I rediscovered running in 1998, when I was an
out-of-shape, over-weight 29-year old who desperately needed a lifestyle change.
“Why not try running again?”, I said. “It couldn’t possibly be worse than it
was in high school.” Well, turns out it takes significantly more effort to
propel a 240 pound body than it does for one that’s half that. It was then, in
this state of self-induced suffering, that I decided I needed a goal to
distract me from the pain I was feeling. So I vowed that, once I could run a
mile without stopping, I’d start training for the Boston Marathon. For some strange
reason this seemed like a logical progression to me. Little did I know, that decision
would start me on the journey of profound joy and stunning disappointment that
is long distance running.
When I began, I had no idea where running would
take me. All I knew was that I needed to get out, get away, and do something.
Because, when you feel like you’ve lost all control, something is a whole lot better than nothing. At the time, there was
trouble at home and it seemed like my world
was crashing down all around me. I needed a way to release the stress and
tension of the day, to have some time and space for myself, to clear my head,
expand my lungs and refresh my spirit. So, I opened the front door of my house
and went for a walk.
I was living in Marblehead Massachusetts at the time, where there were a great many historic
houses, picturesque parks and scenic seascapes to look at during my time on the
roads. I enjoyed meandering through town just soaking it all in and letting my
After a while, I wasn’t satisfied with merely
walking everywhere. Too impatient for that, I wanted to cover some serious
ground. Walking just plain took too long. So, I would walk a little, jog a little,
then repeat – morphing into something I fondly called “wogs”.
After a few months of this, I got a little better,
started losing weight and the wogs slowly became jogs. Then, I decided to take
the next step and began timing myself. Nothing hardcore. I’d just check the
clock on the cable box when I headed out the door and check it again when I
returned. In the beginning, it took me 30 minutes to complete my 2.5 mile
circuit. But, with each subsequent trip, the duration got shorter and my
confidence grew as a result. As the confidence grew, so did the distance - from
2.5 to 4.5, and from 4.5 to 7. But, regardless of how far I jogged, I always did
so in a loop. Because I was afraid that, with all that was going on at home, if
I did an “out and back” I might reach the turn-around point and just keep on
When I officially started “training” for the
Boston Marathon, I didn’t know anything about the science of marathoning. The
words tempo, interval and fartlek meant nothing to me. All I knew was that in
one year’s time, I needed to find a way to run, walk, or crawl 26.2 miles. And that
I should probably trade in my Nike “high-top” basketball sneakers for some real
running shoes. After building up slowly over the course of the year, I got my
long run up to 16 miles and proclaimed myself “ready” for the 1999 Boston
Marathon. On race day, I started at the back of the pack, with the rest of the
unqualified runners (or bandits), and began what turned out to be an arduous,
26.2 mile wog from Hopkinton to Boston. More than 4 and a half hours later, I
crossed the finish line on Boylston Street a bruised and bloody mess. I
staggered to the curb, crumpled to the ground and exclaimed to no one in
particular, “Never again!”
It’s been 16 years (and 20 marathons) since that
fateful day. And what started as a walk has turned into so much more. I’m now a
fortunate husband, a proud father of four, and a semi-proud owner of a three
hour, zero minute and twenty two second marathon personal best. So, just how
did I get from “Never again” to running twenty marathons - and now to signing
up for my first 100 mile race? Well, it’s actually a rather interesting answer.
And one that will unfold through the collection of stories that wind their way
through the remaining pages of this book.