If I were writing a wanted ad for a trainer when I began my journey to 26.2, it probably would have read…. WANTED, Unmotivated, novice runner in need of a kick in the ass would have been a good start. I’ve run on and off, mostly off, during my adult life. My amazing son had motivated me to become more active as a runner when he took the XC plunge in high school. He developed into a D1 runner and now runs in college. He taught me everything he learned. So I sort of had the bug at that point. I did get hooked up with this whacky bunch of clowns on a 100 Day Facebook running group, so I had run 430ish days in a row with varying mileage. Thanks only to those bunch of misfits I was able to keep my foot on the track, street, trail just enough to stay engaged, sort of. Good week, bad week, good month, bad month, etc. You get the picture. Seriously, these guys and gals in this club are the best. They got me to the point where I was actually ready to contemplate the fact that I might be ready to take the 26.2 leap of faith. Just needed someone to push me over the edge. I had gotten to the point where I was running some length every day, but I was in a rut of sorts. I had put on a few pounds and just become very undisciplined. I had always wanted to run a marathon, but just really had no idea where to start and it just seemed so far away. Watching the journeys of my running club mates and all of their amazing accomplishments, I decided one day, just out of the blue, to jump in feet first. I got in touch with Ashley from the group and we chatted about her experience training for her first race. She raved about her trainer. I reached out to Lauren via email back in mid May. She was back in touch with me immediately. We began the journey at that point. We chatted via text, email, phone, etc. I completed a questionnaire of sorts and provided details of my checkered running past. Coach helped me choose a good time of year for my fist race and together we chose one. STEAMTOWN. Downhill all the way. Piece of cake. Can’t believe I get to run my first marathon downhill and it could get me into Boston to boot. So easy. Suckers. I’ll come back to this is a bit. Coach began to work on my program. First we discussed a target race goal. Between the two of us, we arrived at a very aggressive 3:25, which at my age group, would be a Boston Qualifier in my first marathon. How insane is that? Well I sort of thought she was the insane one at the time, actually. She said we’ll start there, train for that time and adjust accordingly. She sent my plan, we discussed via phone. Coach answered a ton of questions that I had. More than most, I’m sure. I was entering into this wide eyed, but with a subtle confidence that had been instilled in me in just the short period of time that I had been in touch with Coach. I felt like she thought I was already in decent shape and already in a position to start fast on this training journey. She believed I could accomplish the goal. Trust me and I am sure she will tell you, I expressed doubts many times along the way that this 3:25 was obtainable. She assured me that it was and to trust in the program. The mileage began to ramp up slowly. Piece of cake I thought. After all, I had run for 400+ days in a row. I had completed the 10 by 10 running challenge. ( 10 miles a day for 10 days.), so I wasn’t starting from scratch. I had run 70 miles in a week. I had many 30-35+ mile weeks. What could she throw at me that I didn’t already do… The DEATH TRACK is what. Track workouts? Are you kidding me, Coach? I am a 46 year old Executive(stretch, big stretch, but it sounds good) with three kids and a crazy busy evening/weekend sports schedule with them. How in the world would I be into track workouts. Or speed work as my son called it. Speed is a relative term and I’d never used it to describe anything that I had done relating to running. I believe that my middle son had beaten me in a footrace when he was 6. 6 x 400’s? Yasso what? Pyramid what? You want me to run 200, 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400, 200? AND then do it again? You are out of your mind. Well, I trusted what she told me and trusted those of you that had said she knew what she was talking about, so I went with it. I pushed myself harder than I had believed was possible. Week after week, I was able to, for the most part, hit the targets for each workout. The progress from week to week was amazing. I felt great. The mileage began to add up. Long runs went from 10 to 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 to 20 to 22. All in the dog days of summer. I really struggled with the long runs at times. Coach assured me that it was the heat and an 11 minute mile on mile 18 wasn’t a failure or the end of the world. It would prepare me for race day. As the race approached, I felt it. I knew what she was talking about. The long runs became easier. The program was working. The week of the race came. Coach talked me through pre-race prep. Race day prep. What to eat. When to eat. Bathroom strategy. Yes, I was worried about race day bathroom strategy. We were able to work that into the conversation. We covered everything. We spoke on the phone to fine tune things and then it was here. My wife and my oldest son joined me for the trek to Scranton, PA for the culmination of my 26.2 adventure. Unfortunately, those children’s sports scheduled I mentioned earlier didn’t permit my other two from joining us, but my daughter made sure that my wife had the biggest, brightest sign on the route so I knew her and her brother were there with me in spirit. The night before was here. I tried to get to bed in the hotel by 10. Well, I was so lucky to have a family of 6, 4 of which were children that ranged from what seemed like 2 to 2. Yelling, screaming, crying, laughing, etc. Well, Hell hath no fury like a woman…. married to a dude that needs to be up at 4:30 in the morning so he can eat breakfast, allow for proper digestion to allow for proper bathroom breaks, to allow him to be on a school bus and ride 45 minutes to begin a marathon. My wife “politely” popped next door to have a word with the Beverly Hillbillies next door. Needless to say, the noise from our neighbors subsided rather quickly. UNFORTUNATELY, this guy has a hard time getting to sleep when something big is coming the next morning. I think the last time I peeked at the clock was 1:30am. Alarm went off at 4:30. So a whopping 3 hours of sleep the night before the big race. Dead, dog tired, BUT I knew that Coach had prepared me for what was to come. I was nervous, but confident. The race was started with a cannon. Yes, a cannon. The 26.2 “piece of cake” downhill race was underway. Remember I said that earlier. How easy to run a BQ race almost completely downhill? I stuck with the 3:25 pace group for the first 5 miles. Then the downhill just carried me faster and faster. I dusted them. They were miles behind me. I was so pumped and had visions of 3:25, heck, maybe even 3:20, 3:15. Mile 15 came and went. Felt strong through 15. Then my buddy Allen, the pace dude, rolled up carrying his 3:25 sign smiling from ear to ear and looking like he had just napped for the previous 2 hours. And I was toast. Off they went. Leaving me in the dust. Peeking at my watch I saw a 9 minute mile, turn into a 10 minute mile, then the dreaded 11 minute mile. The next 10+ miles and almost 2 hours would be one of the most challenging times in my life. I was spent and somehow had to make it to the finish. Oh, that downhill piece of cake I keep talking about? My feet and quads were on fire. Felt like I was running on toothpicks or wooden legs or something. Every stride was excruciating. My feet hurt so bad. I wanted to quit each minute. Kept thinking of all the work Coach had put into me and how prepared she had me for the race. I just couldn’t stop. I was trained for this. That kept me going. But to be 100% truthful, what made me get to the finish was that my Coach, my family and friends all knew where I was and what I was doing. How could I go home and tell them I quit. How could I look at my kids and tell them that I quit. Just couldn’t do it. One of the biggest moments that got me through came on somewhere during that last stretch. I had passed my wife and son a few times before and their encouragement was much needed. Well, at this viewing point, my Division 1 running college athlete son showed up next to me. Yes, the one that runs a 4:20 something mile, runs a 15 something 5k and truth be told, could run the 26.2 backwards faster than I had run thus far. He grabbed me during one of my early 11 minute miles and drug me along. There was my kid running an 11 minute mile with his father. He talked to me. Encouraged me. Told me how great I was doing. Next thing I know, he tells me to keep going, keep pushing, bestows some of his personal running philosophy on me and bows out to leave me to the rest of the 26.2 on my own. Well, as I looked back on my times, in the middle of those horrific times I was putting up, there was a more respectable 9 minute mile thrown in there. I didn’t know it at the time, but he talked me through it, kept my mind occupied, told me how great I was, all the while pacing me to a two minute faster mile than some of the ones that had just came before it. He really saved me. After that, the pain remained, but my son being there, my Coach’s preparation, my family and kids knowing that I was out to reach a goal I had set long ago, those were the reasons I made it to the end. One last note about the finish. I was miserably counting down the miles. I think there were around 2 to go? Something like that. Looked up and my son was running toward me. He had gone to the finish line with my wife. Then ran back a couple of miles to meet me so he could help me toward the finish. He talked me almost to the end, but he bowed out before the last mile or so I guess. He wanted to get back to the finish to be there when I crossed the line and wanted the moment to be mine alone. I finished. 3:51:29. Placed 624 out of 1729 in my first marathon. Not near the goal, but still a decent effort. I sat down on the grass and caught up with my family. I looked back at my miles along the way. Sure enough, 8:59 on mile 25 with my kid towing me along. Again, 2 minutes faster than I had been running before he came along. Well, that’s my story. I think the 26.2 journey is unique in that it is so physically exhausting along the training path and then during the actual race, but I believe it is as emotional as it is physical. I learned so many things about myself. I had some great memories with my wife and kids along the way. None of that would have been possible without Coach. She took me from beginning to end. She prepared me for everything I would face. She gave me her knowledge and experience to help make this happen. She gave me the support to actually make it happen. Absolutely no way any of the things I have talked about would have been possible without her support and guidance. If you or anyone you know has never run, barely run, runs a 16 minute mile, can’t run a mile or whatever, you need Coach on board to make it happen. She’ll take you through the journey and you’ll never forget the experience. Thanks, Lauren(Coach)!