zang for the best Bloody Mary mix known to mankind and Pabst for Pabst Blue Ribbon. No explanation needed here.
If the point has not been made, allow me to state this clearly… this is NOT the end of the line for me. I finished, I finished strong, and I finished well. Now, I want to do better. There are races on my mind and in my heart. Chicago 2010, Big Sur (thanks, Bart Yasso), and Budapest with my wife – all of these are in the mixer. I have a dream to qualify for Boston. I am not sure I will, but I will continue to set goals and work hard to get there. I can think about these things now as I am recovering, with soreness that can only bring a smile to my face and a thrill to my heart the likes of which are, still, hard to put into coherent words.
Humbled and honored. Now, the next chapter begins…
21 October 2009
Many things entered into my mind when I first considered doing this, not the least of which were thoughts of doubt just in covering the distance. As things wore on, that changed. I have little problem writing that I grew attached to marathon training, including its idiosyncratic rigors and frustrating twists and turns. Come Sunday, I can celebrate that which I have learned. I think I know enough about myself, my body, and my current running ability to know how to handle situations as they arise.
Yet it is the last two-tenths of a mile that beckons with something of an uncertainty - not in covering the distance as I will find a way to do that - but rather the emotion and feelings I will encounter. I have no idea of how I will feel physically, mentally or emotionally. That part of the story is as yet untold.
So, come tomorrow morning I will be leaving a mere runner. When I return, I will be a marathoner. Amazing.
14 October 2009
The past few days have been very difficult for me, in a number of ways. For me, this is somewhat like my grieving the loss of my uncle before he ever passed away over a year ago. At the risk of sounding odd, this is my pre-race grieving. Over the past 18+ weeks, I have grown attached to the hectic schedule of running more than I ever have in my life, eating clean and focusing on October 25, 2009 on my calendar. With all due deference to my wife, it has been the most important date on my personal calendar since, well, forever. A date that almost wasn't.
My anxiety over the past days comes from a number of sources. Taper madness is the obvious choice, sure, Yet for me, there is more. For so many years, I expected and demanded so little of myself in terms of effort. I never asked anything of myself and so, as a direct result, I was never disappointed in what I received.
My how things have changed.
Now, I demand more. More than perhaps I could have ever imagined as witnessed by my prognostications of future marathons and improved times - an improved finishing time from a marathon I have yet to run. I have to chuckle when I read that.
Yes, things are vastly different. Not only have I achieved the unthinkable of making it through marathon training, but I continue to raise the bar ever so much higher. For me, that is how it works. That is how I strive. That is how I survive.
Having that series of goals keeps my mind focused forward all the while taking in the lessons learned from prior experiences. I am not perfect nor am I expecting as much. When I first considered training for a marathon, my primary goal was to learn as much as I could about myself and how I relate to my running, my mind, and my body. Mission accomplished.
There is nothing left now but 35,000 of my closest friends, 10 days from now, and running the run of a lifetime... for now. The finish line for the Marine Corps Marathon is not the end for me. This much I know right now. Rather it is the beginning. The door is open to places and goals the likes of which I never knew existed, let alone considered.
My biggest challenge between now and October 25th is simple. Having faith in the training I have done, relaxing and just letting go have not been easy. But it has to happen, for my own sanity and, likely for those around me. Yet at this point, it is all about me. All I can say is: Wow.
07 October 2009
It is funny to me in something of a quizzical way how the past 17 weeks have played out. Many who have been veteran marathoners long before I even considered taking that first step tried to educate me. Really, the process – the whole process – is something that needs to be experienced in order to fully understand its mystical power and confusing lessons to be taught.
In the days and weeks that made up the beginning of my training for this marathon, I heeded the words of the sage veterans. I took my pacing seriously, made sure I was eating cleaner and – at least attempting – to get enough rest. Some of these things were easy. Others were near impossible.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for the mental investment that came along with training for and running in this marathon. By and large it was the single solitary thing that consumed my mind almost at all times. Everything I ate and drank, every time I looked at the clock to see how late it was during yet another restless night of sleep, all of it added up to what has been my life for over four months.
Now, sadly, it is almost over. Yet this is only the beginning. The next 2 weeks-plus will be consumed with others asking questions about my training, whether taper madness is truly maddening, and my readiness. I sit here with an overwhelming sense of guilt for peppering folks in my life with every last detail about my marathon training – many of them tolerated my babbling. They are very kind.
Temptation has been there, in various forms, for me to single-handedly derail my own success. There was this morning’s 8-miler that I wanted to take slowly. Apparently the gale force winds, torrential rains, and humid temperatures just made me feel like working hard for a “so-so” result. So be it. It is done. There is also the inaugural half marathon in Spartanburg this coming weekend, which I considered, yet this would give me the perfect opportunity for me to try to PR, knowing this is not the time for that.
Again, every day is a learning experience.
So, here I sit, broken-hearted, in a way. But to say that I am encouraged and anxious for the next chapter of this story to begin is an understatement. There are thoughts of refining my body composition, dropping the last 20 to 25 lbs, increasing my running base and really pushing to see just how much I can shave off of my Marine Corps Marathon time.
Bettering my marathon PR when I have not even run my first marathon yet.
Yeah, I’ve got it bad. I pray there is no cure.
02 October 2009
Written by Leigh Savage
Upstate resident Dan Herman leads a running program for beginners in hopes that he can inspire others to run - and lose - like him
Dan Herman was desperate for a change. After a lifetime of weight problems, he had ballooned to 350 pounds, which, along with a degenerative spinal condition, left him in pain much of the time. He had tried to lose the weight many times, but nothing worked.
"I tried everything," Herman says. "Gym memberships, weight loss programs, pills - some FDA-approved, and some maybe not. In hindsight, I did everything wrong."
Then, in 2003, he hit on what seemed like a crazy idea - running. He went online and found a training plan for brand-new runners that guided him from sedentary to completing a 5K. "At 350 pounds, running was pretty painful," he says. But within a few weeks, he could see the changes in both his weight and his life, and the formerly agonizing activity became "the hugest blessing in the biggest possible way."
As the pounds began to disappear, Herman found himself with more energy, stamina and confidence, and realized that proper nutrition and training go hand in hand. He also discovered the importance of what he calls self-care. "That includes nutrition and physical activity, but it's also learning who we are and why our habits led to where we are." He realized food was his drug, which he used to numb himself - something running has helped him avoid most of the time.
"People need to understand that taking care of yourself is not about perfection," he says. "It's very individual and fluid, and if you can win more battles than you lose, you're going to be better off."
After losing 120 pounds, Herman went on to run several 5Ks and 10Ks and then did his first half marathon at the Spinx Run Fest last year. This fall, he's training for his longest distance yet - the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va.
While he gets great satisfaction out of his own running accomplishments, Herman wanted to share his new found passion and his message with people facing similar issues. When he moved to Greenville in 2006, he sent an e-mail to Fleet Feet Sports saying he'd be glad to help in any way. Before he knew it, he was coaching the No Boundaries program - a "couch to 5K" program similar to the one he found online just a few years before.
The program, sponsored by New Balance, meets three times per week to train for a 5K. Herman hosts three or four 12-week sessions per year,training groups of about 40 people leading up to local races such as the Spinx Run Fest 5K in October, the Reedy River Run 5K in March and the Candlelight Run in July.
Jill Cody headed into Fleet Feet this summer to buy walking shoes, but walked out with a plan to train for the Spinx 5K on October 31. "I had never even run three minutes straight," she says, but the group recently tackled 20 minutes of solid running and Cody surprised herself. "It wasn't easy, but it wasn't difficult," she says. The growing confidence in her abilities has inspired her to sign up for more races, including a half marathon in March.
"It's just great being in a group, and Dan's story is so inspiring," she says. "My favorite thing he said is that each time you put one foot in front of the other, that's a victory, and I think of that on difficult days. Running has just done so much for me mentally."
Peggy Albrecht is also training for the upcoming Spinx race - her third session with the No Boundaries program. Last year, she went into Fleet Feet on a business call, but left with contact information for Dan and the idea that, a tage 55, maybe she would try a 5K. "It changed my life," she says. When training began, she was unable to run for one minute, but she also managed the 20minutes of running at a recent No Boundaries meeting. "I never thought I would be able to do that," Albrecht says. She's lost 20 pounds, and her daughter joined her in training and has lost 25.
Albrecht appreciates that Herman understands what it's like to be a beginner. "His story makes him a real person to the rest of us," she says. "He wasn't born an athlete. He's extremely knowledgeable, and tells you to listen to your body, but he doesn't let up on you either."
She plans to continue training with No Boundaries after the Spinx race, since she enjoys the accountability and camaraderie of the group. Though this won't be her first 5K finish, she's hoping it will be her first to run the entire way. "But if I can't, that's okay," she says. "I'll just keep going."That's exactly the philosophy Herman hopes to promote. "Yourself-care goes as long as your life goes," he says. "There is no finish line to this whole thing."
29 September 2009
I... am... a... runner. Amazing. Even more amazing still that I have to remind myself of where I am today and how far my legs, my mind and my heart have taken me.
It started painfully. VERY painfully in fact. It was in 2003 at 350 lbs. Little did I know exactly that for which I signed up.
There is no "good" or "bad" when it comes to running or runners. All running is amazing. But if there ever was a "bad", I was it. Everything hurt the likes of which I never imagined. Yet eventually, on an unassuming day which I specifically cannot recall and during a run that was supposed to be like many others done before, it happened... Everything just seemed to click.
If nothing else, that moment gave me so much more than a new lease on life, although it hardly felt that way at the time. It was then when I discovered the ability to dream in an entirely new way. I could be the lead role in my own life, helping to create and shape the story and carrying it out just the same.
Now, for me, what was once impossible is now common place. What appeared a joke is now a reality. What was thought of as incomprehensible is now within arm's reach. Yet still, I have bigger dreams and aspirations.
My goals for 2010 and beyond are far greater than anything I have ever imagined. A scary thought considering my inability to walk 20 feet without collapsing some six years ago. Now, I get a rush of endorphins writing my 20-mile runs on my calendar. My how times have changed.
Regardless of where you are today, no dream is too big. Just know that between this exact moment in time and your dream stands a lot of effort, dedication, and determination. Strength is not necessary. It is demanded. A will to continue when your mind says you cannot. Knowing that one more stride gets you towards your long term as much as your short term goals and yet, equally as important, drives you further away from those things in your life which prevented you from your own Self Care.
Reality does come into play, yet should never limit your dreams. If it is in your mind and your heart to achieve something, do it and make no excuses for it. Your life - your very existence - belongs to you and you alone, first and foremost. Place a bet on the best asset of all - YOU. Set goals, give life your best effort in reaching your dreams, and be rewarded for your efforts knowing that, in the end, you are nothing less than a winner.
28 September 2009
So, as it looks right now, 2010 will consist of at least one full marathon: Chicago. It is a city to which I have never been and I have read and heard nothing but the best about it since I started asking around.
I have considered a second and that could be Flying Pig in Cincinnati. Again, a well-supported, big race. With that, we shall see. From a training calendar standpoint, they seem to work well, but I will need to consult with others far more accomplished and intelligent than I am before committing to such things.
Listen to me... Planning marathons for a year from now. How in the world did I get here?
27 September 2009
I have been married to this journey within a journey. Many who have already been fortunate enough to call themselves "marathoners" tried to explain to me just how "married" you become to the idea of a marathon, especially your first. As mine is of some travel distance away, there was first the hotel reservation followed by registering for the race itself. Assembling a training plan was soon followed by a stream of what felt like unconscious thought... more affectionately referred to as self-doubt.
Every training run was a small volume within a much more grand story, every week filled with trials and successes. Sometimes left with more questions than answers.
I sit here on the verge of starting my last big week of training before tapering for my first marathon. Oddly enough, the first thought that crosses my mind is that of sadness.
The mistakes I have made, estimates taken, painfully early/late/rainy/humid running, errant steps planted, the red clay on the carpet... All of it is soon to be a distant memory.
Yes friends, I am addicted to the process of training for a marathon. The known that is the unknown lures me in and is unrelenting in its stranglehold. It is not for the false pretense of thinking I am a Boston Qualifier ("BQ"), rather it is for the challenge issued to the person I see in the mirror every morning... A challenge issued. A challenge accepted.
Quitting would have been easy. I am carrying too much weight, still. There has not been enough time to build an adequate base prior to starting marathon training. I'm tired. It's raining. I'm not feeling it. I just don't want to.
Training for this race, while it has always focused on October 25, 2009, has never really been about the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon. Rather it has been about something far more empowering, to the extent possible.
Going through this process has shown me, in no uncertain terms, that I am capable of doing something grand and filled with variables, being led by little more than my heart and my legs - despite what my mind tells me.
I have said for some time that running is the key to a door. Each of us has a different key and it opens doors unique to each of us. For perhaps the first time in my life, the door that is open is full of opportunity, challenge and hope - three terms which were rarely if ever used together some six years ago.
This is who I am today, and I am proud of that. I could be better. I could be worse. Yet I will apply what I have learned to the next chapter of my life, running and otherwise.
I have no idea where I am going or how I will get there. What I can say, without hesitation, is that training for this marathon has showed me that the impossible is possible, the improbable is probable, and that strength comes in many forms and all of them are your friends.
14 September 2009
My reasons for taking up running seemed simple enough: I was tired of weighing 350 pounds. At some point or another, that had to end. I just figured running was going to be one more of the feeble attempts to make change for the sake of change. Had I known that I was about to fall in love with something so simple yet, to this day, it continues to amaze me.
Initially, running felt all wrong, like punishment for three decades of self abuse. In reality, it was.
Now, 6+ weeks away from my first full marathon, I am filled with a wealth of emotion. More than anything else, I am proud of the progress I have made over the past 14 weeks. My legs are stronger and I have more endurance than at any other point in my life.
True though, there is something of a sadness lingering. Disappointed I never started running sooner, there is something to be said for this amazing new life I have been given... No, scratch that, EARNED.
I have learned that I can push myself beyond points which I previously thought were my limits. Every stride is an injection of adrenaline. Every foot strike adding beats to my heart and years to my life.
Running, for me, has been the key to a door - a door to a life from which I have kept myself for all my life.
While on a Self Care journey, many will refer to deprivation. Actually, when you are not taking care of yourself, you are depriving yourself of the quality life your mind and body are capable of providing.
Granted, running has not been the solution to all of my problems and I would never intend to imply as much. Rather the key that is running has opened the door. Where I go from here is as much of a question as it has ever been. What I can tell you is that my mind is clearer, my body is strong, my soul is filled with passion, and my heart with love. If this is what it means to live, then my only regret in life is that I did not find the key to this door sooner.
27 August 2009
Really, so much is going on right now, it is difficult for me to keep my mind straight and my body upright. My latest couch-to-5K group is progressing extremely well. I could not be more proud of them, their drive and determination, and ability to see past any challenge placed before them. I can only hope THEY soon see the entirety of strength they have in themselves.
Marathon training, from a physical perspective, is going well. I am getting in my miles and, to date, my legs are still attached. Amazing. I am filled with emotions that drag my mind all over the place and back again. There is still some lingering doubt about my sheer ability to cover the 26.2 mile distance. I know I will really start to feel the anxiety next week as I gear up for an 18-mile long run on Saturday. Yet for all of the trepidation, I am still resolute, perhaps more so than ever. While I have never before trained for or participated in a marathon, there is something paradoxically alluring about this whole process. Even though I am beating my body down with training, I know I am likely in the best cardiovascular and respiratory shape of my life. I marvel that I am running over 30 miles per week - a number that will continue to increase for another 5 weeks or so.
Yet it was a few days ago that I was taken back and, for me amazingly, speechless. My mom was nice enough to send me some "before" pictures. Now, past pictures for some may not be a big deal. For me, it is a swell of emotion, mostly anger. Staring at the images from 2000 and 2001, I have no idea who that person was. No clue. I knew I had issues. Plenty of issues. I guess I just never knew how bad things had gotten. In something of an odd twist, I took pity on the person in those photographs. He was not living his life. Rather, he was waiting for life to expire, perhaps to take him out of the daily mental and physical misery from which he suffered.
Seeing those images, knowing that person started running, at that size, makes me appreciate so much how far I have progressed.
But I digress...
Marathon training is moving along. My right hamstring is still an issue. Nevertheless, I am still chugging along. I have often considered what I will do when the actual marathon is over and I cross the finish line. Sure, there is the space blanket, the medal, re-hydration and something resembling solid food. Contemplating the emotions that will engulf me at that point is easy yet difficult.
Some times, when you achieve something great (i.e. something which you never previously attempted or never thought possible), you have clearly set the bench mark for even bigger and better things. The further I get outside of my comfort zone, the closer I get to my goals. The unknown, for lack of a better word, is the fuel that propels me on this journey.
Where I will go from here, I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that once I come down a bit from the marathon rush, there will be something else out there. More challenges await. This is what happens when you live your life knowing that you are often capable of doing anything that conventional wisdom says you cannot. Two eyes, looking forward...
We are obviously imperfect beings. Speaking for myself, I am far from the perfect husband, son, employee, friend, coach, whatever. It can often be unsettling to know that no matter how much effort is involved, perfection is unattainable. Just remember, you do not stumble because you are not trying - you stumble because you ARE trying. The key however is what we do when we fall.
This is obviously not relegated to only running. We can stumble in everyday life in any number of ways. Ask me, and I will tell you all of the ways I bring this to fruition. It is a natural reaction to employ self-pity or even a fatalistic attitude when this happens. After all, if we were meant to achieve something, we would not ever falter in our attempts, right?
Life is a very long and arduous journey filled with peaks and valleys. Embrace the fact that perfection is unattainable and focus your mind, heart, and body on being the absolute best person possible. Your focus on being the best YOU will make your journey that much more memorable and you can spend more time being proud of what you are instead of down on that which you are not. Know that regardless of your intentions and your ultimate goal, you will stumble and you may even fall. Always remember that, when you fall, make sure you end up facing up, because if you can look up, you can get up.
24 July 2009
For the better part of my life, I spent my time wanting to be someone else, anyone else other than me. Sports are an important part of our society. As I grew up, I fell in love with sports of all kinds, partially as an escape. I was a fanatic, meant in the most extreme ways, with regard to sports, imagining myself on par with athletes similar to me in size and stature. All of this was a ploy, on my own behalf, to avoid living my life. The lie of my existence continued, fed off itself, and grew to monstrous proportions. I saw nothing wrong with it. I was deferring my life, my own existence, towards others in the hopes he would somehow lead me to the promised land with amazing athletic endeavors. In reality, I was in my early 30s and still playing pretend.
Many have done this very thing, in some way or another. We see people - perhaps celebrities - on television, in movies, and in print and truly feel some attachment to them and, what's more, look to them to be our heroes. When we are at our lowest, we often take pity on ourselves in that we are not how we want to be either in health, appearance, or mentality. A much easier alternative than affecting change is looking to others for the success or progress you wish to have.
However when it comes to your self-care, things are different. You write your story. You are the focal point of the narrative. You are in the lead role. You are your own hero.
Once I made the decision to right the ship and put my self-care plan into place, things changed. My concern no longer stood with comparing myself to famous athletes or in transferring my life onto them. In taking the initiative to be the hero of my story, in launching and directing my self-care, I found new abilities I never thought I had, including the ability to change myself both inside and out.
It all starts with the basic elements of self-care: eating cleaner, being more active, and developing a personal understanding. Incorporating self-care's basic elements into your life will provide you with a taste of success you may have never felt before - a genuine feeling that you can lend control to your health and put yourself on the path to a better, more positive life.
One taste of success leads to wanting more and, with improved, consistent efforts in the elements of self-care, you will set goals for yourself that you know will be achieved. As an added benefit, every goal you reach will make you stronger than ever before, both in mind and in body.
Write your own story and make yourself the focal character. Although it takes effort and dedication, being the hero of your own life is the most rewarding personal experience you may have and, as a result, you can be the strongest person possible for yourself and those important to you.
17 July 2009
And there is a LONG way to go from here. 99 days and counting...
08 July 2009
At 346 pounds, Dan Herman says he'd tried everything - diets, prescription weight- loss pills, everything - and nothing worked.
And he was fed up. Fed up from being endlessly ripped off by specialty clothing stores, fed up by the frustrating social perceptions, fed up from struggling to just move around, to sit, to stand.
He'd had enough.
"I decided to go to my local running store back home (in Pennsylvania) and get laced up," he says. It was the one thing short of surgery he hadn't yet tried.
Before starting out, he researched beginners running programs online ("What would I do without Google?") and found a wealth of information about the "Couch to 5K" training program.
Essentially, the nine-week program does exactly what its name suggests, providing tri-weekly workouts specifically designed to turn non-runners into 5K-finishers.
Herman was willing to give the program a shot.
"They say running's the most natural thing for your body to do," he says.
"Initially, it really sucked ," he recalls. "Those first few weeks were amazingly unnatural."
But he was doing something, he was moving, even if it was just for the 60-second intervals called for by the early workouts of Couch to 5K.
Then one day, he says, it happened. He was jogging in the park first thing in the morning, the sun was coming up, it was cool - about 60 degrees.
"There was just something," he says, "I couldn't tell you what it was. It wasn't an epiphany or anything like that, but somehow it just clicked. I challenge anybody - go out and run first thing in the morning when the sun is just coming up in the Upstate and not fall in love with it. It just sets the stage for a great day. Life is a whole lot better."
And from then on, running - jogging - was it for Dan Herman. As the weeks of Couch to 5K went by, he slowly, slowly, began to shed excess weight.
"I'm not saying that running's easy," he interjects emphatically into what sounds like a bit of a fairytale story.
"It was a labor, it absolutely was, you know. But now, five or six years later, I'm 120 pounds lighter, and it's been an absolute blessing."
He ran his first 5K, Bethlehem, Pa.'s Fountain Hill Memorial 5K, in 2006, collapsing to the ground immediately after crossing the finish line with a time of 27:03.
"You can't get that race T-shirt off me for anything," he says.
Now, Herman's pretty much hooked. He has competed in several 5Ks and 10Ks since 2006, as well as his first half marathon last fall in Greenville. Currently, he's training to run a full marathon in October.
But while he says Greenville is an area full of great runners and outdoor athletes, he readily insists that he is not one of them.
"As a bigger runner," he explains - he's now at about 220-ish pounds, "I can't run with a lot of the people I know - they're too fast for me. For a lot of new runners, that's very intimidating."
Well it's no longer intimidating for Herman, and part of his mission now is making other start-up, non-runners just as comfortable with themselves as he's become with himself.
For the past two years, he has coached seven 12-week "No Boundaries" programs through Fleet Feet.
Similar to the Couch to 5K program, No Boundaries provides simple resources and workouts that cater to beginners with the ultimate goal of participating in a 5K race upon completion of the program. No Boundaries, though, is a group training program, drawing upon social camaraderie as a means of support, encouragement and accountability.
"There's something so powerful about coming out with a group," he explains. "I preach this from the very beginning, 'It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are - there's no prize for who finishes first, and nobody leaves until the last person's in.'"
After all, he says, running doesn't have to be so serious.
"So many people are so dead set on being perfect," he says, citing the negative influence of reality weight loss TV shows on notions of eating habits and training routines. "They think, 'If I don't exercise 10 hours a day like they do on the ranch, I won't get where I need to be.'"
"Anyone who's even considering being active in any capacity," he says, "I urge them to take that first step for themselves. It doesn't matter where you go or with whom you train, just take that first step."
22 June 2009
Another Couch to 5K group has left the nest and, despite my attempts to mess up their efforts, they performed extremely well at the Candlelight Run 5K this past Saturday evening. The course was challenging and the weather left a bunch to be desired. I was again fortunate to have been surrounded by their amazing strength and determination from the very start of this program to the very end.
The great thing, in something of a selfish capacity, is that being around these people - these folks who perhaps somewhat blindly, left at least a portion of their self-care in my hands for the better part of three months. In exchange for their trust, I did my best to nurture them on how to do the best you can, as often as you can and to always remember that this journey of ours is neither finite nor perfect. Mistakes will be made. But it is always about making better decisions more often than to the contrary.
Ultimately though, this is entirely about them. I hope they get from me at least a portion of the energy, drive, and determination I get from them. They will continue to run and be healthy and happy. For many of them, running was a singular key to a singular door. But that door opens up a world of possibilities. Anything is now possible.
On a personal level, MCM training is going well. Week Two is officially in the books with 16 miles. This week will be 15 miles and I am okay with that. Soon enough, we will be in uncharted territory and well beyond the 25 weekly miles I worked up to a few weeks back.
The scale's progress is showing as well...
I am dropping about 1.5 lbs per week while, by my own admission, not exactly being vigilant about what I eat. I am down a total of 118 lbs overall and my goal range of 200-215 lbs by October 25, 2009 is well within reasonableness. Thanks to the recommendations from a good friend, I ordered a couple of good reads on nutrition for distance athletes, so hopefully this helps sharpen things. My legs are feeling good and my mind is steady - for now.
17 June 2009
I am less than one (1) week away from graduating yet another group of fantastic, energetic, and determined beginner runners into the world of open possibilities and where nothing is impossible. Their first 5K is this coming Saturday evening, and I will be there to cheer every last one of them across the finish line. It is funny, somehow, for me to try to explain to others just how much I take from coaching beginning runners. If nothing else, it continually reminds me just how special the act of starting out to run truly is. The first few runs, how incredibly painful both mentally and physically, so much self-doubt. Like I often preach, sooner or later, it just clicks. It happens for everyone, it is just a matter of when. Suddenly, running seems much more fluid and, to some degree or another, much less of a chore. Running is truly a gift we receive, there is no questioning that. However I believe running is a gift better when given to others. But that's me...
MCM training is going well. I am continuing to stretch with the help of some yoga-for-runners postures and the like. The right hamstring is still something of an issue, but I feel confident that this will continue to improve. I really need to consider a little massage therapy to help it along though. Weight is holding steady and, really, I am not expecting much more of a drop until the mileage picks back up over 20 per week, which will be soon enough... Soon enough, indeed.
19 May 2009
Still, granted, a long way to go until I get to my ultimate goal, but the plan is in place, progress is being made, I am not starving, and my runs are getting done. What more could a guy want?
01 May 2009
A nice and somewhat easy 3-miler last night. The humidity has not even really begun to sink in here in South Carolina and I am already longing for weekday morning runs.
Here's how things have fallen since I really got back into journaling food with my running:
I am happy with the progression so far and, for me, I am eating more now than I was when I got down to my lowest weight of 206 back in 2006. I am feeling the benefits of the increased carbohydrate load, in a very good way. I still need my protein, otherwise I will eat My goal weight for MCM in October is 215. I think this is VERY reachable right now.
23 April 2009
Great day, great friends, and a great race. My first ever 10K was at the Reedy River Run on March 7, 2009 and I feel good about where I finished... 58:50. The picture above is after the race, as the lot of us recuperated and rehydrated. What is this "Zing Zang" thing of which they speak?
22 April 2009
After re-tuning the diet (defined as calories consumed, and NOT in a restrictive manner), things have seemed to progress nicely. I stepped on the scale a few weeks back with 245 lbs staring back at me. As of this morning, I am 238.8 and can really start to feel the difference.
I am still a bit concerned about the left shin pain. I am not sure if it is either a muscular issue which could be resolved with some deep massage or something structural. I feel good with my combination of shoes and inserts (note: NOT the custom orthotics I shelled out $$$ for) right now. We shall see where this progresses. I can take a step back with the training for a couple of weeks to let it mend, if need be. I would much rather be fresh for the start of training than limping into it.
19 April 2009
Coming from someone who has never run a marathon before, allow me to say that the reality of actually running 26 miles, 385 yards did not really sink in until I started writing down my training plan. Sobering...
In my best day, maybe I ran 20 miles per week. The plan I will be using (the Hal Higdon novice plan - along with a minor tweak, for those of you following along at home) will last 20 weeks and will have me running 42 miles in my highest volume week. *shiver*
But I wrote all of that so I can write this... I could not be more focused and excited about that which lies ahead. To say that this entire process will be a life-changing event is the understatement of all understatements. My family and friends are important. My job, too, is important. However from the beginning of June until October 25, 2009, my body, heart, and soul will belong to the Marine Corps Marathon.
This is not about finishing in a particular time or whatever have you. This is all about doing something that 5 years or over 100 lbs ago, I never would have imagined. As I sit here, typing in the dark, there is a part of me that is anxious/scared to death about that which lies ahead. I am not sure, however, if I have ever been as focused on any one singular personal goal.
By all accounts, I cannot think of a better place to show my stuff than Marine Corps Marathon.
Time to get to work.
- Upstate, South Carolina
- An admitted work-in-progress, I have spent the better part of my 37 years making excuses for my self-neglect through food. Over the past 7 years, I have worked to lose and keep off 125 pounds through cleaner eating and running. While I still have another 30-ish pounds left to lose, my self-care plan is in place for future success. A marathoner multiple times over, i have been fortunate to experience many great things and meet some outstanding people along the way. I am honored to be a volunteer running coach for our local running store and there are dreams of a career in the health and fitness industry.