I gave up running for six months or so, around the time that our second son, Bennett was born. I started again, after my wife's grandmother passed away. For some reason, that gave her an incentive to start running again, and that was a good reason for me to start back up. At the time, around May of 2005, I was up to a record weight of 203 pounds. It was difficult to get back to 5k. I started out going about 2.3 miles at a time, out the door, around the neighborhood, and then back. After about a month or so of that, at about 4 times per week, I decided to add on a leg which took me to exactly 5k. I kept this up through December and I was feeling great. I lost about 20 pounds and I was making good time.

I started to talk about running more, with friends from work, my brother-in-law, and even the folks on my Porsche enthusiast web forum. For some reason, I was starting to get some prodding to increase my mileage, so I did. I tried a couple of 5 mile runs around Christmas and then I started on the 10k's. I did a sub-49 minute 10k on Caroline's parents' treadmill at 0.0 elevation over the holiday. I couldn't believe how easy it was to run on a flat treadmill. Ours is limited to 1.0 as the lowest setting, but I think it’s more like 2.0. After getting back home, I put the rear of ours up on blocks to make it 0.0.

Rhonda at work, who has run about eight marathons, suggested that I should consider a half-marathon, so I tried a 10-mile run one weekend in early January. I felt great, with my new iPod cranking out the tunes. I ran it straight through at 10 minute miles, based on some coaching I received to go 1.5 - 2 minutes slower than a 5k pace. I quickly decided that I should focus on a full marathon and I started looking for a good race. At first, I thought I'd run one in Macon, Georgia, but then I heard that it was too hilly and not that well-organized. Looking at the marathon calendars, I decided on the Knoxville Marathon on March 26th, which left me less than three months to train.

After working out a training schedule that seemed to be feasible, I finalized my decision and got down to work. I was really enjoying the Garmin Forerunner that my mom bought me for Christmas and the runs were fantastic. I was listening to podcasts from Endurance Radio, Runcast Weekly, and Zen & the Art of the Triathlon for inspiration and to pass the time. On a business trip to Monterey, California in early February, I had a couple of early morning runs along the ocean that started out before sunrise and it seemed like I was in heaven. My long runs starting on January 22nd were 10, 13, 16, 14, 17, 20.5, 17.5, 16, 13 miles. I ran each and every weekend leading up to the race.

Rhonda invited me to run with her and her friend Susan a few times and I finally took her up on it for the 20 mile training run. They taught me about nutrition as I hadn't really been taking in fluids or gels up until that time. It was a great run around Roswell, and as they stoked it up for the final 3.5 miles, I felt pretty good and I was able to keep up with them. Rhonda ran ahead and Susan was just behind me at the end, so I was proud that I could run along with these experienced marathoners. I was confident that I could run the marathon, then four weeks away.

I wanted to do 18 the next week, but then I altered my route plan so that the loops would total about 19 miles with Gatorade and gel at half-way through, but then not again till the end. Well, I conked out at 17.5 miles and I had to walk the rest of the way back to the house. That was disappointing, but I certainly learned a lesson about nutrition. The following week, we were down in Florida visiting Caroline's parents. I decided to try for 18 miles, up and down DelRay Beach. I wanted to get out early in the morning, but I didn't work out that way. After 16 miles, I was beat in the 82 degree heat. My stomach was upset and I had to stop in the restroom twice. That was another crappy run, especially since I'd forgotten to wear my two-bandaid male bra. I had blood down the front of my sweaty shirt - it was not a pretty sight.

I took it easy the next two weekends for distance but I decided to try to keep a quick pace. I did pretty well on the 16 miler and even better on the 13 miler the week before the race, with a time of 2:04:14 for my Garmin-measured half-marathon. I only ran twice during the week of the marathon: one quick 10k on the treadmill and a pretty good lunch run of 6.5 miles around the park near the office.

Caroline was on a business trip in Chicago on Thursday and Friday, prior to the race, so I changed my hotel reservation in Knoxville, cancelling Friday night. Originally, we were to drive up on Friday evening and spend Saturday, Caroline’s birthday, enjoying a family day in Tennessee. Instead, we were faced with a four-hour drive to Knoxville with the kids. While we stopped for lunch on the way, little Jack noticed a mural above our table at the McDonalds depicting athletes from the local high school team. For some reason, Jack decided that he really wanted a base ball helmet and he asked about it every two minutes or so, for the next hour, which drove us crazy! This continued throughout the weekend, but with less frequency.

We noticed that Rhonda and Susan arrived at the hotel just as we did, so we decided go with them to the marathon expo, and then to meet them out for dinner. They got to the restaurant first to reserve the table, but decided to order their food to go, based on the long wait. We had to wait about 30 minutes or so, but it went quickly as the boys flirted with some local girls. Jack and Ben were very cute that night, and I think it satisfied Caroline for her birthday dinner.

That night, Caroline was upset with me as she felt I was primping at the mirror while she relaxed on the bad. Jack was watching Looney Tunes and Ben tinkered around the room as curious 18 month-olds tend to do. Tempers flared when he broke the coffee pot so I stopped “primping”. In reality, I was preparing for my big run. I was trying to decide what to wear as the temperature was going to be colder than anticipated, roughly 32 to 48 degrees for the morning. I was working out the pants and whether to wear long johns or not (glad I went with only one layer), gel in the pockets (4 or 6 gels? How does that feel?), pinning on my number (too high at first, one pin went through to the back of the shirt at first and I didn’t notice that until I tried it on), how many shirts to wear? (I decided on two long-sleeved shirts), ear warmer (on its own or with a baseball cap – alone it is), etc. I needed this time to work out the gear, because I hadn’t done it back home, and I wasn’t about to leave everything for the morning, not with a 7am start for the race.

I got up on time and met Rhonda and Susan downstairs, after dressing, giving Caroline a kiss and leaving the kids to sleep. They were a bit late and we had to hurry over to the start. We started in the back of the pack, but with such a small field it only took us about a minute to get past the official start. Here we go!

The first half-mile was pretty slow and then we got up to a nine-minute pace. We ran in the crowd as Rhonda explained that she’s not a weaver. We passed the 3 mile mark as we were in the first neighborhood to participate in the contest. Full marathon runners were to vote on their favorite neighborhood and the winners would receive a prize. There were signs and spectators in these areas and it made the run a bit more interesting. I chuckled at a sign that read “Run, but have fun!” as I figured that the author must have a dim view of running – that you can’t really do both too easily. In retrospect, I guess that there are folks that don’t have enough fun running, whether taking it too seriously or over-doing it. At the time, though – three miles into a 26 mile run, I knew that I was in for a tough morning, but I would definitely run and have fun.

We passed the 10k mark at about one hour, and I was pretty happy with the pace. At about twelve miles, Susan felt dizzy and dropped back. She told us to go ahead and Rhonda was not too comfortable about our decision to press on at our steady pace. In the end, we decided that Susan would be safe with all of the half-marathoners around and she could easily walk to the end of the half and stop if necessary. We had been keeping the 4:15 pacers in view throughout the first half of the race and by mile 15, we were bumping up against them, getting ready to pass. Rhonda and I conferred and I suggested that we hang with them rather than pass.


At mile 16 Rhonda turned on her hip-hop tunes and went ahead, and I tried to stay with the pacers. The leader of the group was very athletic and fit looking guy. I was impressed with the way that he ran with the sign. It was a three or four foot metal stick with a small white “4:15” sign. I’d been watching him and the group for those 16 miles. He had the sign most of the time, keeping it upright and visible at all times. If he stopped for water, he’d pass the sign on to someone else in the group until he caught back up with them.

I lost the group at the next stop for water. I kept a decent pace for those next few miles, but I was unable to catch back up to the pacers after each stop. I felt a bit lonely, even though there were plenty of people around. I’d lost Rhonda – she was way ahead. Susan was way behind, and I’d lost the pacers with not much hope of catching back up. My goal time went from 4:30 at the outset of my training program in late January to 4:22 toward the race. That's ten minutes per mile and I figured that was achievable and respectable, given that I hadn't done any speed work, focusing primarily on long slow disctance with an emphasis on slow. I thought that 4:15 would be a good stretch goal, but I honestly felt anything better than 4:22 would be great and anything longer than 4:30 would be terrible. They say that the goal for the first marathon should be just to finish, but I was comfortable with my goals, knowing that I wasn't going to hurt myself, mentally or physically with unrealistic expectations.

By mile 20, I was pretty beat. I remember a water stop where I knew I was looking rough. There was a photographer nearby and he took a photo of me. I thought about how much I wanted to see that photo – how it would serve as a true record of my condition and the effort of running my first marathon.

I heard a voice speaking to me, over my iPod music. I turned to see an older woman, maybe 60 or so, asking about the “40” on my shirt. She wanted to know if I was running my fortieth marathon. “Ha!!” I thought!! I explained to her that I was turning 40 this year and she retorted that I was just a young’n or something to that effect. It wasn’t clear, but it seemed like maybe she wanted to keep talking but I was more into my tunes and preferred to maintain my focus. She continued on past me.

No too much further on, I passed the guy who had been running with the “4:15” sign. He was walking!! At that point, faster runners were running at me, as I was on the “out” section of a two-three mile out-and-back. I was hoping to see Rhonda on the first leg or Susan on the way back, but I did not. I did see the “4:15” guy on the way back and he was jogging along at a slow pace.

I’d been running through a section of town called Island Home. There were many supporters out cheering us on (relatively, at least), and there were some interesting musical acts. I started to feel better during mile 22 and started to feel really good on 23. I was smiling as I passed each person along the way. One man called out “Go Jack!!” as I approached and his 4 year old daughter asked “Who’s Jack?” just as I passed them. I was smiling ear-to-ear and turned back to them to shout “I’m Jack!” and I ran on.

At this point, I was into the best tunes on my playlist. There was a tough uphill leading to a long bridge and I passed several runners including the old woman. It was a pretty lonely run along the bridge, but I was feeling great. I smiled as I passed a bunch of supporters on the far side of the bridge, and then I followed the route through the deserted downtown business district. I know I was close to the finish so I kept the pace up and I kept smiling.

I started to think about running into the stadium and seeing Caroline and the boys. I started to think that the end had better come soon or I’d run out of steam. I found my way across the Start, and was hoping to have the finish in view. Unfortunately, I still had about one-half mile to go, starting with a tough uphill. I actually felt like that last uphill was a bit demoralizing. It was really tough! I gave it all I had, but I couldn’t quite keep up my pace. I didn’t drop off too much, but I was no longer smiling!

The stadium was finally visible and I found my way to the entrance, then onto the field, and then across the finish line. I was given a finisher’s medal and some other goodies. I almost couldn’t believe it.


I looked and looked for Caroline but she was nowhere in sight. There I was, all alone, which provided me with some time to reflect. I teared up a bit as I thought about my accomplishment. I had thought about marathons for almost the entire twelve years of my running career but never thought that I could actually do it. I realized that I had done something great and that I’d be able to cherish it for the rest of my life.


Rhonda found me and we chatted a bit. I realized that my legs were getting terribly stiff and she suggested stretching. We pondered Susan’s situation for a bit and then we saw her cross the finish! Rhonda ran 4:06, I did 4:17, and Susan did 4:37. Checking the results, I was 278 of 633 overall and 227 of 455 men (just barely in the upper half!), and 45 of 79 in my age group. I'm very happy with that for my first marathon. We got some photos of the three of us, as the photographers were very accommodating.


Finally, Caroline came up with the stroller. Both boys were sleeping. She was out on the course and despite frantic waving at mile 20, I was too focused to see them. She had some taken some video, but it didn’t some out. After a few more photos of Rhonda, Susan and me, we headed back to the hotel to clean up, pack up, and check out. I wore my medal and I was so proud of it – I decided that it was my most valuable possession.

finish chute 1