Why do you want to run a marathon?

Answer by Rick Bruno:

When I was 46 years old, I went for a walk. I had to drop our family car off at the mechanic's garage, and did not have a ride home. It was a hot August day, but it was only a mile and a half from home, and I'd been meaning to get some exercise anyway … so I walked.

By the time I got home I was drenched with sweat, exhausted, but exhilarated. I had been a runner in high school, but that was a LONG time ago. I was 40 pounds over weight. I had not done anything that could be called exercise in years. Though I had never been a smoker, even routine stress was beginning to cause me some problems.

So, remembering how good the exercise felt, I decided to walk home from work every day. It was exactly 3 miles from the police station to my front door. So that's what I did. I walked in all kinds of weather, just at a normal pace listening to my CD player. On weekends I walked 6 miles a day.

About three months into this I discovered my pants no longer fit me. Weight loss was not one of my goals (although it should have been), I was just enjoying walking every day. I did not think my knees would handle much running, but I gave it a try. I would run a hundred yards, then walk, then run some more, then walk, etc.  Soon I was able to extend my runs and shorten my walks. Eventually I was running the entire distance one way — and then it was not too long before I could run 6 miles without stopping.

A year later a friend asked me how many miles I was running, and it was 6 miles every day. He told me I should run a marathon. I had to ask him how far that was, and when he told me I thought he was crazy. I was by then 47 years old, no way could I ever do that (I thought).

But he had planted a seed in my mind – which is a very fertile place even on a slow day.

I found myself in New York City on a beautiful November day in 2001. By chance, I went to Central Park and sat in the bleachers watching people cross the finish line of the NYC Marathon. They looked overjoyed and exhausted — and very normal. These were normal people doing an un-normal feat. I thought, "I can see myself doing that."

I started extending my distances every other week. Then I heard about a local running club (Chicago Area Runners Association), and they had a half marathon training program. So I joined up, and ran the Chicago Half Marathon in 2:04. It almost killed me. At the finish line I thought I'd never be able to do that TWICE.

And I was right. I'd never be able to run a marathon by training for a half marathon. So began my personal challenge to run a marathon before I turned 50 years old.

Running changed my life. My runs became the highlights of my day. It was a joyful experience. My running trail (a place called Yankee Woods) was my church, therapist office, concert hall, playground, library, laboratory, confessional, and launching pad.  Soon I found new friends who had the same aspirations I had.

I LEARNED how to run with the CARA runners. I learned about pace and hydration, shoes and equipment and clothing and food and how to run in the cold, and worse: the HEAT.

I would never have learned all that alone.

My first marathon was the Chicago Marathon in 2004. A few weeks later I ran the New York City Marathon. When I neared the finish line of the NYC Marathon, I saw the same bleachers where I sat a few years before, and realized in my exhausted brain that I had come full circle. For a moment, I thought I still saw myself up there watching.

After that, I ran marathons in St. Louis, Green Bay, Duluth (twice), Charlevouis, MI, Disney World (Goofy Challenge – twice), Memphis, Tecumseh Trail (Bloomington, IN – three times), 6 more Chicago Marathons, Rome, Italy (twice), Athens, Greece (on the "original" course on the 2,500th anniversary), then Athens, Ohio (just so I could frame both bibs), then US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, then Cincinnati, Marine Corps, … I have other marathons planned. I'm not fast, but I am persistent.

In all, 30 marathons since 2004, not sure how many halfs, 5Ks, 10Ks and other distances. This is by no means a large number of races. I have a friend who has run marathons in all 50 states THREE TIMES.   

Why do I want to run a marathon?

It boils down to this saying I have on the back of my running shirt:

There will be a day when you can no longer do this. Today is NOT that day.

Some day I will be too old to get out of a chair or out of bed. But my mind will still be racing, pray God.

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