“You’re going to run in a marathon someday,” my colleague Shari told me. I wrote her off as delusional. The thought of running in a marathon one day had never really occurred to me, and the suggestion of it now repulsed me. Yuck! Why would I knock myself out for countless hours doing something I really disliked?
I had only begun running after coming to grips with how out-of-shape I had become. After giving my wife a Wii Fit for Christmas, I was humbled by how difficult I found some of the simplest “exercises”, and humiiated by the little avatar the game had created for me. So I began to run.
Pounds began to fall off, and my stamina began to increase. Within a matter of weeks, a half-mile run morphed into a couple miles. After slogging my way through a charity 5K, a friend encouraged me to enter a half-marathon. The problem was that even though my body was changing and my fitness was improving, nobody had any idea how much I detested running. It was just that I hated my lack of fitness even more.
Running was a labor of loathing. I ran because I needed to, not because I wanted to. Reluctantly, I entered the half-marathon, thinking that will be the end of it.
It was almost the end of me.
I made it through the 13.1 mile event, but was ready to quit running altogether. My colleague Shari was there to cheer me on and assumed that I was now ready for the whole enchilada. “You’re going to run a marathon someday.” “Right.” I scoffed. I was totally burned out.
Then I read an article suggesting that by slowing my pace, I would enjoy running more. I gave it a try. One Saturday morning, I jogged 10 miles, running each mile at a pace about a minute slower than I had been charging along the past nine months.
It was a whole new ballgame. I loved it. I felt like I wanted to go 10 more miles right then and there, but my family was waiting for me at home.
Refreshed and rekindled, I decided to take my daughter Rachel to watch my colleague run the Chicago Marathon. It was Shari’s first one running, and it was my first one watching. I was swept up in the moment. Hundreds of runners passing me every few minutes. Runners of all ages, weights, abilities, and backgrounds. Each one carrying expressions of joy or determination as they ambled forward. Each one having trained months for this crowning moment. Each one carrying their own stories.
Tears streamed down my face, and excuses left my mind, as I turned to my daughter. I told her that I knew what I wanted to do; what I just had to do. “I’m going to run a marathon someday. I’m going to run the Chicago Marathon.”
That was a few years ago, and the race energized the students at our school. They got a glimpse of their own joy for running. They captured a dream of being in their own race. They wrote notes of encouragement, and asked lots of questions about the training needed.
With their enthusiasm, I decided to start a running club for the kids. We just finished our third year, with over 110 kids (in addition to many siblings and parents) training to participate in the local “Got 2 Run for Education” race in Arlington Heights.
Through the club, the kids have heard from many guest speakers about fitness, healthy eating, teamwork, and perseverance. We play various aerobic games, kids lead presentations on amazing runners, and we train. Many of the students have gone on to win age-level medals in the races we’ve entered. But most importantly, they’ve adapted the foundation for a lifetime of fun and fitness. They have started to run their own race.