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Fat to Fit, the Journey from ICU 2 26.2

Standing at the starting line I faced the most daunting experience of my lifetime; I was on edge. My adrenaline fueled heart raced with anticipation as I waited for the starting cannon of my first marathon. I confess, I did not feel this anxious on August 4, 1982 when I joined the Army and was sworn in, knowing that I was going to get on a bus and arrive in the sweltering August heat of Alabama.

What is an old ex-fat guy doing here?

For some, a race like this is on their bucket list – its something to be experienced. For me, it was the proving ground of my faith. All the encouragement I had received from friends and cyber-friends had to outweigh my own doubts. I am not a quitter, but some humans are just incapable of finishing a 26.2 mile race. (42.2 kilometers) The question, was I one of them?

For years I have doubted my ability to run or even walk 26.2 miles. Until I was standing at the starting line, I still did. Of course I had trained; most of it in the heat and humidity of a New England summer. My long runs (over 14 miles) had often felt disastrous, ending in more walking than running. My heart rate skipped up to near maximum as the miles wore on and this old body clamored for oxygen to fuel my muscles.

Since I first watched the Boston Marathon in person, I have held on to a dream – a dream to finish a full marathon.

I remember just a month out of ICU, I was walking back from the race route to my home. I had a skip in my step and my little one ran ahead pretending to be a marathoner. I wanted to run, but the reality was that it would take me an entire year to simply complete a 5k race. HERE is that story. It was going to take another year for me to cross the finish line of my first Half Marathon. HERE is that story. 

There is a lot more to running a marathon then running. It's easy to fantasize crossing the finish line. The reality is that even though I trained starting June 22, logging 192 miles in August, I still had to go the distance in one day without any significant rest during the event. There were no TV time outs, no half times, no shift changes or player substitutions; it was foot to pavement for over 5 solid hours.

Nearly 50,000 steps for you FitBit-ers.

Then there are the other challenges. Chafing, sun protection, blisters, hydration, fueling and electrolyte balance. I was new to all of it. Anyone can run a few miles in a t-shirt without chaffing, but getting through 26.2 is a different story. I ran 3 half marathons and had bloody nipples by the end of 2 of them.

Then there was the race course. It contained 12 solid miles of hills. HERE is a video of part of that segment.  And the hills kept coming.  

I did have some fun along the way. There were water and Gatorade stops every 3 miles. "Where's the beer?" I teased the volunteers. A lot of the townsfolk sit on their front steps or in folding chairs clapping, ringing cowbells or holding signs to encourage us. Of course its early on Sunday morning and most of them were drinking coffee. In one group, there was someone with a pot of coffee refilling our cheering section. "Is this the coffee stop?" I asked. They laughed and cheered me on. At another intersection there were three woman with babies in infant carriers. "Is this the baby stop?" I asked. They laughed, and gave me a high-5. There was another group drinking wine. "Is the communion stop?" I smiled.

Late in the race, there were no crowds, just a few race marshals every half mile or so. I thanked them for being out there. I passed everyone that I spoke with at the starting line.

There were some young folks out there. "Come on, you can beat the old fat guy!" I needled them.

The salt was forming on my skin like a fine beach sand. My calves were tight so I slowed to a walk along side a fellow named Vince. He was a cancer survivor from Vermont. In the distance we could hear music. "It sounds like heaven, Vince." I said, hoping it was a water stop. As we rounded the bend, there in the middle of the road, was Elvis! "We are in heaven, Vince!" The King was handing out trick or treat candy to the weary along with cool drinks. "Thank you very much." I said in my best Memphis drawl. Vince and I pressed on. Running 3 minutes, walking 1.

The "Tired Runner" vehicle was making it's way in the other direction circling to find those who just couldn't make it. They offered us a cool bottle of water out the window. "Thank you, it's the next best thing to a ride." I said.

"We've got those too." the driver quipped.

"If I have to crawl, I am finishing this race!"

Down along the beach I had a leg cramp so bad I nearly fell in the sand along the side of the beach road. Vince helped me along. He was hurting too. We walked it off and ran another few hundred yards when the cramps started again. On and off they came. I rallied another run and took off with less than a half mile to go. They hit again. I stopped and steadied myself on a telephone pole.

Vince caught back up to me. We ran a few hundred feet and walked a few hundred. Just before the turn onto Main Street, Vince was sagging behind. I yelled at him, "Come on buddy, the race has just begun." Then I turned and gave it everything I had for the last few hundred yards.

They called my name out on the PA. I didn't care about the clock, I just wanted to stop. The volunteers met me with water, a finisher's medal and a blanket. From the crowd an old co-worker came up to congratulate me. I turned and saw Vince limping across the finish line. "You got this I yelled!"

My legs were on fire and I steadied myself on a crowd barrier. My friend was crying. "You made it! How incredible."

"I did it. I made all the way from the ICU to the finish line of a marathon."

 If you would like to read the whole story, HERE is how to join the party. 
 
Here are all the videos from the marathon course.

1-5

6-10

11-15

16-20

21-26

71 votes + -

12 comments:

Mustangsally1000 wrote 64 months ago:
God Bless you David. Amazing!
TrailRunner61 wrote 64 months ago:
You are such an inspiration and you have no idea how much you help people. Thank you for sharing. :)
Leahbcc wrote 64 months ago:
Wonderful story
130annie wrote 64 months ago:
My hubby and I were on holiday in Cape Cod this year, beautiful spot....We walked some of those country lanes...I don't think I would ever run it, I'm 72 and hubby 76...We both have tricky knees....Well done on your completion and good vibes to you for the future.
slarobinson wrote 64 months ago:
Beautiful story.
DEEDLYNN wrote 64 months ago:
You have a truly AMAZING story!!
sherry0614 wrote 64 months ago:
LOVE!!!!!!!!!
Flyer615 wrote 64 months ago:
This might be my favorite blog entry yet. Great going, David!
whats_her_name wrote 64 months ago:
Fantastic!! YOU DID IT!!! Great job!
minimah7 wrote 64 months ago:
God bless you on your journey. :-)
Oh_Allie wrote 64 months ago:
You're fantastic and I *LOVE* that you had such a great sense of humor, even towards the end of the race. Inspirational!
pkw58 wrote 64 months ago:
Congrats!

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