Me An Athlete?

I was nervous and excited at the same time – kind of like a nerd asking the hottie out on a date. For a moment, a fenced-off section of University Avenue felt like hallowed ground. I had just finished my first half marathon and was walking to the recovery area when I saw the sign – “Athletes only beyond this point.” I stopped dead in my tracks! “Me?!? An athlete?!?” Thinking about it, I realized that the sign was right. I had just ran 13.1 miles. Without stopping. Or dying!

Let me explain. Never in my life had anyone suggested, even jokingly, that I was athletic. Ever. My mom informed me that I still couldn’t catch a ball when I was five. I’ve never hit the softball out of the infield – I can’t even see a hardball! I’ve never scored double-digits in a basketball game and have only blocked a basketball shot once in my life. I was able to dunk a basketball once (I have a picture to prove it!) when I was 20 … after practicing for weeks to be able to jump that high. I don’t think I have ever successfully spiked a volleyball at the net. I was briefly on the swimming team in high school until I pushed myself so hard after the third practice that I puked. I jumped when the drama club came calling!

On top of all of that, I got fat. Morbidly obese is how the government would have classified me. As a teenager, I was always underweight. Then I put on 100 pounds in support of my wife in her first pregnancy. Actually, it wasn’t that noble – I just really liked to eat a lot of junk and sit around.

My wife got us up and walking after our second daughter was born. We started going to the community rec center when it got cold and I started to enjoy working out on the elliptical and then the treadmill. My weight yo-yoed, but it always stayed between 245 and 265. Then, when my wife’s friend invited her to walk the half-marathon, I took the challenge, too. I wasn’t walking, though, I was going to run the whole thing.

Over the next several months, I really tried to focus on my training. I lost weight, increased my distance, and worked on my timing. I read books, blogs, and sites. I talked to a lot of people. I remembered back to my first 5k and the euphoria that I experienced at the starting line and the finish line (conveniently forgetting the pain in between!).

Finally, the day before the race came. My wife and I rented a room at the designated hotel, checked in at the expo, grabbed an early dinner and crashed early. We woke up at 2 AM, showered, and took pictures. The bus ride to the starting line was fun, as we were surrounded by other people who shared the same excitement we felt. We met up with my wife’s friend at the starting line and then froze for a couple more hours. The music and electricity of the other runners helped the time fly, though.

I ran to the line at the port-o-potty when they announced that it was time to line up. Luckily the bib had a timing chip in it, so my overall time wasn’t effected by my crossing the starting line almost two minutes after the gun. I’m not sure when I passed my wife and her friend, but it had to have been early in the race.

I loved the rush of running the course. The sun peeked over the mountains and touched the tops of the canyon walls as I was running down. I breathed heavy on the inclines and probably ran too fast on the declines, but felt really good with both. The part that was hardest for me was between miles nine and twelve, when we were out of the canyon, running on mostly flat roads, but without being able to see the finish line and hardly any changes in scenery. The folks cheering for us and their awesome signs (“worst parade ever” was my favorite!) really helped, though.

It’s hard to describe the feelings of running through the chute at the end. I felt really tired and my feet hurt, but I felt almost like I was floating at the same time. I was choking up a bit and had a huge Cheshire Cat grin on my face, too. The race was over, I had my medal, I started breathing again, and I floated with the flow of the rest of the runners towards the recovery area.

Me?!? An athlete?!?


2 Responses

  1. Tina Heil says:

    Awesome story, Jon. Beautifully written. You’re a natural!

  2. Krista Ward says:

    Love this story, great job Jon!