I am typing this less than 48 hours after I completed my first Marathon in Detroit on Sunday October 20, 2019. I am still high from what I experienced. Yes, everything hurts of course. I have trouble going up and down the stairs. But even this pain someway somehow…hurts so good. This was my running journey!
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As a young boy I used to be in awe of Marathoners. I used to watch the Marathon event in the Olympics and I could never even comprehend that a human can run such long distances! I never saw myself as a runner. I used to look at others running, huffing and puffing, and my thoughts went to “Why would anyone subject themselves to such misery?”. I try to stay active and exercise regularly and still play soccer on Monday nights with my indoor soccer team, appropriately named “Gasping For Air”. Up until last year if you told me I will be able to ever complete a full marathon I would be the first one to laugh at your face, no way!
On March 22, 2018 I went for my physical and the number on the weight scale was shocking. Shocking to my core! How did I let myself go and get to this grotesque number? I knew it was going to be high but not THAT high. I decided to make a life change right at that moment. I started watching what I eat (my weak spot, I LOVE eating) and watching my portions and not get into my normal mode of “eating everything in front of me”. You know, binge eating. I still do that once in a while but now I do it only after running long distances. Because I deserve it lol.
On March 23, 2018 I managed to push myself and barely ran 1.5 miles. And I have not stopped running ever since. First three months I hated it. I was only doing it to lose weight. Only after about six months or so I started enjoying it. And that was a weird feeling I must admit. One day in a beautiful park near me, it was early morning, the quietness amidst the nature, the birds chirping and me just flowing in the wind and, there I felt “it”. The runner’s high. It was one of those moments in life you don’t forget.
So I kept increasing my running distances. All by myself. Out there in nature with my handheld water bottle. No phones, no distractions. Me alone in nature. Running. And my head clearing. And a sense of peace filling my inner soul. It is hard to describe. After a while running felt like being alive, living in the moment, taking it all in. I started looking forward to putting my running shoes on and getting out there. I would run at least 5 times a week. If I somehow went three days without running I would have withdrawal symptoms. And that is just weird to even type. Have I become a runner? For real? Me? It is hard to believe to this day.
Then the winter came. And the running in beautiful nature around me in Michigan during spring/summer/fall turned into a viciously boring time at my gym running around the track and the treadmill. Or dreadmill to be more accurate.
I was keeping a record of my runs. And my personal records. And each time I beat my personal best time I would enter it with a sense of accomplishment. It must be like when you do a hit of crack. Not that I have ever done crack. Lol.
Somewhere about six months into it or so I ran my first 5k race at the University of Michigan Big House run. In a personal best 23 minutes and I was like, wow! I dig this.
Earlier this year I attempted a trail half marathon which I also really enjoyed, even after I fell twice. I have a few bloody pics. Again, in respectable time. By this time I had gone up to 15 mile run territory. I think the longest I did was 18 miles. And then I thought I am just going to sign up for my lifelong dream, a full marathon in Detroit. It was to motivate me setting such a high goal and train for it.
Then I went to Greece to take care of my mother and I fell off the wagon in the last three weeks while there. The heat in Greece does not help and neither does the great food! I came back in late June and I knew it was time to get serious to even have a shot at my goal! So I finally did what I should have done when I started my running journey. I hired a running coach, Nicole Sifuentes of Sifuentes Coaching. We started in July 2019 and then bang! Playing soccer I fell awkward and hit the back of my knee. It did not feel bad at the time and I continued playing. But next morning I had nasty bruise marks, purple and all. So, there go another three weeks down the drain. And doing physical therapy, the costs add up!
So, I really started my marathon training in late July. With the help of my coach I finally realized how much I did not know. And her guidance has been invaluable. I have learned so much about running with her. And my confidence has skyrocketed as we continued to work together and hitting higher goals. I value professional advice very highly. I could improvise but I would probably hurt myself in the process. With a good running coach to guide me and tell me what to do and then actually go out and do it, I think I can do this. In August, I started believing I may finish the marathon…alive lol.
I trained very hard all of August and September until October 10. And then bang again! As I told a blog reader, this is what happened ten days before the race!
On October 10 I went on a regular 4 mile run. Woke up next morning and I could not put ANY weight on my left foot. Rest and treatments followed. Got better each day VERY slowly. I was getting restless. Finally walked 1 mile and ran 1 mile on October 15 because I was getting way too rusty. Maybe that was not a good move. I saw my local PT people, no structural damage. It must have been my newer shoes, they just never felt right. More icing…by October 17 I thought this was not going to happen. So me, the moron, I iced it way too long that day and burned my toes! WTF!!! I went to Walgreens and I asked the pharmacist what to do and then started doing lukewarm water baths, frequent applications of a cream containing menthol and the toe burns started subsiding. I did not wear a left shoe until October 19 Saturday! My coach said to walk 1 mile and if it is okay to then run 1 mile just to see how it feels and go from there. So I did and it felt okay with tolerable pain in just two of the toes.
That Saturday night before the race I went back to Walgreens to get me duct tape to fix my old trusty shoes and then I looked at the Feet section and found and bought a product called “Toe Bandages”. More bath/menthol cream/Advil on Saturday night and then I said, well, I will wake up and just go and take in the experience at least so I am better prepared for next time and maybe I can bear it to finish the half marathon as I thought the toe burning will likely get to me.
And then you won’t believe what happened next. I cut the toe bandages and put them over my toes and they felt surprisingly good. So that is what I did right before the race. And then I started running and the amazing toe bandages covered my toes so well…I did not feel anything the whole race! Best money I ever spent you guys! And my left foot did not bother me, I guess it finally healed.
And the rest is history I guess…Just two miles of running in the last 10 days before the race. Freaky stuff to end my training…and I pulled it off someway somehow. If no injuries, my time would have been a lot faster no doubt. I ended with 5.22 hours per race clock but 5.16 hours per my Garmin, so I am going with my better time 🙂 If my training was not interrupted the last 10 days I think I could easily do under 4.5 hours, maybe I hit this in my next full marathon!
With this long intro, lets get to the actual Detroit Marathon. I LOVED the experience! It is one of the best things I have done in my life! I am so glad I ran my first Marathon in my back yard. A city that continues to rise up from the ashes and that blue collar “we against the world” vibe was there all along, I felt it.
It is a very well organized race. It was the 42nd year it was held, so they know what they are doing by now. There are many volunteers and everyone is so nice! I really enjoyed the fans cheering you on holding funny signs. There was an absolutely magical moment going up the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Canada while the sun was rising looking at the calm Detroit river and the Detroit Skyline next to it. I should have taken a selfie right there. Running in the riverfront of the two cities was also special. I have walked in these areas and there I was running on them for miles. Sometimes I had to pinch myself that it was really me running all over this area I had trouble driving non stop lol. We came back to the US through the underwater tunnel, a road I have driven several times. It is hot as hell down there. The international border is marked about half way into the tunnel. Going through Indian Village and the beautiful homes was also special.
You start feeling the camaraderie among the runners encouraging each other. You know, we could be sitting at home eating Doritos and drinking beer or smoking weed or whatever. But we decided to challenge ourselves and our bodies to be out there aiming to achieve a goal. And everyone has their own goal. This is a personal journey!
I felt good in the first half of the race. And I was doing very well and then I hit the wall around mile 15. Just the thought of having to run another 10 to 11 miles seemed like a herculean task. But then I remembered what my coach drilled into me: “I have done the work, I am ready, just take it a mile at a time”. And this is what I did. I stopped looking ahead to see the next mile marker and just took it a mile at a time. Or like someone told me to keep repeating to myself “Take the next step”. And this is what I did. Everything hurt but it did not matter anymore lol.
The course takes us around Belle Isle and I thought that this would never end! After I got out of Belle Isle there was no stopping me. Actually, I never doubted myself I would cross the finish line. Because I worked too damn hard to be there and I just had to reach deep and persevere!
And then when I got near the end, I started looking for my wife and a few friends scanning the crowds left and right. With a big smile on my face that I think I still had days later! My coach was there cheering me on as well “Your are doing great George” and that gave a little more power taking the next step. There was no pain at this point, it was all about taking it all in and enjoying the moment getting closer to the finish line with each step. The moment of crossing the finish line is something so absolutely powerful and magical I can not describe in words.
So I cross the line and I was expecting to be greeted with the cheering volunteers throwing me up in the air like they do when they win the World Series or something. Nope. I walk a little bit, someone hands me a water bottle and I am like “Wait, did I finish? Is this the right finish line? Is there more to run?”. Then finally a smiling volunteer comes and gives me my medal. And it is a really nice heavy big medal. And then I lost it. I am emotional when I think about this moment. I collapsed and looked up in the sky showing my medal to my dad and my other three cousins named George who all left Planet Earth way too soon. You see me in the race holding up four fingers to represent them. You are damn right I was determined to finish and not let them down. I know my dad and one of my cousins (who was like my little brother) were doing a high five watching me.
I can not wait to do another Marathon next! I am thinking to do two next year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. I am not sure yet. But I will definitely run more.
Part of my blog’s mission is to inspire you. Going from about a mile to a full marathon in less than 18 months. At age 52. You can do it too. Or whatever you set your mind to. Key is to enjoy the process.
You think my story is inspiring? How about this guy! He dropped an amazing 475 pounds, then ran Detroit’s marathon.
And finally, here is a nice video about the 2019 Detroit Marathon.
And now some pics. Thank you for reading.
And I leave you with this…
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