The Best Run Ever…Until…

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. All the planning, all the training, all the desires came down to one weekend, last weekend. I finally stood at the starting line of the Arkansas Traveller 100. I wasn’t nervous or scared, I knew I was ready. I had a deep calm about it and that’s where I needed to be mentally.IMG_5639

When the gun went off at 6 a.m. I knew my plan, knock off a few miles before the sun heated things up. Then back off the pace a little, if things were going as planned I would have banked a few mile and some time before things got hot. I did not think about the miles, just the distance to the next aid station (although, my new friend Monique made an off the cuff comment after one mile that it was like 99 bottles of beer left on the wall, so from that point on it was how many bottles of beer were left). No thought wasted on anything beyond that…focus on the moment, the pace and how I felt. I would run by feel and feel alone.

Soon I passed the first aid statio

n, then the second and off the roads, on to single track trails. I backed off a little, it was slightly technical and uphill-no use in wearing myself out this early. Then the third aid station (which is also the first aid station since the opening 16 miles of the course is a figure 8) and still feeling great.

A few more mile and I emerged from the trail at Lake Sylvia, the first aid station that my crew was allowed to be.


As I came in Tom and Kendall were ready, peanut butter and honey sandwich in hand, fresh singlet to put on and restock nutrition in my vest. In and out, smooth as a runner could ask for.

Next up was the Pumpkin Patch aid station. The stretch between there and Lake Sylvia was the section I was most comfortable with. Everything was still clicking for me when I came into the Pumpkin Patch.

This aid station is special to me. the first thing I did with this race, or any trail race for that matter, was help at this station for a few hours before I went out to pace Lisa Gunnoe, that was back in 2015.

Lisa’s family mans the Pumpkin Patch, so when I came in they were ready for me. Her daughter Kim grabbed my water bottles and filled them while her husband Chris got me Gatorade and snacks. Kevin King filled my ice bandanna and tied it on me. It was almost like having my crew there helping me.

The next couple of stations came and went with ease, E-tower then Rocky Gap. Stomach was good, legs felt strong at both stations. Quick banana and a swig of Coke and off I went. the stretch after Rocky Gap live up to it’s name, fairly good sized rocks and they were uneven. I slowed a little even though it was a downhill and I love a good slightly technical downhill. I wanted to save a little plus it was starting to warm up.

Next I came into Lake Winona, the second crew station. By this point, another one of my pacers, Shauna, had joined in. I decided that it was time for a sock change. My crew had a chair out and ready for me as if they had anticipated this. Tom and Kendall fed me and restocked my vest while Shauna’s motherly instincts kick in and she put fresh socks on my feet.IMG_5697

I slowed my pace a little at this point, there was a lot of uphill through the next section and not much shade. I was afraid the heat might get to me since there was no shade to speak of. Luckily for me, the sky clouded up some. For a few minutes I wondered if I would be running in the rain. I just pushed through to the next aid station, Pig Trail. A banana and a swig of soda, still feeling great so I cruised right through.

My plan all along was to manage my time at the aid stations and so far I was sticking to it. Don’t waste time but don’t go through so fast that I burn myself out or don’t get what I needed. Think about it before I was there and know what needed to be done so it could be done efficiently.  In this race, efficiency was the name of the game, not just efficiency of running form, but of time and weight carried.

Club Flamingo, the Bahama Mama stations, then the fun begins. It is the highest point of the course, Smith Mountain. Truthfully, the first time over Smith Mountain isn’t to bad (after the initial figure 8 the course is an out and back). I reached the top of the mountain with a man named Ben. We had been running together since Club Flamingo. I had warned him that as the evening wore on that snakes would be coming out.

After taking a moment to enjoy the view, he turned and nearly stepped on the biggest timber rattler I have ever seen. We backed up, hoping it would just go on. It just laid there, completely across the trail. The next option would be to go back to Bahama Mama, 2.5 miles. This would not be a great choice since it would add 5 miles to an already long run. Finally, it was decided that our only choice was to kill it. Sticks and stones do break bones, even in snakes. After we left, we realized that we had left the carcass in the trail, neither of us wanted to go back. As Ben pointed out, it would make for a good story for the runners behind us. For the people I spoke to, it did make a good story and we were called a few names.FullSizeRender (1)

Next was a nice long downhill. We took this section a little slower. It was smooth, but covered in leaves. After our last encounter, we erred on the side of caution, a snake would very easily be missed if we were moving too fast or didn’t have time to notice it in the dead leaves and timber.About a mile before Power line aid station, the course becomes dirt road again, snake would be more visible, so we sped up again.

At the aid station, you can get your first pacer, for me that was Chris.  We left out about dark. Headlamps on, we took off. Everything seem good at this point. Just as we settled in to a good pace, something happened, it was like a switch went off. My right leg felt like a knife was stabbing it every time I took a step.

I limped to the next aid station, Copperhead (ironic name after what happened a few miles earlier). My friend Susan was working, she tried to help me massage it, tape it, even put Bio-Freeze on it. Nothing worked, I made the decision to call it a day. I hated to do it, but I didn’t want to cause anymore damage. I’m still not 100% sure what caused it, but I know that I will spend more training time on hip and core strength for my return next year.

All in all, it went well up until that point. I felt good, physically and mentally. I was “in the zone” all day. It was truly one of the best runs of my life, even if it fell short by 47 miles.

Lessons Learned on the Road to the Arkansas Traveller

I haven’t posted much here lately. Life, training for the Arkansas Traveller 100 and volunteer commitments seem to get in the way constantly. As of right now, I have just started my taper, so I will probably have the taper jitters and over post things here.

They say that the person who stands at the starting line of their first 100 miler is not the same person who crosses the finish line. Really, you could take that a step further, the person who signs up is not the same one who stands at the starting line. Here are some of the things I have learned so far.

  1. For me, I have learned to manage my time better, to organize more. I knew going in that I would have to learn to roll with the punches more because things can and will go wrong. Did I forget some equipment? Oh well, learn to run without it. Adjust on the fly and roll with the punches. Something is bound to go wrong, just call it a challenge, face up to it, adapt and overcome.
  2. Speaking of adjusting, don’t be set in your ways when it comes to nutrition. I only allow myself to drink sodas during long runs and then it usually is an occasional treat at an aid station. Back in the day when I did drink it regularly, I would only have Coke or Mt Dew. I hated Sprite. At a race recently, the only option at a particular aid station was Sprite. So I decided it was better than nothing. To my surprise it went down pretty good.
  3.  Trust your training! As most of us do, I am second guessing what I did and what could have been done different. I hear many opinions on how to train for a 100 miler, and I am sure that they all work, but I have chosen one plan and I stuck to it. Some swear by back to back long runs, some never run more than 25-30 miles at a time. I know that these plans have worked, but I know that mine will work too. My advice to the person looking at their first ultra is to ask around, find a plan that fits into your overall fitness and lifestyle, and then don’t second guess it (I say this knowing you will second guess it like I have). They say opinions are like belly buttons, we all have one. When you start training you will get many (opinions that is, not belly buttons). Weed through them and find what works. Some ideas may help you. Listen to everyone and discern.

The most important lesson I have learned wasn’t about myself, rather it was about others. As I headed down this road, I was a little concerned as to who would be willing to assist me. This is a big endeavor, one that is nearly impossible to do by yourself. When word got out that I was in, many offered to help.  I was overwhelmed at the offers. The lesson I gleaned from this is that people want to be apart of something bigger than themselves, especially when it involves helping those around them achieve their very best.

What Not to Think About

Comedian Brian Callen recently used the phrase “what not to think about” on the Art of Charm podcast. He was referring to learning a new hobby or skill. This is the perfect analogy for running. Volumes have been written on how to run, how to train for a run, how to eat for a run, how to do this for a faster run, how to do that for a faster run, what exercises to do so you will have better runs, etc.

With so much instruction out there, it can be easy to get information overload. Some of the information may even sound contradictory. There are several shelves in my office full of books about running, which seem to multiply mysteriously. I’ve noticed a weird pattern, they seem to procreate around the time I look at because several days later there are always new books there. All of these books promise the same thing, to make the reader run faster and farther and more efficiently.

Chapters have been written on just tying your shoes. Yes, tying your shoes. Most of us learned how to do this as toddlers and have never thought about it again. It has almost become an autonomic function, yet there are many ways of doing it. I had a problem with my shoes coming untied, I learned that crossing the ends of the strings the opposite way would stop this. Who knew that something so simple could solve that problem, no more double knotting.IMG_8733

Somehow we have to learn how to discern all of this information, otherwise we could cloud our mind. Sometimes it’s through trial and  We run the risk of focusing on the wrong thing, watching the right hand and losing the left one.

We tend to complicate things and cloud up our efforts. We buy the latest and greatest in technology. Yet, in the end, we are all just trying to put one foot in front of the other as fast as we can. Many runners tend to focus on their GPS device, whether it’s a watch or a phone app. These can be dangerous to your mental game. If you learn to run by feel, then you look at your watch and realize that you are going faster than intended, you may slow down. While it can be a good thing to hold back, you may be holding yourself back from a major break through.

Still others tend to spend to much time visiting. I realize that running is a social sport, but at some level we need to be able to stop talking and push ourselves. I’ve watched many groups who’s main goal is to stay together, while there is strength in numbers, I can’t help but wonder if there is someone in that pack in front of me who could be preforming better. If you choose to focus on those around you, make sure that both of you are on similar levels.

What should you think about?  What deserves all your attention while running? What I have learned is that the focus should be on the enjoyment of the run. Not one thing has helped my pace more than learning to smile through it all. A smile can force you through the pain and to help you work past the low points.

A long run can be an emotional roller coaster with great runner’s highs. With each high point there is the one thing you rarely hear about, the runner’s low. Everyone has their own way of working beyond the low, but a smile can be the greatest tool in your box. Why? Well, research has proven that a smile will improve your mood. It can also reduce your perceived stress levels and lower your heart rate.

My question to you is, if you can’t smile while you are doing something that you supposedly enjoy, then why do it? We all have our different reasons for running, but we all share a common pains and a common love for the sport. Running is not comfortable, it can out right hurt at times. We all hurt in some way, so why not just smile through it all?



Navy 10 Nautical Miler

As runners we tend to measure our distance in one of two major systems, the metric system with 5k’s and 10k’s being the most popular of these. Then there is the imperial system with all its fractions and decimal points, 13.1 and 26.2 blah, blah, blah.

What if I told you there is another way of measuring your distance? What if there was a completely new distance in this system that you have probably never raced before? There is and it’s call a nautical mile. A nautical mile is roughly 1.15 miles

In 2010 the NSA Mid-South started this race, measuring at 10 nautical miles. Why this distance? According to their race information packet, 10 nautical miles is the distance from a ship to the horizon line. It is also the distance that our brave men battled from when they stormed the beaches of Normandy.

I have wanted to do this race for several years now and I finally made the time to do it. Overall, I’m glad I did and wonder why it took me so long to attend. I wasn’t sure what to expect there, I have seen many photos of the race and it looked like a major one.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon to the health and fitness expo/packet pick-up. It was not as large as the major marathon expos that I have been to, but there was plenty to see. They were set up in an old airplane hanger, so there was ample room, no tripping over other runners. In fact, the entire event was held on the largest inland U.S. Naval base. Looking around and watching the staff and volunteers, it was apparent that the officials had it all together. Everything was organized and everyone seemed to know exactly what they needed to be doing.


Wearing our Arkansas Run for the Fallen shirts at the Expo

Sunday was race day! 6 a.m. start time! If you ask why the start time was so early, then you probably haven’t ran in the south much during the summer, it gets hot and humid fast here. As for Sunday instead of Saturday? I can only assume that it has something to do with the traffic and the fact that several major streets in and around the base are closed down completely.

At that time of the morning, the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon, but this day it was cloudy and there was a threat of rain. We were corralled up by anticipated finish times, faster ones in the front. As we took off, the course seemed flat to me, but I had been told there would be some rolling hills. We wound around what seemed like a back part of the installation, there were even some old airplanes there as if they were being prepped for display.

Before I knew it, I was at an aid station. The stations were at each nautical mile. I only used one since I was carrying my own water and nutrition. What I did see was that they were well stocked and the water and Gatorade had been kept iced, which is great for the Memphis summer runs. They also had porta-potties at each one, another good idea. With the cloudy conditions, the weather felt great and I just started running by feel and enjoying the day. Aid stations seemed to click by, each one with a sign showing what nautical mile you were at.

Along the course were sailors in their camouflage guiding and cheering for us. While I know that this was probably a typical military volunteer situation they seemed genuinely happy to be there, even at this early hour (for those not familiar, the military has a system where-as the superior rank tells someone that they have volunteered for a duty, otherwise know as being volu-told).

As for me, I went into the race just to enjoy and stay on top of my nutrition. I was hoping to do it in around 2 hours. I only casually glanced at my watch when the miles beeped, I didn’t really pay attention to it until mile 6 (actual mile since my watch doesn’t have a setting for nautical miles).  It was at that point I realized something, I was going to do a personal best on the 10k! I actually ended up doing a 58:39. It was then that I realized that I could actually do the 2 hour goal I had set. After all, I felt great and was already well over the halfway point, so why not?

A swig of Tailwind, a gel and off I went. The nautical miles and the accompanying aid stations seemed to click off. I had only made the stop at number 5 where I filled up my water bottle, so there was no need to stop at any others, but they made for great mental markers. I ran from aid station to aid station, just enjoying the run. The heat and humidity held off a little. It was warming up, but the overcast skies held off the major heat. I even felt a few rain drops along the way.

The hills were not bad by my standards, they were rolling hills that started18839314_1493715587333939_8228137875747962727_n around 2 miles in and were never a hard grade. By the halfway point, we had reached the maximum elevation. The worst was behind us or so I thought.

We entered a paved trail walking/jogging trail that went behind the base housing. Several of the residents came out to their backyards in order to cheer us on. At one point we went into the streets in the housing area with more residents out to cheer and one family outside with their water hose spraying into the street to cool the runners.

I always like to finish strong, push the last bit and this was my plan here also. What I had not counted on was the long steady hill up to the finish line. Again, it was not steep, just a long one, especially after 10 plus miles. I pushed as much as my legs would allow me to. I even managed to pass a couple of runners on the home stretch. As I approached the finish, my eyes went straight to the clock, 1:51 and counting. Official time-1:51:15.28, I had beat my goal!

I feel like I would 18835675_1530554330318974_4532056194763520342_nhave done a little better, had I realized that there was free waffles and beer at the finish. I’ll know next year, so maybe I can shave a few minutes off. The after party was well stocked, plenty of water and did I mention waffles and beer?

The most surprising thing to me was that 1,500 people were signed up, yet it had the feel of a small town race. It’s really hard to put your finger on why, but it just felt like a small race. Maybe it was the support of the local community, maybe it was that the organizers were on top of everything, or maybe it was the abundant volunteers who knew what needed to be done. Overall this is a great race that I am sure will continue to grow. I look forward to going back for many years and seeing what it becomes.

Why I Run Too Much

I am often asked why I choose to run so much or so long. There is usually a look of wonderment in their eyes, not the wonderment that one gets when meeting an idol. It’s more of a look of trying to understand the thought concept I have when I decided to run an ultra-marathon. There are many types of individuals who ask this question. A few are the more experienced runners who are wondering if they could do it; you can almost see the wheels turning in their head. Some are new runners, who are genuinely curious. Questions from these people are great, they make me think that maybe what I am doing is inspiring just one person to try and go further. Their questions are generally more in the line of how it’s done, not why.

The ones that bother me are the “why” questions I get in a nearly condescending way. The ones that are almost like the person is trying to watch a train wreck happening. They don’t think that it is possible; as if 26.2 miles is that absolute limit of human endurance. I have noticed something these people who ask me the whys have in common, most of them are people who I would classify as not understanding the fullness that comes with it. The ones who ask are generally either non-runners who would not under stand the running mentality to start with or runners who have yet to truly look for their personal limits.IMG_8726.jpg

We all have that point where we cannot go any further. The truth is that this point is a very personal thing. That point is one of mental exhaustion, where you can go no more. Your brain refuses to allow the body to continue any further. This is a primitive function of our minds that is a form of self protection. Something deep inside your head thinks that any more effort could become dangerous to the body and convinces you that stopping is the best and only option. I am not talking about stopping due to illness or injury, this limit is one that goes deeper. To not look for this limit is selling yourself short. It’s akin to leaving an uncompleted story, an unfinished book if you will.

What may be one person’s limit might be a warm up to the next person. While I believe that everyone can increase that limit with proper physical and mental training, when a person reaches their point, I respect that. No matter if its 5 or 100 kilometers or anything in between, they have pushed themselves and that is an admirable thing. To question someone who is searching for that boundary is to show a lack of understanding of what the true gift of running is, a mental exercise and test of ones will and grit.

The people who are asking why are the ones who have never searched for that limit. We should be asking them why. Why are you not trying to find a bigger goal? Why are you satisfied with what you have done? I have been known to ask people this. When I have, it was to individuals who I knew were capable of more, who I sensed were just scared to step into the unknown. There is a certain amount of fear that comes with finding these limits.

I may find my limit someday, I might find it at the most inopportune time. It may come when I lest expect it. It may come in the middle of a race, while that would be hard to deal with, in the end I would like to think I would have some satisfaction in knowing. On the other hand, I may never find it. I may spend the rest of my time here looking, but I will continuously be looking.  To say that I am not worried a little by the thought of running 100 miles would be a lie. To be honest, I am scared to death, but I refuse to let the fear or any other emotion control me.


Recently, I overheard someone say that they enjoyed trail running, but they didn’t want to risk falling. They were, therefore, going to stick to the roads. My first thought was of the traffic, neighborhood dogs and the falls that I had taken on the road. I also thought of the one time I fell and ended up in a cast, while road running. Yes, trail running can be dangerous, but I am not going to let fear rule me or my enjoyment of the world around me.  I fact, just a couple of weeks later I did take a nasty tumble. A little blood on my shoulder and knee, but all was good.

My pride wasn’t bruised, I fact I came up laughing about it. I should have seen that rock that was jutting up, silly mistake. Those who were behind me were more shook up than I was.

Later in the race, I noticed my left ring finger was bleeding pretty good. I stopped at a bathroom in a nearby campground and rinsed it off. The only way to describe the feeling was that it felt like a little knife in my finger when the water hit it. (Good thing I had bought a Qalo ring the week before.) The important thing was that I was still having fun. There were still 10 miles to go and a little blood wasn’t stopping me from finishing.

I think of scrapes and bruises much the same way that many mountain bikers do, they are trophies.  They show that the prize was earned, the effort was there. People see injuries and naturally ask what happened. “Oh, I was running down this mountain and lost my footing”.  I have notice that the look they give you is the exact same look they will give you when you say that you ran 50k or 50 miles. It’s one of complete amazement, shaking their head.

Truth be told, there is risk in everything we do, its just a question of what risks you feel are acceptable for the end results. There is risk in driving your car to work everyday, there is risk in bicycle riding. Risk all around you, most of the time we choose to ignore it or are completely oblivious to it.

To achieve your greatest potential, you will have to accept some risk. There will be times when you question that risk and those decisions. Fear cannot rule your mind without affecting your body and desire.

I chose to take the risks associated with trail running because the reward of the time on the trail in nature far outweighs the scab on my knee or a swollen ring finger.  Just in case though, I always carry a small first-aid kit in my truck.


Society has experienced an evolution, a redefining of sorts. Our perception of how we connect to the world around us has changed, along with how we interact with others. Somewhere, somehow in all this, we have lost our connection to each other. It seems odd that we now have social media that was intended to bring us closer together, but we are not any closer, we just have more facts about each other.  We have connected with people that we probably have not thought about in many years because their name popped up as a suggested connection.

The odd thing that has happened is that through all of these so called connections, we have truthfully become more distant. Our knowledge of each others lives would appear to be greater, but we are just catching the highlight reels of people’s lives, marriages, children and careers.

Our lives are like a castle; we have walls and moats for security and only allow in those we have chosen to, not everyone we meet. In recent years though, we have torn down the walls of security and we are left only with a moat. All the world can see your trials and triumphs. When we watch someone in this manner, we begin to think that we know them. Much like the characters on a television show, we don’t actually know them, we are only familiar.

A few short years ago, it would be normal to have only a few friends and we would not have had to list them. These friends would be very close, we would know many details of their lives, both good and bad.

Something else that has happened in all of this, we have not only become disconnected from those around us, but also the world around us, the environment. We no longer enjoy nature or it’s beauty. We go on a hike or just to a park and we cannot wait until we get back to our cell signal. If there is a signal, you will find people of all ages sitting around with there heads down, looking at their phones, meanwhile, there is so much to see around them.IMG_6901.jpg

Through our cell phones we now have every piece of information that one could need in the palm of our hand. We have become addicted to information, mostly useless information. I will admit that I am just as guilty as everyone else, but I am learning. I have made a conscious effort to put it down and enjoy the world around me. When I am out on a trail, I will rarely take a photo, especially on training runs. I have succumbed to the trend of “run-fies” and taken a few at some of the more scenic spots I come across. I feel like this is a little different, in the past one might have had a small camera to record a memory.

We must ask ourselves, where is the limit, when should I put the phone down and most importantly, do we truly know a person? How is it that we become an honest friend, not a “Facebook friend”? We can only do this through time spent together and sharing experiences. Screen time will never replace actually being with someone.

Training or racing together can build bonds. I think this is why the running community is usually close in most communities. The people have spent time with each other and had that face to face relationships forged. They haven’t been watching from afar across the moat at you struggle, they have been there struggling with you. Bonds and trust have lowered the draw bridge over the moat.

Social media has it’s place. There are many good things that have come from it. There are even many true friendships that have been made from it, but we must always ask ourselves, are we a real friend to others or a Facebook friend?

Is It Worth It?

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” the main character, George Bailey, holds his daughter at the climatic ending and as a bell rings, she proclaims “Look Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets it wings!”

While this is a great sentiment, I must beg to differ from Zuzu Bailey’s teacher. When a Navy Seal trainee has had enough, he can quit. All there is to quitting is to walk up to a bell that hangs in the center of the compound and ring it. No angels rejoicing, no celebrations. Just a defeated dream and a lonely walk. Inside there awaits a blanket, coffee and a doughnut. A small consultation prize compared to the honor of wearing the Navy Seal insignia on one’s uniform.

The idea of the ringing the bell is so simplistic, yet it captures what the Navy is looking for in a Seal team member so brilliantly. Will this person quit when they are under pressure? When their team needs them, will they be there and ready to defend at all cost? By putting out a quick reward, they see who has what it takes. Much like the Stanford marshmallow experiment, will they take one marshmallow now or two later?

Nearly all the trainees are capable of completing the training on a physical level, but its the mental strength that is pulling men through all the near torturous trials. When that physical strength is gone, when they think they have reached the absolute limit, that’s when the test begins.

In every race we face a similar choice. Do you quit now and avoid any further pain, or continue, hoping for the prize that is at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Putting aside any thoughts other than the end result. We ask ourselves if it’s worth it. Is it worth all the suffering for that moment when you cross the finish line and someone puts a medal around your neck? Or that moment when someone asks you in wonderment, “you ran how far?”  Is it worth the pain?

These questions can only be answered by you. There is no one to whisper in your ear “yes, it is worth the pain.” You must do this for yourself. Do you want the coffee and doughnut that will only last a few minutes or do you want the glory of the finish?

If you choose to ring the bell and take the coffee, can you live with that choice, knowing that the ringing of the bell will forever echo in your ears? Is it worth it?

When you ring that bell in the race, your dream, your goal dies. All your training, all your early mornings and late nights are suddenly wasted. Is it worth it? Is it worth it?

Eddie Pinero once said in one of his motivational videos for Your World Within “anyone can run downhill, but not everyone will run uphill. The funny thing is that the prize is at the top of the hill.”

When things get tough, are you willing to keep going up that hill, scratching and clawing? At times hanging on by your fingernails asking yourself if it’s worth the struggle to the top? At the bottom of that hill is a bell with it’s coffee and doughnuts, it’s ease and comfort are . At the top is the prize, the glory of the accomplishment, is it worth it? Or would you rather have the easy way out and a doughnut?


Recently it occurred to me that many people don’t realize why I started running. A little over four years ago I wasn’t feeling right. Tried, lethargic and generally weak. Not to the point that I couldn’t function, but I knew that something wasn’t right. So I made an appointment to get a physical.

Deep down I knew what I was going to hear, but I was hoping for better news. You see, my father had heart problems most of his adult life. I really don’t remember a time when he was not sick or in and out of the hospital. He had more bypasses than I can recall. When he was 3 weeks shy of his 45th birthday, we lost him.


When I was close to my heaviest, 270ish pounds

Genetics play a large part in cardiovascular health and I knew that I could be headed down a similar path. Yet, I was still hoping for a different report from my doctor.

When the call came, I had a Mt Dew in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. My blood pressure was high, they were putting me on medication for it. Oh, and the cholesterol..their words were “through the roof”, medications for that too. Also, I needed to get my diet under control or we might need to have a conversation about diabetes in the near future.

The Choices We Make

I heard a story once and lately I have heard it several more times, I have even seen and reposted a video of it. The story goes something like this:

Two boys were raised by an alcoholic father. One grew up to be an alcoholic; when asked what happened he said “I had no choice, I watched my father”. The other grew up and never drank in his life. When he was asked what happened he said “I had no choice, I watched my father”.

At the time of that call, I had never heard the story so I never associated it with my plight, but I had the choice at that point; which son was I to be. I did have a choice and I chose the healthier path. That soda I had in my hand would be the last one, I have had mere sips in the last 4 years.

The Next Steps

Other changes came slowly. My diet was the next thing I conquered. Pizza and sweets were my favorite fare. I knew that I would have to teach myself to like salads, veggies and more nutritious snacks. This wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be, I guess it was because I had unconsciously associated the junk food with the condition that I had gotten myself into. I still struggle with portion control and cravings for sweets. I still lose that struggle occasionally, but I don’t let those foods rule me anymore.

Smoking was the biggest battle. I fought it for months. My doctor had advised me to wait until I had my diet under control before I quit. She felt that trying it all at once would be overwhelming and could cause me to fail on all fronts.

It would be six months after that phone call before I put out my last one. I struggled and made multiple attempts, for various reason all of them failed. Finally one evening I was outside smoking and it just hit me, I was done, I was no longer a smoker, I would no longer allow cigarettes to control me. I didn’t even finish that last one, I was DONE!

I had pills, gums and lozenges that were suppose to help me. I did use them for a few days, but in the end it was all up to me. These items have all helped people quit smoking, however, a person’s will power and determination that make for a successful effort. Like everything else, there is no magic pill, just dedication and hard work.

The Gym

A couple of months after I quit smoking, I found myself in the local gym. I tried a functional fitness class. It wasn’t bad, it challenged me and kept me accountable. I also did weight lifting. I felt better, but didn’t see much in the way of results.

Overall, the gym was great in that it got me moving. Looking back, I realize that it just wasn’t the right place for me. Don’t misunderstand me, it’a great place to go and has it’s place in any fitness routine. Weight lifting, swimming and functional fitness just aren’t what I was meant to do as my primary sport. My true love, my motivation would soon be found, I just needed to be patient.

What all the gym work was doing was getting my body and my mind ready for running. The weights and functional fitness were building some much needed strength. They were also building mental muscle, the determination and dedication required to go long distances.

The First Steps

Every runner has some small goal when they begin. For most it is to run a mile without stopping. For me it was similar, but more specific; I wanted to do a mile in 10 minutes. For some, that pace comes easily, but for a man who at that point still weighed at least 225 and wasn’t naturally athletic, it was a lofty dream.

Many new runners set that early goal of one mile arbitrarily because it’s a mile and that’s how we measure things. I had a reason for that ten minute mile; I wanted to run a mile in the Arkansas Run for the Fallen. I set this goal right after I rode as a motorcycle escort for the run, so I had just under one year to achieve it.

As much of a social activity as running is, I didn’t run with anyone for months. I read stuff online but really didn’t put much effort into learning what I was doing right or wrong, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, alone in my plight for the magic ten minute mile.

Somewhere in all this, I thought back to when the Little Rock Marathon first started. I remember watching the runners and wondering if I could do that, but not having the drive to find out if I had it in me. That question started coming up in my mind more and more often, did I have what it took to run a marathon? Before I knew it, that question started haunting me, could I do it?

I made the decision to find out, so I signed up for my first half marathon, Soaring Wings Half Marathon. I found a generic training plan on the internet and half stuck to it. I didn’t know about speed work or cadence or form, I just put in the miles that it said I should run.

The day of the race came and I was a nervous wreck. The distance wasn’t bothering me too much, since I cheated my training a little by making my last long run of 12 miles into 13.1. It was the sheer number of people, I had only started running around others a couple of weeks before the race, I wondered if I would trip over someone. In the end, I didn’t trip, I finished in a decent time, but it wasn’t a marathon, I had only reached half of the goal.

Onward and Upward

The people I started running with were some folks from my community who were starting a running club. We began to meet on Sunday mornings and of course the marathon question came up. One lady had done it, another had tried but the course was shut down due to weather before she finished. They were going to run one called the Team Loco Marathon. I signed up for it on a whim and again trained in a method that can only be called naïveté. My longest run before the race was 16 miles and that was the one week before.

What makes this particular race unique is that it is an out and back course, out for 1.3 miles and back then repeat a total of 10 times. Yes, it sounds boring, but that’s just the face of it. The constant back and forth allows you to check in with people you know and you are never more than 3/4 of a mile from an aid station.

As we neared the 22 mile mark, my legs were throbbing, my hamstrings were beginning to seize on me and I really needed to pee but was afraid to stop for fear of not being able to start again. I walk/jogged most of the last couple of miles. It was during this time that I made a promise to myself; I would never walk across a finish line, I could run or crawl, but I would never walk.

As I came to the finish line, I started to wonder about this promise that I had made, I wasn’t sure I could move faster than a walk. Then I could hear the music and people. It was an awakening, there was an adrenaline rush, the pain left and the excitement set in, I DID have what it took to be a marathon runner.




Finishing my first marathon.

The funny thing about all this running is that at some point, I left my health concerns behind. My focus was no longer on trying to get my numbers on control, it went into how far I could go. I had gone for another yearly physical and the results were great. They were so good in fact that several days later I got a letter in the mail from the office. I knew that it wasn’t bad news, there would have been a phone call if it was. I opened it up to see a handwritten note from the doctor, it was congratulating me on my turn around. It went on to say that I should be an example to other who were in the same situation, they could change the out come of their yearly physicals and not fall victims to their attitudes.

All of this, simply because I chose to. Because I wanted to be the son who overcame, not the son who gave into the fate that he wrote for himself by giving up. Everyday of our lives, we can choose which person we want to be, I chose to be a runner.