My running career began on a crisp autumn evening under the bright lights of completely-packed Hartwood Park stadium in the bucolic rural town of LeRoy in western New York.
You could describe my first endeavor as an “out and back.” The run itself was short—only about 40 yards—and I walked back. You see I wasn’t on a track, I was on the sidelines of a football field.
I was wearing full pads for the Notre Dame of Batavia Fighting Irish and was called on the field to grab a stretcher and carry off my, at the time very unconscious, friend Tommy. I was a third-string linebacker but felt more like a pall bearer than a football player. So by the time he woke up a few miles outside of town in the ambulance, I had already decided I was switching to cross country next fall. I was getting out while my head, and one of my thumbs, was still unbroken.
So it’s a touch ironic that, once again, football will launch my running career. Let me explain…
After those two years of running cross country, I wrapped up that stage of my career by placing 23rd in Genesee County, good enough for a trophy I have to this day.
See if you can spot a pattern in the way I’ve chosen to train since…
I basically didn’t run at all for about 10 years, until I started working at Runners’ World and training for my next adventure: the New York Marathon, which I completed in 1991. I dialed down my running for a while, then ramped up and again to run New York in 2002.
Then, 10 years later, I returned to race in New York City, but this time I went to Central Park at the start of the race, not just the finish. I trained all out to try and break five minutes in the Fifth Avenue Mile in 2012. I recounted my transformative journey in Runners World, and as the focus of a memoir which is sitting idle (for now).
And now, again, 10 years later, I am training for The Boston Marathon on April 18, 2022 . I’m also fundraising for Boston Children’s Hospital. I launched my campaign with a Super Bowl football squares game that has contributed about 25% of my fundraising goal– so once again I am grateful for the role that football is playing in my running career.
I’m also feeling overwhelming gratitude for all the people who have helped bring me this far in all chapters of my running life I hope to share more stories and memories about them as my training continues.
Every stage of my running history has been anchored by a momentous goal. From the high school county championships to the Cross Country Club Nationals which I ran almost 35 years later– and the marathons and mile races in between (but decades apart!) I’ve been drawn to what author Matt Walker calls The Great Adventure.
I learned about the phenomenon at a workshop at Omega Institute several years ago. The concept stayed with me and reveals itself from time-to-time when my heart tells me it’s time to do something out-of-the-ordinary.
Here’s what distinguishes a Great Adventure:
- High endeavor – something that has a goal that is currently beyond my reach.
- Uncertain outcome – there is no guarantee of meeting that goal.
- Total commitment – the work requires focus and putting aside other projects and distractions.
- Tolerance for adversity – my commitment had to be deep enough to work through the inevitable obstacles and pitfalls I would encounter.
- Great companionship – the work is so great and the outcome so uncertain that I can’t do it alone.
All those came into play in my other Great Adventure races. And I have already experienced all 5 Elements in my early training for Boston.
Please follow TakingMulligans and my social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay in touch and witness my progress. I’m going to try and keep my feet on the ground and my eyes wide open to all the ups and downs of running my first marathon in 20 years.
To contribute to Boston Children’s Hospital in support of my work with the Miles for Miracles campaign, click here and donate. Gifts of any size will be greatly appreciated.
If my running career has taught me anything, it’s that when a Great Adventure looks one in the eye, we best not blink.