Friday, November 14, 2014

Bib of the Week -- Bastille Day 5K, July 12, 2012

Today's bib actually holds a near and dear place in my heart, because it represents my "comeback race". From the time I ran a disastrous Chicago Marathon in 2008, an experience so bad I pretty much quit running, the only races I had over the next four years was a 5K with a friend in late 2008 and the Ragnar Relays in 2009-10, events I barely trained for and for the most part just showed up.

I'll admit that I was in a really bad place in my life over that span, and that contributed a lot to my lack of running. But I met Darcy in August, 2011 and by the early part of 2012 I felt like I was starting to turn the corner in a lot of ways.

Running the race was just something that came from a chance to do something with my friends Scott and Bernie. I owe a huge debt to Scott, as he helped me through some really dark times and one more than one occasion talked me off the ledge as I tried to navigate the demise of my marriage. By 2012 I wasn't seeing him a lot as he was in a new relationship with a great girl named Lori (in fact they got married about three weeks before this race) and had moved from the burbs and settled into Lori's place on the North Side of Chicago. Still, putting into words what he meant to me and continues to mean to me doesn't even come close to touching the impact he had on my life.

I had met Bernie a couple of years before when I did an article on him for Chicago Athlete magazine in 2009. Bernie had been the at-home winner of Season 5 of the show Biggest Loser, and while I was watching that season he was just a guy I felt he could connect with. He started the show weighing 283 pounds and at show's end he had shrunk to 153!

At Darcy's suggestion, I reached out to him in the spring of 2012 and we had started hanging out. In fact, Darcy and I would attend a Sunday morning bootcamp that he and another trainer, Erin, put on in a park in Chicago. It was a hard thing but a lot of fun.

Despite the fact he moved to California last year, I still consider Bernie a good friend, and appreciate all of the support he gives me. He is the kind of person that is always positive and upbeat, and he can motivate anyone. He's also been there before in terms of struggling with weight and understands that it isn't easy, so I'm thankful for his kind words. Bernie always talks about doing little things to add up to one big thing, which are words to live by in whatever we do.

I had been looking for a race to run and in the way past had run the Bastille Day race before, and wanted to do it again. One reason is because it is in Chicago along the Lakefront Path,which is a great place to run. One thing about the path at that time of the day is that with the setting sun the downtown skyline looks absolutely stunning. Then on the other side is Lake Michigan, which at that time of the day is dotted with boats of all kinds. July is really a sweet spot in the year when Chicago is at its best.

The race started in Lincoln Park and after about a mile went out on the path. Man it was hot and humid that night! I had hoped to run the entire distance without stopping, but I walked through a water stop to get some extra fluids and walked for about 10 seconds near the end. Still, I call the day a success. Here's a post-race photo...Bernie is in the gray, I'm in the center (as you can tell I was still working into some semblance of racing shape) and Scott is rocking the orange.

In true Kenyan fashion, both of them took the pace out fast in an attempt to break me, but I did make it through the first mile. Scott dropped Bernie with the finish line in sight and rolled across in 30:25, while Bernie was eight seconds back.

I came home in 33:40, which meant I accomplished my secondary goal of going under 11 minutes per mile.One nice thing about getting old is that you get a better perspective of things. In the past, I would have been pissed about my 33:40 but given where I was at then and the fact I tried my best, I can live with it. Fact is, I did it!

During the time I was dealing with my personal issues, I was told by my counselor that my standards for happiness were too high and that I expected too much out of myself. One thing I've really tried hard to do since then is look at things realistically and not be so hard on myself.

What I was doing then and I'm still doing is the best I can do right now. I've learned to accept the fact that I can get overwhelmed sometimes and that there are times were a few things need to sit in the background for a while so I can focus on other things. And as you get older, things just aren't as easy as they used to be. I think since I've run that race a lot of things have come into better focus for me, and I am just a happier person as a result.

I can for sure thank my wife for all of that. When we met I remember telling her I didn't like running very much and would probably never run another marathon because I thought that no matter what I did I would never be happy with the result. Truthfully, for the longest time I was never really happy with the result of anything, I always thought that I could've done something better.

Well, running the marathon and being VERY happy about doing it shows I've worked past that quite a bit. There is just too much joy in life and if you think about the wrong things all the time it passes you by quickly. For the longest time all I did was grind away with little thought for the future. Now I'm pretty excited about it because there is so much to look forward to.

I was also more than inspired (and continue to be inspired) by my son's running careers, the last couple of years that's been something that has really piqued my love of running even more. It's all just a different time for me, and for that I couldn't be more thankful.

So when I called this a "comeback race" I really mean it! That day was the start (or restart) of a lot of special things for me, not just in running, but in a lot of other things too.

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