I am running the 2011 Boston Marathon to raise money for the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research, and will post frequently about my training here, in these final weeks leading up to the race.
At six feet, four inches and over 200 pounds, I'm not what one might describe as graceful. As a child, my body grew in spurts much faster than my mind could keep up with, leaving me with a complete lack of hand-eye coordination, and that clumsiness was on display every time I'd try to run, jump rope, or even coordinate my hands and feet for a layup in basketball, which was always my favorite sport as a child. For most of the things I was clumsy at, I could find a workaround – I won the defense award in middle school at Merrimack College's basketball camp, deciding to focus my energy on techniques I could master, rather than continuing to look like a tangled marionette on a drive to the hoop; thankfully, as a boy, the need for jumping rope quickly faded; in high school, I'd sit in a crew shell and row – something I could keep my legs, back and arms working in tandem fairly easily with, and would carry that into college. The one physical challenge I never could figure out was running. Putting one foot in front of the other in rapid succession was not merely a challenge, it was a repetitious exercise in futility and humility. I remember the elementary school “Presidential Fitness Test,” where the rest of the students were dots on the horizon by the end of the run. Years later, during my Senior year of high school, I would find a bit more success during an Academy Introductory Mission at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, when I was considering enrolling there before deciding Meteorology at Cornell was my path (the USCG Academy didn't offer Meteorology), and that success was primarily found because I knew I'd be doing push-ups if I didn't keep up - I found that to be excellent and effective motivation. What I'd learn in those runs with the other prospective cadets was important – cadence, focus, diligence – and was enough to make running bearable but not enjoyable.
So, when attending my first American Liver Foundation event and meeting a phenomenal group of warm, outgoing people, I politely but very quickly declined their invitation to run with the organization. That was in 2002. I would attend many more Liver Foundation events, and host the annual Liver Life Walk in Boston, which I continue to host yearly. Each year, I'd appreciate the invitation to run, but politely declined for eight years in a row. The idea of completing a marathon was certainly intriguing, and the opportunity to help a wonderful charity earn much needed funds was even more compelling, but engaging in my least favorite, and most humiliating, physical activity day after day in training, culminating in a 26.2 mile demonstration of inability, sounded horrific.
At the most recent Liver Life Walk in 2010, Jennifer Fluder, Development Director for the American Liver Foundation, fit the profile of the Liver Foundation representative – outgoing, warm, friendly and genuine. I knew, without a doubt, this would mean she'd also fit the final characteristic – she was going to ask me to run. This time, something was moving inside me – a slow dawning realization that I could, if I did this, blend several of my personal goals into one: I could bring money and attention to those who needed it, I could benefit a fantastic charitable group, I could find a way to thank the Liver Foundation for their support of me over the years, I could take an opportunity to get back into good physical condition, and I could accomplish a feat I never imagined I'd be able to. “So, will you run?” My answer was flimsy but honest: “I don't know. I'd really like to. I do hate running.” A week later, Jen asked again. Any previous year, I'd have politely declined that second offer. This time, I said yes.
Anyone who has fallen into this trap knows – though we don't realize it at the time – we become unable to truly give all of ourselves to anyone or anything if we don't have a full tank of our own. Even a slow leak of energy, though not an obvious drain, keeps us from that full tank, and prohibits us from reaching our full potential. This was my chance to take hold of my life, possibly improving it vastly while simultaneously improving the lives of others. If I did it right, this could be my opportunity to learn – perhaps for the first time and therefore the final time – how to truly fill the tank, in order to be a fulfilled, complete, balanced individual who could give more to myself and others than I'd ever imagined. I'd had glimpses of this at various events – the Liver Walk, the annual Christmas in the City event for homeless children and families, our annual American Red Cross/NECN Blood Drive – but had failed to incorporate such a feeling of warmth into my daily life. This had the potential to be the chance of a lifetime, but would require complete, not partial dedication. I opted in.
To donate to my Boston Marathon run through the Run for Research, please click here.