Just before Christmas of 2007 I weighed 258-260 pounds. My combined cholesterol was 258 and my triglycerides were 110. This was the wakeup call! These numbers were the result of living large while traveling for my job. I travel with large teams of people so this means lots of group dinners. Let’s just say that I took full advantage of this. It was so much fun! I was soon called “DC” (Dinner Coordinator) by my coworkers because I took on the job of coordinating our little outings when on the road. I have always been heavy and weighed around 240 most of my married life. People always said I carried the weight well! Well, I decided not to carry it anymore.
Right after the first of the year I started walking. I walked around the block to start. Eventually I was walking through town and out on the country roads. I worked up to doing 5 mile walks. I started watching my diet. Gave up all fried foods, potatoes and limited myself to wheat bread only. I drank wine instead of beer. I stopped eating off my kid’s plates. By June I had lost almost 25 lbs.
I did not know anything about running, I just went out and ran. I did the 2 mile route for a number of weeks. I slowly worked to running 3 miles and decided to run my first 5k. On Sept 28th 2008 I ran the Buchanan Brothers memorial 5k race. I ran the race in 30:02 which was better than I expected.
Not sure when I got “The bug” but it was probably when I decided to run the Lilac 10 with Judi. We needed a goal and this race was it. While training for this, we agreed to run the Rochester Half Marathon in Sept. 2009. (This was about the time I met Laura.) She visited our Lima Rotary Club to share the Road to Paris story. I did not know that evening how my journey would change. I started to follow the journey of Laura and Kari and the Road to Paris.
After the Lilac 10K, we turned our sights to the Half Marathon. I mapped out a plan and away I went, excited to do my first half marathon. Then I started to see the signs. The first sign was on the TV show, the Biggest Loser. I had been following the show all season and one night the contestants ran a marathon for their challenge. During that same episode I was reading the Road to Paris blog when I saw this challenge from Laura “Russ - you're doing the half, what do you say about running the full with me???? If I can do it, anyone can.”
I rebuilt my training plan for the full marathon and continued to train though the summer hitting the ups and downs of training. Melissa had to pick me up on my 16 miler when I hit the wall at 14. I continued to train with Judi. We planned our routes so we finished our long runs together. Laura came out and did a 7 miler with Judi and me. It was awesome because she did something that Judi and I never did (up until then). She ran alongside Judi and I, allowing us to talk the whole time we ran. Before this run with Laura, Judi and I used to take turns following each other. Now we run side by side on every run. I like to call it the Laura effect.
At the time, I had no idea how big the running network was. I have met some really great people along the way. My family, daily mile friends, Facebook friends have all played a role in keeping me motivated through this. I think I have actually motivated a number of people to either run or set a bigger goal.
Finally, race day. I got up at 5 am to shower for the initial wake up as they say it warms the muscles and had I the usual pre-run coffee. We headed to Frontier Field to get our timing chip and mingle with the other runners. Judi and her husbnad, Mark, followed in the motor home which would serve as base camp for the spectators and the runners. Mark kept us all happy with drinks, breakfast sandwiches and a private bathroom! Our running group slowly gathered around the camper as we awaited the start. We even met the eventual winner of the marathon (Derrick Jones) as he jogged by doing his warm up. Of course it was Marathon Laura who introduced us to Derrick.
The race started at 7:30. I told myself all through the training that I would run my race and not let the crowd push me along. I did not have Judi with me to talk me through the run, which turned out to be an issue. I started out at a faster pace than I had planned for the first couple of miles. Thought I would settle down as I warmed up. I hit the downhill on East Ave and was still keeping with the crowd around me and once again at a faster pace than planned. We hit the canal in Fairport headed back to the city. Up to this point I felt strong but was glad to see some of my family at Schoen Place waiting to root me along. The kids came down the path and ran a short way with me. It was a nice to have them there. My mother in-law offered me a banana and a water bottle. (Looking back I should have taken the banana.) I ran the first 17 miles without walking. I wanted to do the entire run without walking since this is what I trained for. All along I was drinking my water and eating the beans as planned (at least that is what I thought). After mile 17 I decided to walk through the water stations. I felt my first hint of cramping around mile 18 but stopped and stretched through it and continued to run. I continued on and Miss and Judi and the rest of the clan were there to route me on at mile 19. Another pick me up that I really needed at that point. I continued on down the path knowing that I would see my cheering section again near U of R. At mile 20 the cramping got worse. It first I thought I could run through it. I walked and stretched from 20.5 to almost 22.5 when I felt I could run again. After mile 23 Melissa took to the trail with me to help me get to the end. They were waiting at the U of R spectator location. The cheering helped but I needed the extra support running with me. I walked a few more times before the Ford Street bridge turn but after that I had lost the cramping but was running on stiff legs and collapsing in the mid section. I managed a decent pace to the end with my arms pumping to move me along. I remember crossing the Ford Street Bridge and Melissa telling me to look to the right to see the view of the city. I looked left and she corrected me. They say the last six miles is all mental. I guess so. Miss ran with me until we saw Judi and Colleen just before the turn to the finish. I was on my own and found new energy as I turned the corner and saw the finish line. I finished as strong as I could at that point and completed the goal that I set out to do. I finished my first Marathon! Yes, 26.2 miles! Everyone was waiting for me at the finish after 5 hours and 38 minutes. The kids were laying in wait with cans of silly string to attack me. It was great.
We all headed our own directions to shower, ice and sleep. Later that afternoon we all met up again at our house to celebrate our victories. Mark did the cooking! With all the other dishes we had plenty of food and beer. The food was so good Laura took pictures!