Written by Greg Green
This post is about running the Salt Lake City Marathon this year (2010), but like a lot of things in life there are some detours that I plan to introduce. As a runner you typically plan a route that goes from point A to point B – but as a reader I’m asking you to open the door and just run out. My course wanders, but the purpose isn’t the destination, rather it is a realization of where you are.
Things changed pretty significantly for me in June 2008. That’s when my father passed away from Pulmonary Fibrosis, a condition where your lung tissue becomes scarred and thicker; and continues until the lungs lose their ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. The downward slide for him started when he began having chest pains. Those pains eventually resulted in seeing a doctor, who refused to let him go home. A triple bypass surgery was performed. His recovery was slow, and over one winter he struggled with a persistent pneumonia that was ultimately re-diagnosed as the fibrosis. From that time he was with us for six short months, and then he was gone. His goal that year was to make it to his 70th birthday, which was in December. I was bitter and proud for his pushing until June. If you know about Fibrosis you know how horrible a disease it is. It literally steals your breath from you.
I came to a slow realization that I was headed down the same genetic path as my father. At 40 years, I was 275 pounds and had stopped seeing a doctor when he threatened to prescribe cholesterol medication for me. I couldn’t sleep well, I was constantly exhausted, and I was stressed. I didn’t exercise, and had no ambition to. Reality dictated that without changing my path I would face similar heart problems and related disease. I knew this, but had not accepted it.
My father’s ailing health brought me back home so that I could spend some time with him before his passing, and in doing so I heard him talk of what he still longed to do. Think for a moment about what drives you. When you wake up in the morning what do you contemplate? How much of your day is filled with the things you truly want to do? What accomplishments are you most proud of? I heard it, sometimes only a whisper, from my father.
What does all of this have to do with running? Let me respond by quoting Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will wind up somewhere else”. My second life-changing event that year happened after my father had passed away; and it was my decision to live a better life; a commitment to make myself better than what I was. As simple as that sounds, an earnest decision is followed by profound change.
The first step I took was to enter a simple calorie-reduction diet program. Over the course of 10 weeks I lost approximately 40 pounds through simple changes in nutrition – portioning meals and logging calories consumed. It was amazing how much different I felt already. I was fortunate to have started the diet before the winter holidays and had curbed temptations by allowing for small rewards. By the time January rolled around I was down to 235 pounds, and it was at that point that I started walking on a treadmill. I set a goal to run with my wife Angela in the Salt Lake City half marathon that April. Angela pushed me toward other goals – first getting outside to run on pavement, then running in a 5K, and eventually running longer distances to the point that we both completed the half marathon.
I wanted to build up my runs and improve my overall distance; pace not being so much of an issue. I was and still am a run-walker who yo-yo’s around others during our runs. I figured if I could train enough to complete a 26 mile run/walk over the winter I could baseline the run and use it for subsequent goals of improving my run/walk ratio and overall time. That became the incremental goal.
After a late summer hiatus I broke back into running at the Jordan River trail fall teaser runs sponsored by Salt Lake Running Company. These in turn introduced me to their newsletter, which in turn introduced me to the Salt Lake Running Company’s running group. I became a greedy consumer of advice and Saturday morning runs at the old Highland running store. The group was ideal for Angela and I because there was sponsorship from the running store that included a training plan and experienced counsel to trek through a winter training program. Our running group is also a broad mix of ability. There are easily 6 minute milers coming out for these runs at the store. I like to joke that I’ll see them twice during the run; once before we start, and possibly once more after the finish, but that’s only if they decide to stick around long enough. I typically average anywhere between a 10-12 minute mile when I’m out on the course.
Meeting the running group each Saturday was encouraging, and something that I still look forward to. The group started with a 3-mile course, and each week would stretch and grow our training route, eventually running through Sugarhouse Park, then past the local storefronts at 15th and 15th, then out to 21st East. Any time that we ran at the store we would end up back inside after the run, talking for several minutes about how we did and what the run was like. We trained on our own during the week, following the plans laid out. It was extremely helpful to have guidance and planning from the store, and to meet runners who welcomed our interest and who we could run with.
…on Monday Greg will submit part 2 of his story about completing the Salt Lake City Marathon. He has lost 80 pounds towards a goal of 100 pounds, and continues to run with the Salt Lake Running Group that meets on Saturdays at the new 700 East store.