Monday, June 27, 2011

On Your Marks

The past two Saturday mornings I have had the opportunity to be around some great people here in Jonesboro.  The Saturday before last our team volunteered for the Kids Triathlon at Craighead Park, and this past Saturday I participated in the Rock-A-Bye Baby 5K on our campus.  I am continually amazed at all the great people here in our community that either volunteer their time, donate their business' money (by sponsoring) or participate in the activities.  I am lucky to live in a community that values fitness.  I am very appreciative of so many people in our community that are role-models for me.

Whenever I attend one of these events I am continually reminded of one of the greatest accomplishments of my life while at the same time being one of the biggest regrets of my life.  Spend time around runners and the stories are bound to come up (as they should) of the marathon they are training for, the half marathon they ran, the triathlon they would like to prepare for, etc. And each time I hear these stories I am taken back to May 23rd, 1999 the day that I marked a goal off my "bucket list" . . . but also a day I will always wish I could have a "do over".

It was on May 23rd, 1999 that I completed that Rock-N-Roll marathon in San Diego, CA.  Of course I understand the significance of completing a marathon and it is something I will forever cherish.  But at the same time I wish I could go back and do it all over again.  Running a marathon, was one of my goals in life (on my "bucket list" if you will).  So after discussing this with Rhonda late in 1998 I decided that the San Diego marathon was the one.  The date fit into my work schedule and part of the deal with Rhonda was that she wanted it to be somewhere fun so that she could go with me (a goal on her "bucket list" was to see the World Famous San Diego Zoo . . . kill two birds with one stone).  I know you're wanting to skip to the "do it over" part so here it goes . . . I had no business running a marathon . . . I had no idea how to prepare and I was too stubborn to seek out help.  For someone who's life and career revolves around training and preparation it still amazes me that I couldn't "practice what I preach". 

For months leading up to the race I trained for the marathon but I trained at "my" pace.  My eating habits were terrible and I did not take care of my body the way I should have.  A few weeks prior to the race I recall Jeff Mittie (my boss and our Head Coach at the time) joking with me that he "was really pulling for me to complete the marathon, but he was concerned that if I did it I would taint the sport forever".  In other words if I could complete it that it would ruin the accomplishment for everyone in the future.  Well I did and it did.  Over 25,000 other runners joined me that morning in San Diego . . . it took nearly 10 minutes for me to even reach the starting line.  There are still only a few things that I remember about the race.  At the 2 mile marker there was a drink station and as we came through it a lady took a sip from her cup of water and threw it toward the ground and it could not have hit any more perfectly as the cup landed right at the top of my shoe and all the water went straight down into my shoe . . . only 24 miles to go and my sock is soaking wet.  One of the other things that still sticks out in my mind is that I could not wait for hills . . . to go UP hills.  By halfway through the race the pounding on my knees while going down hill was excruciating while at least there was relief on my knees and shins while climbing up hill.  The last thing I remember is that with less than a mile to go (and the finish line literally in sight) a shock of pain went through my left knee so bad that I almost fell to the ground.  And the reason I remember it is that there was a police officer right next to me when it happened and I remembered his voice like it was yesterday saying "this is not worth injuring yourself over, stop before you hurt yourself".  Are you kidding me?  I have ran over 25 miles and you want to tell me it's okay to stop now so that I don't hurt myself . . . with less than a mile to go?

I won't go into the "ugly" details of the after effects, but I will tell you that Hootie & The Blowfish was putting on a free concert for all participants afterwards . . . and to this day I have still not seen Hootie & The Blowfish in concert.  After 5 hours, 11 minutes and 9 seconds I did it, I completed a marathon.  Crossing that finish line should have been one of the greatest experiences of my life, instead I hardly remember it because I was so out of it.  I didn't get to enjoy the finish and worse yet, I didn't get to enjoy the process that lead up to the finish.  For most people it is just a cliche' when someone says "satisfaction doesn't come in accomplishing a goal, it's the process leading up to it".  But for me it is not a cliche', it is so true.  My guess is I'll never get (or take) the opportunity to run a marathon again but I do get opportunities to accomplish other goals daily and I remind myself constantly to not forget the lesson I learned from my marathon . . . to cherish the process.  Sitting on a bookshelf in my office is a picture and plaque of me running the Rock-N-Roll Marathon.  For those that see it in my office they probably look at it and think that is quite an accomplishment but for me . . . I see it daily and it reminds me to never make the same mistake again.

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