Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 A Running Year In Review...

Best Running Moments for 2011

1.  Completing 5th Marathon on my birthday!
2.  Long runs with friends, sharing life one step at a time, thank you Susan, Jon, Lloyd, Josh W, Josh H. Josh F. Tommy and Misty!  Let’s do it again…
3.  Finishing a 50K (31 miles), even thou everything in my body and mind wanted to quit.
4.  Surpassing my yearly mileage goal even with a slow start.
5.  Seeing and enjoying my wife getting back into power walking some events.

But by far the most rewarding running event for me this year, all started with a simple conversation.

One Sunday morning at church, Josh W and I were talking about his up-coming marathon, when a friendly lady with a big smile joined our conversation.  She was very pleasant and introduced herself as Susan, and asked do you guys run?  Josh explained that he was training for an up-coming marathon and that I was helping him along with some words of advice.  I replied that I had run a few marathons in the past but for some reason or another I was in a running slump.  Susan said she would love to run a half marathon but hated to run long distances alone. 

You have to understand up to this point I was pretty much a loner when it came to running.  I had been running since 2000 and nearly all of my 7000 miles were run alone.  99% of my miles were run in solitude.  But today something very uncharacteristic of me made me say…I’ll run with you.  If I remember right, we next exchanged phone numbers and made plans to run the following Saturday morning on the Noland trail and we parted ways.  If I’m 100% honest I was not looking forward to the following Saturday.

My running slump had been dragging me down, some where along the way I had lost the drive to run long distances.  Without a real goal I was plugging along running 50 miles a month where once I had been averaging 150.  Truth be told, I needed something to give me a kick start.  Saturday came, I got up early, put on my best running gear (at least I could look the part) and headed to the Noland trail.  Climbing into my car, I still was not looking forward to this run.  All kind of negative thoughts were collecting in my mind…would Susan be on time, could I really train someone to finish a half marathon, how slow would she be running, would she talk my ear off and do I really want to run today.

I pulled into the parking lot 25 minutes early…and no one was around.  Figuring maybe I would get lucky and no one would show I turned up the music in my car and chilled out.  Within minutes Susan arrived, no getting off the hook today, after a few good mornings we chatted a little and headed out on our first run.  During this run Susan shared with me her story…being a five year breast cancer survivor, over-coming Rheumatoid Arthritis and now she was running.  Hearing how she was battling through her challenges inspired me and I began to open up.  And just like how the Grinch’s proverbial icy heart melted, my running heart began to catch fire and beat once again.  We talked about things like pacing, feeding during long runs and a plan to get her to her goal the Half Marathon.  After our first run together, I was in, I was sold, I was committed and looking forward to our next run.

One Saturday morning rolled into another, 5 miles blended into 8, 8 miles became 10 and finally we ran a long run of 12 miles.  I had provided as much training and advice as I could give and I got back a spark that had been missing for a good long time.  I was no longer just logging miles, I was accomplishing something with each labored foot step.  We selected the Inaugural Half Marathon “Run for the Dream” in Colonial Williamsburg, Va for Susan’s first half and I joked that a full marathon would be next.

Over the next three months we put in a good amount of quality miles, and all was going well.  Then a few weeks before the race, Susan was handed yet another challenge.  She came down with Achilles tendonitis.  After seeing a doctor, she was given a clean but painful bill of health.  She could run the race but the doctor warned her that she would be in a fair amount of discomfort.  At this point, nothing was going to get between Susan and her goal.  A few days of rest and race morning was right around the corner. 

Race morning was a near perfect day.  We met up with friends, lined up at the start in the center of Colonial Williamsburg, and with the firing of revolutionary war muskets we took off.  Most of the race is a blur…I focused more on keeping us on our pace then the race itself.  I had told Susan to not worry about anything but staying with me.  The only point of the run that I remember with any given detail is from mile 12 on to finish.  Susan had run a good race, we were on our pace but it was a hard course run on a hard aggregate surface over rolling hills, and it has a very humid day.  We approached mile marker 12 and I was feeling a bit zapped myself…but we were rolling along when Susan said “Brian, I don’t like you right now” I remember I chuckled and said something like, “that’s fine, but keep by my side…your not going to stop.”  We continued on and at the 12.5 mile point I began cheering Susan along trying to give her a little extra zip, “You’ll never get to this point in your life again…in a short distance you’ll finish your FIRST HALF MARATHON.”

The race finished inside the stadium of William and Mary College with a closing lap on the quarter mile track.  The soft track surface was rewarding to our feet and running along side Susan as she approached completing her goal was very rewarding and emotional for me.   As we closed in on the final turn “the home stretch” I had to fight back a cracking voice and tears welling up in my eyes as I rolled out words of encouragement.  Susan was less then 50 yards from beating the odds and I could not have been prouder of her and humbly myself.  She set off on a course to meet her goal and I opened myself up to another runner, another human being and was able to share a significant milestone in her life.  Susan received a nice shinny medal for running 13.1 miles.  I received a good friend for investing in someone other then myself, after 13.1 miles we will be forever linked.

I have a feeling Susan will not like me again….we are training for the Shamrock FULL Marathon…and it all started with a simple conversation.


  1. Wow what a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great stuff. I just started training for my first half marathon. It was going to be the shamrock but they sold out. Do you know of another good one around March/April? Email me if you do.