Ok. I started this post the night before the Boston Marathon. However, most of it just wasn't right. I couldn't find the right words, they didn't sound right, I couldn't express my overwhelming feelings in any way that came close to justifying them. I don't know why it's taken so long to edit, re-edit and finally post this, but here goes nothing...
So, as I sit here on the eve of the Boston Marathon, I can't help but reflect on the path I've taken to get here. While taking the long-view of everything that I've accomplished and all of the experience and knowledge I've gained I keep coming back to one thing... Gratitude. The most important thing I've learned is that although at times the life of a distance runner is lonely (much of the training and even the competition is very solitary, as an overwhelming majority of runners compete only with themselves), nobody can do this alone. We all need the love, support, kindness and mentoring of dozens, if not hundreds of other people. Sitting here just trying to wrap my head around the sheer number of people that have made this all possible for me makes me dizzy. So, as usual, in order to help myself grasp sheer magnitude of the support I've received, I'm going to write it all out...
First and foremost, it took the love and support of my family to get here, and it was no easy road (no pun intended), I only made it more difficult for myself by how I went about it. Let's just say I should've been a little more open and discussed my intentions and decision with my wife Lex, but I honestly didn't think I'd get accepted onto the Children's Hospital team on the first try. When I did get on the team, I kinda just dropped it on her like a bombshell. When she read all of the paperwork later and saw the financial commitment I'd gotten us into, she was rightfully pissed-off. It certainly didn't make the first few months of my training any easier. That doesn't mean the love, support and sacrifice weren't there, because they were, but the enthusiasm for what I was doing was certainly on the lower-end. It was purely my own fault. Then we found-out that Lex was pregnant at the end of November. The first 5-6 months of pregnancy when your husband is training for his first marathon? Not fun.
Despite all of this she eventually came around and was my rock during all of this as she is every day in all that I do. Her and Isabelle became my support crew on my longest runs in the worst conditions, and even some of the shorter ones when she knew instinctively that I needed help out there. Throughout all of this she has been amazing, and she's even kept-up her own fitness by fitting in her own 3-4 mile runs 2-3 times per week (until a stress fracture of her pelvis at 24 weeks sidelined her). I can't even begin to express to her how much I've needed and have appreciated everything she's done and all she's sacrificed in order to make this dream come true for me. As soon as she gives birth to our second daughter in August the roles will be reversed as she trains for her first half-marathon. I only hope I can be as wonderful to her as she has been to me!
I know that I couldn't have even made it to the starting line without the help of my coach. Jeff Capobianco of Breakthrough Performance Coaching has been instrumental to my success. Jeff is a co-worker of mine at the fire department, and he is quite the accomplished endurance athlete himself as a six-time Ironman who qualified for and competed in the 2009 Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. I initially approached Jeff with a few simple questions and he gave me some tips on training. Eventually, when we discussed what I was doing and why, out of the kindness of his heart he offered-up his coaching services to me. This was incredibly generous and almost overwhelming.
He created a completely customized training plan for me, taking into consideration my previous injuries and lack of experience, and was able to get real results out of me. In order to grasp the magnitude of what he accomplished with me you really have to think about where I came from, what I was able to accomplish, and the timeframe I was able to accomplish it in. He took a fat (265 lbs), out-of-shape non-runner with "bad knees," and turned him into a 4-hour (ish) marathoner in less than six months. Along the way I lost over 70 pounds, brought my 5k time from 29 down to 22 minutes, ran a 16-mile torture-fest, ran a sub-2 hour half-marathon, and finished my first marathon (the Boston Marathon no less) in 4:14:09. I did exactly what he told me (most of the time) and got exactly the results I was hoping for.
I also have to thank everyone associated with the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracles" program for making this such an incredible experience for me. But especially the coaches Mike Ferragamo and Jeff Hintlian and the team coordinator Stacey Divine. They really helped to guide me every step of the way in becoming a charity runner. They inspire me to be more and to do more. From fundraising questions and problems solved, to planning and executing the weekly runs and most especially the 17 and 21-mile team long runs on the course. massive productions that were open to all of the BAA Charity Programs (re: hundreds of runners) that they pulled off with lightning precision.
The coaches always made sure that they interacted with every one of us out on the course during these runs and even during the marathon itself providing insight, encouragement, and even first aid to everyone who needed it (even though it meant running 30-40 miles themselves). And my teammates who inspired me in so many ways. Regular people from all walks of life, each with their own reasons for running and inspiring stories. There were the rookies like me, people with a few marathons under their belts, and the seasoned veterans of 10, 15 even 20 Boston Marathon's. There were those who qualified for Boston yet still committed to the "Miles for Miracles" program and raised funds like the rest of us,and there were those who would never dream of qualifying. But most special to me were the friends I made whom I ran the team long runs with, the 16-miler and half-marathon with, and was most happy to see on Marathon Monday... Sarah, Steve, Daniel, Peter, Scott and Chuck. I can't wait for next year!
I really want to thank my friend James and his wife Shanna who allowed me to do this to honor the memory of their beautiful daughter Brenya. I felt her presence many times throughout my training and especially during the marathon. When things got really tough I called on her for strength and she helped me push through. When I saw them at mile 20, it made everything worthwhile. I also have to thank all of my friends and family and other donors from all over the country who supported me and donated to Children's Hospital on behalf of my campaign. Trust me, when my calf cramped-up at 21.5, I thought about everyone who had donated an everyone who was following along and getting my splits via text and email, I thought about all of the hopes, dreams and expectations those donations came with, and I was able to get moving again.
A very special thanks to Eric Derrico of Boston Massage and Acupuncture who helped me with a fundraiser, made a very generous donation as a result, and gave me one of the best massages I've EVER had following my 21-mile training run. A few of my teammates and twitter friends have also visited Eric and had nothing but glowing reviews of his services. If you're in the Boston area and in need of therapeutic massage, schedule an appointment with Eric. you won't be disappointed. I have to get in to see him again SOON!
One of my co-worker's (also coached by Jeff), has been a great support to me and has finally reached his goal of running a BQ at the Country Music Marathon last month, thanks for your support Thin! You are truly an inspiration to me! I just don't think anyone can do something like this without a great support network of kindred spirits. A group of people who have either been there and done that, or are currently doing the same thing. I've been so lucky to have discovered an awesome community of runners on twitter, which eventually led me to dailymile. I owe so much to this AMAZING community that I don't know where to start. So much to be said about the kindness of virtual strangers who are always willing to lend a supportive ear, offer advice, words of encouragement or bits and pieces of acquired knowledge based on their years of experience, or just plain commiserating.
There are so many people that I owe thanks to, that there is just no way I could list them all and I'm bound to forget some of them, but I have 216 friends on dailymile and 528 followers on twitter. Trust me when I say that I love and appreciate all of you in your own way. But there are several of my tweeples and dailymilers that I want to give special thanks to for their kindness, support and inspiration along the way: Suann (afterward, when I saw your tweets rooting me on, they brought a tear to my eye), Ali, Lori, Mary, Tim, Jennifer, Matt, Ally, Steve, Kimberly, Josh, Alett, Ashley, Ed, Ron, Chris, David, Glen, Bob, @IronmanLongRunr, my very close friend and inspiration Jess (who will be running her first half-marathon at the San Diego RnR soon!), and last but certainly not least, my friend and Boston Marathon Running partner/pacer @runnrgrl. I can't tell you how disappointed I was that I was forced to start dropping back at the 30k mark, but I was so proud to watch you pull away as you kept-up our intended pace. I really thought you were headed to another BQ. I'm truly sorry I couldn't keep up to continue pushing you, but it was great conversation and cool getting to know you better along the way. Thanks for sharing in my first marathon experience!
Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about the "experience" of it all and post pictures from the expo and dailymile meetup, etc.