With the Columbus Marathon now just five days away, I've been reflecting a lot on the journey that I've been on over the past year ever since running in my first half marathon last October in Columbus.
Last year, I was a newbie. The Columbus half marathon was only the third race I had run in my newfound running career and the first time that I even attempted a run of more than 10 miles ever. Well, I started off strong (too strong in fact) and had to gut out the final three miles, but still finished in just over 1:45. I learned a lot in the process and knew that I wanted to come back and do it again.
Since then, I've been running pretty much non-stop with a great group of friends known as the Mount Vernon Running Buddies. We meet pretty much every day during the week for a 5K at 6 a.m. and then do our long runs together on the weekend. We had a large group run the Cap City Half Marathon in the spring (pictured below) and now five of us are slated to attempt the full marathon next Sunday.
As I reflect back on the past year, I think of how much I've appreciated and needed the support of my wife, Carla, and two daughters, Ashley and Kylie, to make even attempting my first marathon possible. They've put up with all the times that I had to squeeze in a run or headed to a race on the weekend. They've had to hurdle my piles of sweaty running clothes in the basement and put up with my moods if I didn't get a run in due to the weather, a busy schedule, or lately nagging injuries. I've also had the privilege of doing races with all of them in the time leading up to this race.
Besides my family, my four running buddies who are joining me in the race on Sunday have been great sources of encouragement and inspiration. First, there's Teri Pokosh. Teri is an amazing runner! She is in her mid-50's, but you would never know it by how fast she runs. This will be her seventh Columbus Marathon and her 13th full overall. She's qualified for and run Boston and is quite the motivator now as she has used her experience to keep our group on task in our training since the rest of us are first-time marathoners. She's also an inspiration as she has done all of this training through a lot of pain with two bad knees. I'm excited for her to cross the finish line.
Next up is Donald Cobb. Donald and I graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University together in 1994 and it's been fun to run and compete with him over the past year in a number of races. We did the Columbus half together last year. Well, we started together, but the two Red Bulls that he had pre-race spurred him on to an even faster second 10k after I convinced him to take off, leave me, and finish strong. All things being equal, it would be great to run the entire race with him on Sunday and cross the finish line together.
Next is Chad Sims. Chad is another friend since college days and he has improved tremendously over the past year. Last fall, he finished his first half marathon with less than 70 miles of training under his belt and he did it in just a few seconds over two hours. This year, he's got 700 miles or so under his belt and is going to do a great job in the race. He was hesitant to sign up to do this, but he's going to be so glad that he did once it's over. I still think even better running days are ahead for him as his times keep on dropping.
The final member of our group of five is George Hartz. George was actually the first one of us to sign up and commit to doing the full when he registered way back on January 1st. He has trained faithfully through all the weather and has done a lot of the longer runs totally on his own. He's also put up with a lot of good-natured kidding because someone in every group has to be that guy - the one who gets picked on or who things just always seem to happen to. If it's possible to get left off race results or be the only one to get the wrong color of shirt, yep, George is your guy. Well, George is going to do great on race day and I know when he crosses the finish line that he'll be glad he did this. I’m excited for his wife and kids to be there to cheer him on, too.
I have numerous other friends running either the full or half and can’t wait to hear all about their amazing race day experiences as well. I’m still holding out hope that we can get Todd Hawkins, another Mount Vernon native, to don the Mount Vernon Running Buddies neon green ‘cause he’s going to cruise through the course in a sub 2:45. We usually see Todd for about 20 seconds on our 6 a.m. runs. I’m also looking forward to seeing my uncle, Randy Rucker, cross the finish line for the sixth time at Columbus after deciding to train for the race again after several years off as a result of reading my blog. I won’t be shocked at all if he qualifies for Boston, either, after just missing previously by a matter of seconds.
To all my friends participating in the race on Sunday, here's some advice. No matter what happens on race day, do everything possible to enjoy yourself. Sure, aside from finishing, you want to set a goal for yourself from a time standpoint so that you will push yourself to do your best. But, make sure you take the time to soak up the atmosphere. Read the funny and inspiring signs you will see. Enjoy the music provided by the live bands. High five some kids along the route. Thank the volunteers at the water stops and other places along the route. And, most importantly, take the time to encourage other runners. You never know when you in turn are going to need just the slightest word to help you get through a tough spot in a race and you could be that person for someone else.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the running community thanks to the Columbus Marathon allowing me to be one of their bloggers. Let’s have a blast next Sunday morning! We can all do this together!!!