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"It's Just Running"

August 29, 2022 5 min read

“It’s Just Running”


“It’s just running.” These were the words my brother said to me during a conversation we were having one day.  I was asking him how he just decides to go out and run 20 miles.  At the time I really couldn’t comprehend wanting to run that far or that long.  Running was something I was doing because it was a necessary evil to do while in obstacle racing.   That was my fitness and competition motivation at the time.  I wanted to participate in Spartan races to do well overall.  I signed up for and completed multiple OCR races and then running races.  Most of the time I would do these events with my family and friends.  Initially these races were shorter distances anywhere from 3-5 miles and that was all I wanted to do.  Over time my brother and good friend Jeremy were doing longer and longer runs and subsequent races.  These accomplishments were inspiration to me.  I then began to work toward longer distances.  I went from 3 mile runs to 9 mile runs and finally a half marathon.  As rewarding as these accomplished goals were I still had no desire to conquer a full marathon. 

                As a global pandemic terrorized the world for 2 years with countless sporting events being cancelled or completed virtually I continued to run and worked on improving my half marathon time.  I was also watching videos online about endurance training and triathlon training.  The more I watched the more I felt I could and wanted to leap the marathon hurdle. 

“It’s just running.” Those were the words that kept repeating in my head leading up to my first marathon.  It’s all I could think about as I was walking the curb to the start line.  “It’s just running” my brother spoke those words to me a couple years ago when I asked how he could just go out and decide to run 20 miles.  I just couldn’t bring myself to understand how or why someone would do that.  To me it was a form of torture to run that far.  Sure I had run some 5k’s a 15k and even a half marathon but to run further just wasn’t happening. 

                I would go for a run and even run a 5k race and while doing it would be saying to myself, “I will never run a marathon, I can barely do this.” I just had no desire or passion to commit to that type of race.  Although there wasn’t the desire or passion there was always a little voice in the back of my head that would say, “You should do it! Steve and Jeremy have done multiple, Toni did one.” Toni and Steve are my siblings and Jeremy is a close family friend and deep down I felt left out of the club.  That feeling nagged at my subconscious every time I did an event, either running or triathlon, I was missing that one milestone.   It was in early 2022 that I finally decide to commit to that milestone, to set that goal, I was gong to run the full length Buffalo Marathon.  Now there’s quite a difference in saying you’re going to run a full marathon then actually signing up to do it and then showing up to the start line. Once you sign up, you’re committed to that race, that goal, that obstacle and now the real work begins. 

I found that the mental commitment and focus was much more difficult than the physical aspect.  The body is an amazing machine with the ability to accept physical stress in a positive way.  In most instances the mind gives in before the body fails.  I committed fully to the training starting out early with a strength and conditioning focus and running about 25-30 miles a week for three months.  Over the next 2.5-3 months I decreased the strength training gradually and increased my running. Toward the end, strength training was eliminated and running volume was up to 50+ miles per week spread out over 6 days.  If you want to be successful then there are 3 keys you must follow to achieve that success.  The first is having a plan.  It’s hard to complete a task without having a plan in place; luckily it is easy to find a number of training plans to follow depending on your skill level.  The second key; do the work.  No plan will work if you don’t follow it and do the training.  That means that every day, even on days when you don’t feel your best, you go out and complete the task.   The third key and probably the most important is mentally commit.  If you are 100% mentally committed then it makes the first two keys easy to follow.  Without full mental commitment it’s easy to disregard keys 1 and 2.  

After committing mentally and putting in the physical training and sacrifice I found myself at the starting line of Buffalo NY, Marathon.  The gun went off and 5000+ runners went on their way.  It was a beautiful day; cool and sunny and low humidity.  What a perfect day to run a race.  As I started I kept telling myself “it’s only running,” I couldn’t overthink the journey I was currently on.  I felt good and rested but noticed immediately I had a twinge in my left hip flexor that had never bothered my before.  Although there was a new discomfort I still felt good and my pace was on point.  I felt fair for the first 14 miles and then began to have tightness in my hips and my pace began to suffer.  As the miles progressed so did the tightness in my hips and left hip flexor and as such my pace continued to slow.  “It’s only running” over and over, “don’t walk” over and over.  Luckily mile 25 and 26 is mostly downhill so I enjoyed that little gift toward the end of the race.  As I rounded the final corner just 50 meters from the finish line, my family is there cheering me on and is it is a real mental boost right at the end and it means the world to have them there.  Crossing the finish line and going from run to walk I nearly collapse.  My legs were so used to running that the abrupt change was too much for them and they nearly gave out.

I was greeted at the finish line by a friend who had been working an aide station but was able to make it to the finish line to place the finisher medal around my neck. I rang the “first time finisher/personal record” bell at the end signifying my accomplishment, 3:49:53 as a final time.  At this point I was struggling to walk and my legs felt like two lead weights that lacked the motivation to move. I dragged myself over to my awaiting family who had been patiently enduring the heat and excitement of the day anticipating me crossing that finish line.  Anyone who has committed, trained and/or worked for a difficult goal knows the feeling of emotional overload that comes over a person at the culmination of that goal.  All the work, training and mental fortitude over the prior 5 months transpires into a rush of emotion that you can’t contain, and then…it’s over.  As you are feeling the high of completing such an epic experience you are also left with a real sense of loss. Like an obsession, your life has been consumed on a daily basis by the preparation and that is now gone. It doesn’t last forever because right around the corner is another event that will be calling your name.

The end

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