As a fitness professional, there are a few important principles that I constantly encourage. One of these principles is to never be complacent and to stay out of your comfort zone. This involves exercises that do not come easily, usually requires an increased degree of difficulty, and are not enjoyable to perform. It prevents redundancy, boredom, plateauing, and typically challenges us to work through an unpleasurable experience, which in most cases facilitates growth and development toward a goal we have set for ourselves. The extreme version of being out of a comfort zone is to train for and run 13.1 miles when you haven’t done anything like that since basic training back in the late 80s. Throw in a knee injury 2 weeks before the race, and you’re not just out of your comfort zone, you’re way out of your comfort zone. I like to practice what I preach and lead by example, so I’m in. I accepted the challenge. I’m committed, and from my perspective, I’m at the point of no return. It’s going down regardless. I’m going to drag (literally) this 48-year-old, 225lb frame, 13.1 miles, knee be damned.
I didn’t go to the doctor prior to the run because I already knew what the outcome would be. He would ground me. All the advice that I received from well-intended friends, family, and clients was to sit it out. I had a conversation with a client a few days away from the event. She said, “You don't have to do this.” I said, “What do you mean? Of course, I must do this.” She said, “You're hurt, you might permanently damage yourself, and you have nothing to prove”. Of course, I have something to prove. We all do. Proof is the only way we know if something is real or not. You can't start something and not finish. Besides, that's the team motto. Let's finish this.
Miles 1 through 5 was fine. I came out of the gate feeling pretty good. However, into mile 5, my right knee started to hurt, and by mile 6 my knee was gone. I could not get any push off the right leg, so I begin to compensate using my left leg to support my right leg. By mile 8, my left quad and hamstring began to cramp, and by mile 9 the cramps were severe. The cramps were so bad, it felt like my leg was in a vice grip that was tightening with every step. There was the occasional brief walk to hydrate and stretch, but I knew that if I didn’t keep going, I was done. Oh, did I mention I had an escort, Kim MacMillan? I knew I was slowing her down. I tried to tell her to go ahead, but she refused to go. Instead she stayed with me, kept me hydrated, and helped to keep me motivated. That motivation came in the form of pointing out “the meat truck.” The meat truck, I was told, is the van that will pick you up off the course if you cannot continue. The faces of disappointment of those on the meat truck gave me more motivation to continue because in my mind that was NOT going to be me. Absolutely not.
Into mile 9, my left hamstring was severely cramped, and at this point I’m basically using my calves and feet to keep me upright. I’m using every fitness trick in the book to compensate for the weakness and pain in my legs. I lower my center, tighten my core, lean forward to change the position of how my feet are landing, putting more emphasis on my hips. My mind is all over the place. For some reason, I’m thinking about my family members that have passed away: my mother, brother, grandfather, and uncle. I thought to myself, “I’m still here. Keep your ass moving.” I had a half marathon playlist made to help motivate me, but it didn’t work. The music became more of a nuisance because I couldn’t hear it. It was like noise in my ear. I tried to sing old army cadences in my head, but that didn’t work. It helped to think about my wife and children only because if I finished, I could say with a smile, “Yes, daddy is getting old, but I ran 13.1.” The longer I ran, the more painful it was. I thought about my clients that complain during sessions. I thought to myself, “Really.” Kim said I cursed the entire 13 miles, which I don’t remember, but I’ll take her word for it. Periodically a couple of other very experienced runners tried to have a conversation with me. Seriously, I’m literally in my own personal hell, and they want to talk about the weather? This is probably when a few curse words slipped out from under my breath.
The meat truck was at mile 10, more motivation. I curse at the meat truck and kept it moving. Miles 10 through 12 were pure grit. At this point, I’m lagging behind Kim but I can see the back of her shirt “Fight-Finish-Faith-Race-With-Purpose.” “That’s it”, I thought to myself. “That’s why you’re out here. You wanted to do some good, so move your ass.” Mile 13 was an outer body experience. Coming up the boardwalk in the last mile, I thought it would never end. It was so close, but at the same time it was so far. I told Kim I wanted to walk and she said, “You can’t walk now Master Trainer. Everyone can see you!” There it is. The ultimate motivator: pride. When I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t feel my legs, and my feet felt like they weighed 100lbs. I also stumbled. Yes, Master Trainer actually stumbled. I can’t remember the last time I stumbled. I had an opportunity to see Grace and David at the finish line. Seeing them made me feel better. Being reminded of their loss minimized whatever pain I was feeling. I tried to put on a good face, but I was hurting on the inside. I didn’t want to talk, eat, or socialize. I just wanted to sleep.
It meant a lot to physically challenge myself, but in working with the CKG Foundation, it meant even more to challenge myself to be more charitable. Whenever we have an opportunity to give of ourselves, either in time or resources, we should take it. Giving helps the cause. It helps the giver by bringing balance to one's imperfect life, and by giving, maybe we can make the world better tomorrow than it is today. It’s even better when you can do it while working with a great group of people.
Overall the experience was very humbling, intense, and for lack of a better word, it was spiritual. I learned that I’m getting older, but I have a lot of life to live. If I could sum up my experience with one word, that word would be PAIN. This is the good type of pain. This is the type of pain that increases our tolerance and threshold, and if applied properly, gives us an opportunity for growth and development. Within that process, we can learn more about ourselves and what we can achieve. So, I guess I’ll see you next year!