My running story

I've been trying to figure out what to write or say about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Words can't express what I've been feeling since I first read the news and saw the horrific images from the finish line yesterday afternoon. Since I couldn't think of anything else to say, I thought about how I got to where I am. Here is my running story.

Two years ago, I was not a runner. I was barely a walker. I was overweight, out of shape, and laughed at people who would ever think that running was fun. Then my wife was invited to run on a relay team for the Pittsburgh Marathon with a group of women she worked with at Carnegie Mellon. Seeing her training for her segment inspired me to start running. I was slow. I couldn't even really run a quarter mile, and even that was slow. But I kept running.

I started losing weight. My asthma improved. I got faster. I gained endurance. I decided that I needed a goal, so I signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K the day before the 2011 Marathon. As I trained, I decided that I my goal was to run a 30 minute 5K. I trained with no real plan, but come raceway, I went out and ran, and I crushed my goal time, finishing in 27:02. I felt awesome. At that moment, I was hooked. So I kept running.

I ran two more 5K races over the summer, both slower than my first race, but still good, especially considering the summer heat. For my next goal, I decided to run a 10K, and set my goal for 1 hour. I ran the Great Race 10K, and just missed my goal time, finishing in 1:00:51. I refused to give up. I ran another 5K in October, and set a new PR. Then, I ran the Terrifying 10K - a much harder course than the Great Race - and crushed my goal, finishing in 56:49. So I kept running.

Now, I needed a new goal. I decided to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. After all, I doubled up from my original goal of a 5K to a 10K, and the Half-Marathon is only a little more than double a 10K. (21.08 K). So I kept running.

Up until this point, I ran alone. I would just go to the gym and run on the treadmill, or run around the neighborhood with no real plan. I figured that I needed to start having an actual plan if I was going to do this half-marathon. I had joined Steel City Road runners at the Great Race expo, so I started training with other runners for the first time in February of 2012. . The first time I went to a training run, I was terrified. I thought that there was no way I could fit in with a group of "real" runners. I was wrong. The people I met when I started running with Steel City - Francie, Shannon, Jonathan, Allison - were universally awesome. So I kept running.

As my training progressed, I met more runners, and they were all awesome people. They motivated me to be a better runner. So, I set a new goal for myself. Since my goal for my first 5K was 30 minutes, and my goal for my 10K was 60 minutes, I figured I would try for a 2 hour half. On May 6, 2012, I ran my first half, and finished in 2:00:14. Even though those 14 seconds still taunt me, I felt awesome. So I kept running.

I didn't run any races over that summer, but I ran. I loved to go out, and just run. I didn't really need a goal or reason to run, I just did it. I ran the Great Race again in 2012, and put up a good time considering that I spent the week prior to the race on vacation. At the Great Race expo, I went to the Steel City booth, spun the wheel, and won a half-price registration, so I signed up for the 2013 Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. Now I had another goal, to finally break that 2 hour HM time. So I kept running.

I did take a little break in December 2012, but I started training again right after the new year. I was determined to break that goal. I found a training plan, and followed it. I did speed work. I put in a lot of miles. People would ask me if I was running the full marathon, but I kept telling them no, there was no way I could do that. I told them (and myself) that I didn't have the time to train enough to do a full marathon. Then I realized, when I was doing my long runs with SCRRC, I was running my long runs with people who were training for the full. I was already putting in the time. I looked at my training history. I compared it to Hal Higdon's training plans. I even graphed out my run distances compared to his plans, and I was already running at or beyond the long run and total weekly distances. I ran the Spring Thaw 15 miler, and I did it at a 9:00 pace, which puts my HM time at 1:58. I had already surpassed my goal, so what should I do now? So I kept running.

I ran another 5K with Steel City, and broke my PR again. I changed my registration for "Just a Short Run" from 13.1 miles to 30K (18.6 miles). I told myself that if I could finish that and feel okay about it, then I could do the full marathon. I did it. I talked it over with my family, and decided to switch my registration to the full Pittsburgh Marathon. I now had a new goal. This time, it wasn't going to be about the time, but just running to finish. I was going to become a Marathoner. So I kept running.

I ran my longest run of my life on Saturday - 20 miles. I was tired, my legs were sore, but I did it. I went home and stretched and foam-rolled my legs until I felt better. On Monday, I watched the Boston Marathon web site, tracking my Steel City friends as they ran in the greatest running event in the country. I marveled at their pace. I went for a coffee break with a coworker, and talked about how cool it was that I knew people who were running Boston. I got back to my office and saw the news. My heart sank. I followed the news and Facebook all afternoon. I was relieved to hear that my friends were all safe, but still saddened by the images I saw and stories I read.

I am not (yet) a Marathoner. I am not the fastest runner I know. I will most likely never BQ or run Boston.

But I am a runner, and I will keep running.

[Update, May 5, 2013]

I am now a Marathoner, a Runner of Steel. I finished the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon in 4:23. It wasn't easy for m, but I pushed through and finished it, only a few minutes off of my predicted time. I'm no where near being a Boston Qualifier, but I am so glad that I was able to run 26.2 miles for Boston today.