I continued the final stretch of Operation Jack Saturday in the Kansas City Marathon, completing my 49th 26.2-mile race of the year. As has been the case recently, I had no speed. But as has also been the case, I found plenty of positives to take with me.
A quick preface, just in case you’ve never been here. I’m a father of three and a marathon runner. My middle child, 7-year-old Jack, is severely autistic. I want to do something to make a difference and make things better for kids like him. So, I’m attempting to run 61 full marathons in 2011 to raise money and awareness for a charity I’m a part of called Train 4 Autism. I had run 48 prior to Saturday.
Kansas City is a special place for me. I went to college two hours west at Kansas State University. I spent time in Kansas City when I was a student, I have a lot of friends there, and that’s where Tiffany and I first lived when we got married in 1999. I always say that my home and my family are in California, but my heart is in Kansas City.
Whatever the case, the highlight of this marathon didn’t involve me, so I’ll just gloss over the run. I’m out of gas, I have no speed and the course is difficult. I ran a 3:04 on it two years ago, but Saturday I was only good for a 3:29. Dead legs. But I really enjoyed the run. I mean, it was Kansas City! Plus, my wife and oldest son, Benjamin, were there at the finish line waiting for me!
But enough about that. I have a friend from college named Dan Merker. Nice guy, and he’s been really supportive of what I’m doing this year. He knew me from back in the days when I weighed 250 pounds, drank 75 beers a week and smoked a pack a day. I’m pretty sure that when we were in college, I’m the last person he would expected to run a 5K, let alone a marathon.
Last year, when he saw how I was planning on running 61 marathons, he decided he’d spend a year training so he could run one of the races on my schedule. Kansas City was that race, of course. I rode up with him and was pretty excited for him. There’s nothing like the day you run your first marathon. You own that day and you’ll always look back on it with fondness. My day is June 4, 2006. I’ll never forget it. Saturday was Dan’s June 4, and I knew I inspired him to get out there and run the race. Do you know how awesome that is?
I answered a bunch of questions for him during the week and he seemed ready to go. He was chasing a 3:55 and I thought that was pretty reasonable based on what he told me about his training. We talked a little more before the race and I was a little concerned about some of his training. I knew there was a possibility that he would struggle late, but I had no doubt he’d finish the race.
The plan was to wait for him afterwards, but unfortunately, he did end up struggling late and I was on a tight timeline with a plane to catch. He ended up going 4:26, but he finished the race. It started getting pretty warm, so I know it got tough out there for him. Your time doesn’t matter in your first marathon. Finishing is what you need to do and he got it done. He’s a marathoner!
He gave me a call after the race and I congratulated him. I get excited when somebody finishes their first marathon, whether it’s in three hours, four hours, five hours or six hours. And it’s pretty cool to know that I got him into it. I don’t think marathoning is the be-all, end-all to anything, but I really, really like it when somebody gets into a fitness routine.
So I guess that’s my take on Kansas City. Memorable run for Dan. Not so much for me. But it was a good day and Operation Jack marches on.
49 down, only 12 to go!
Me, Tiff and Benjamin after the race.