Like nobody knew that would be the headline! I can’t believe I finally kicked off Operation Jack today. You know how you always talk about ideas, but then you never get around to doing them? Well, I guess this is one thing that I’ve stuck with and at least got this started. I think it will be tougher to walk away from it mid-flight than to complete, so hopefully this is the first of 60 race reports.
For those of you who have never been here before, I’m a marathon runner and a father of 3 young children (8 1/2, 6, 4). My 6-year-old is severely autistic. His name is Jack. And I wanted to do something to make a difference in his honor. So, I came up with this crazy idea of running 60 marathons this year in cities all over the country to build awareness for a charity I’m part of called Train 4 Autism. I’d gladly sacrifice my knees to make a difference in a lot of lives and give him a legacy and a purpose.
Anyways, the schedule is here and it started today. I was grateful to stay in Kingwood with a runner friend of mine, John Hill, and his family. I really couldn’t have asked for nicer people to be with than John, his wife Susan, his daughter Kaylee and his son Ryan. But I had to ring in the new year away from my wife. I figured that was kind of appropriate because I’ll be gone almost every weekend. But as I realized earlier this week when I contemplated today, God was very good to me and really led me down some great paths in the past decade. I think it’s fitting that the very first thing I did this decade was to use the talent He gave me to try to help other people.
Actually, the first thing I did was send a note to my wife, but that’s a morning tradition I have. Can’t run without sending her the note!
I felt fairly good heading into this race. The legs felt pretty good yesterday (probably the last time I’ll say that for a year). I’ve been gradually getting back into shape since taking five weeks off over the summer with a severely sprained ankle. I’m basically a 3:05 or so runner (my fastest time in 2009 was 3:01), but in my first marathon back, I went 3:29, then followed that with a 3:17.
For this race, I had an A goal (3:09:59), a B goal (3:15:59, Boston Qualifier) and a C goal (3:17:01, one second faster than my last marathon). I actually had an A hope, a B hope and a C hope, because I knew I’d run as hard as I could and get what I could get.
When the race started, I could tell that I was probably somewhere between my A goal and B goal. I was moving well and feeling pretty good. The course was all sidewalk but it was beautiful. It wound through the woods and alongside lakes. It was a very, very nice run. It was a pretty serene environment, which I really loved. I had a million thoughts running through my head during the race. Normally, I block out everything and focus on my performance.
Today, though, I couldn’t help but think about Jack quite a bit. He’s so darn cute and he’s been coming along fairly well over the past six months. It really makes me happy to do something in his name. You all see his picture and his smile and a lot of you draw some sort of inspiration through him. I know I have a lot of you excited about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and as his dad, that makes me pretty happy. I went to Houston and didn’t have a team. It was just me running solo. But I knew that a lot of you were running vicariously through me today. I was alone out there on the course, but I wasn’t really alone.
Start of a marathon or end of a marathon? In a way, both!
And when I got back after the race, I saw flurry of Twitter activity in the messages coming to me and the new followers and I realized that yeah, people are excited and there’s reason to believe something good is going to come out of all of this. I was led down this path and I really have a ton of faith that it’s going to be wonderful to keep following it.
Anyways, the race … the course was a 6+ mile loop that we hit four times. Hit the half at 1:35 knowing I’d probably be a few minutes slower in the second half. I felt pretty confident, though. John volunteered at a drink station and Susan and Kaylee were also out there. I got to see them several times, which was nice. Their enthusiasm was great. I don’t remember what time I did completed the third loop, but I tailed off a tiny bit at the end. My 7:15 – 7:25 miles were turning into 7:45s on that fourth loop. I picked up over the final 1 1/2 miles, though. I really thought about Jack. I thought that he deserved no less than a full effort from me in the first race of the endeavor named after him.
I have no idea what those final miles were, but I finished in 3:13:54, 7th overall out of 497 starters. A Boston qualifier for 2011 (I’m already registered for 2010 and wasn’t really worried, but it’s good to have that out of the way) and another step in the right direction. I’m not in PR shape right now, but I feel like I’m really getting back closer to where I was.
Now, it’s time to fly home and take my wife out to dinner and a movie. Can’t wait to relax with her. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks closing out 2009.
Next up, Jackson, Miss. next Saturday (Jan. 9) and Mobile, Ala. the next day. Thanks for reading … happy new year!