On Sunday October 7th, I completed my first full marathon here in Peoria. Before I get into the real story of that day, I need to give you a little background on how this journey began, because that’s exactly what the last three months have been. A journey.
I feel compelled to let you know that this post is going to be a tad longer than my normal articles, so you may as well get comfortable. I believe you’re going to enjoy it, however.
Allow me to get a few key items of the story out of the way before we proceed.
- When I began training for this marathon, it was the last week of June and I was about 240 lbs. I was also in pretty poor condition, cardio wise. (I was 226 lbs the morning I wrote this)
- I decided to do this because I suck at running and I generally hate it. I’m not fast at all.
- I have to thank a few people for their support and encouragement. My wife Kendall was so supportive through all of this. All the way to the end. She spent probably four hours on race day with all four kids moving all around the race course, so they could see me running. She’s a much better runner than me. I appreciate all of her support since my running inconvenienced her own running for three months. I also want to thank my neighbor Brian Lock (Road Runner Coaching) for putting together a very aggressive plan so that I could make completing the marathon a reality. He also wrote the forward for my book. He’s a very good runner and I appreciate all his planning and encouragement.
Now that we have some formalities out of the way, let’s get into it.
Back in the spring, I was introduced to the story and work of David Goggins. (Full disclosure, if you choose to look up any of his radio appearances, podcast appearances, or videos on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, there is a lot of cussing and foul language) Goggins is a retired Navy Seal who is now one of the world’s foremost ultra-marathon runners. (Generally, an ultra-marathon is considered to be 30 miles or more) He routinely runs races of 50 miles and 100 miles. He even ran a 205-mile race once. His core message generally revolves around the following:
- You need to do things you hate in order to grow and gain mental toughness.
- If you want to know how you’ll react in horribly difficult situations, you need to put yourself into those types of situations and see how you react.
- The 40% rule. (When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you can’t possibly go any further, you’re only actually at 40% of what you’re truly capable of)
All three of those bullet points came into play when I decided to participate in the marathon. During the race though, I came to fully understand the last bullet point. I get it now. More on that in a little bit.
During the three months of training, it was a bit of a roller coaster. Some days were good, and some were awful. I ran 4 days a week from late June until early October. During that time I only quit 4 times over the course of nearly 56 runs. One was due to a calf injury and the other three were due to the fact that I hated running and didn’t have it mentally that day.
Let’s get to race day.
The forecast the day before looked bleak. It was supposed to rain the entire duration of the race. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to that. However, it barely rained at all. Just a little sprinkle towards the end. The race started off just fine. Not much to report there.
Until I hit mile 17. That’s when it got real. That’s when it got hard.
That was also when I got to see my family for the 2nd time. As I was running down Madison St, I saw four little kids off in the distance running towards me. Little did they know how badly I needed a boost because I was struggling. They all ran up to me and gave me high fives and hugs. It was here that I told Kendall I didn’t think I could make it the rest of the way because my feet were in such pain. Her response was:
(That’s one of the things I love about her, when I let my emotions and anxiety get the best of me, she’s good at bringing me back to reality).
Then she told Astrid (my oldest) to tell me the same thing. I desperately needed to hear it. It helped me to keep going. From this point (mile 17 and 18) on I didn’t see them until the finish line. For all intents and purposes, it was only me out there on the course. Alone. All of the half-marathon runners were done, and all of us running the full marathon were so spread out that at times, I couldn’t see anyone behind me or in front of me. I saw a lot of volunteers out there though. They were so encouraging and helpful. I was thankful for all of them.
When I hit miles 21 and 22 it began to really sink in just how hard this was going to be. I started to realize that this was so much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. My feet were killing me. My calves felt like rocks. My groin muscles were already incredibly sore.
And I still had five miles left.
It was at this point that my mind started telling me things I didn’t want to hear. Things like:
- “It’s okay to quit. Even completing 21 miles is a huge accomplishment.”
- “No one would blame you if you quit. In fact, they’d still probably applaud you.”
- “Just stop, you’re in too much pain. Just stop.”
- “Look, there’s a retaining wall over there, just stop and sit down. Call Kendall and tell her you’re done. It’s going to be okay.”
- “You feel like you’re going to vomit. You need to quit.”
This went on for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. My mind was trying to get me to quit. I didn’t want to though. I wanted to finish this marathon so badly. You have no idea how badly. During this mental fight with myself I kept going even though I wanted to quit more than I have ever wanted to quit anything in my entire life.
I will never forget running down Moss Ave (mile 22) and Cooper (mile 23) because most of that time I was in tears because I didn’t want to quit, but I felt like quitting was my only choice. Quitting because it got too hard. Quitting because I was in ‘too much pain.’ Quitting because it was okay, and that people would understand.
However, I knew the truth. Had I quit, I would regret it until the day I died. I’ve quit things before and I know how it haunts me. I desperately wanted to finish, but I began to really believe that I wouldn’t be able to.
It was on Moss Ave (mile 22) where I had a complete mental breakdown. I thought I had reached my limit. I sincerely believed that I was unable to go any further. I remember my mind telling me “dude, you can’t even run anymore, if you walk the final four miles you’re not going to finish in time.” It was at this point that I couldn’t contain my fears and emotions any longer and that’s when the tears began. I was crying because it was harder that I could have ever even imagined. Because I truly thought I was going to have to quit. The thing was though, I didn’t want the story of this day to be ‘Well he almost did it. 22 miles is one hell of accomplishment.’ That’s what kept me going. Walking, running, walking, running. I simply kept moving.
Then, for reasons I may never understand, all the thoughts of quitting suddenly stopped. My mind went silent for a little bit.
Then, I heard this faint and quiet voice say “Alright man, you’ve got 4 miles left. You can do this. Keep going.”
From that point on, my mind became my best friend, rather than my worst enemy. For the last three or four miles I heard things like:
- “I can’t wait to get that 26.2 sticker on my car.”
- “How cool is going to be to finish this thing?”
- “Alright man, just a couple more miles left, you can do this.”
- “Dude, you’re gonna do this. Can you believe it?”
My mind began to encourage me, rather than hold me back.
Then, out of nowhere, a relay runner caught up with me on Glenwood Ave and said “hey man, the hard part is over. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. That’s all it’s doing right now.”
He could probably see how badly I was struggling. Because I really was. Badly.
It was at this point that I began to fully understand the 40% rule that David Goggins had been talking about. I thought I was done. I didn’t think I could go on. I didn’t think I could run another step. I genuinely believed that. I thought I was at my limit. My breaking point. Yet, somehow after all that, I went from an 18:24 mile at mile 23 to the following times:
- Mile 24 – 14:12
- Mile 25 – 14:18
- Mile 26 – 13:30
I shaved over 4 minutes off my last three miles because I went from mostly walking during mile 23 to mostly running miles 24-26.2. It’s nothing short of amazing to me looking back now. The 40% rule is accurate.
Running down the Hamilton St hill to the finish line is something I’ll never forget. All the kids were there. They came running towards me as I was nearing the finish line. Notice I said running, not walking. When all four caught up to me they tried to turn around and follow me only for me to look back and see that Astrid and Clarke had tripped over each other and had fallen down. Crosby slowed down a little and sort of faded away just before the finish line, but Murphy kept running with me almost all the way to the finish. I was so happy to see them. I was so happy it was over. I was so damn happy and proud of myself for not quitting. Quitting was all I wanted to do for about 45 minutes straight.
When I finally made it back to the car, it all began to sink in. What had just happened. What I had just accomplished.
I thought about how broken down I felt on Moss Ave during mile 22 and how I nearly quit. I thought about that concrete retaining wall that I just about stopped to sit on it, so that I could call Kendall and tell her to come pick me up because I was done. I thought about how happy I was that my kids and wife were there for me during the race.
There is a picture of the retaining wall I nearly stopped to sit on, and quit the race.
Folks, look, I didn’t write this to brag about an accomplishment. I didn’t write this for attention or applause. I wrote this because I found out firsthand, that we are capable of so much more than we realize. I wrote this because I personally discovered that when you think you’re done, when you think you’re finished, when you think you can’t take another step, when all you want to do is quit because of the pain, when everything is telling you to just quit and sit down, that you have a lot more in the tank. A LOT MORE!
I wrote this to (hopefully) inspire you. To inspire myself, and to remind myself of what I was able to endure. I don’t ever want to forget the lessons that this marathon taught me. Whether it’s running, your profession, your marriage, your relationships, your business or whatever else, you’ve got so much more in the tank than you realize.
Look, I’m nothing special. I’m a regular guy. There are millions of guys out there just like me. I simply choose to accomplish something that, at the time, I figured was impossible.
You know what I learned? It wasn’t. Not much in this world is literally impossible. It just takes a lot of hard work and commitment.
Okay, that’s it. I’m done.