Half Marathon – Full Belief

When I started this blog, I had these grand ideas of writing and posting something at least every other day.  Then, it was going to be once a week.  Well…it’s been over a month and I am now just getting my act together to make another post happen.

I’ve had a great deal of time to think about and reflect on the half marathon I completed in October.  I’m still more than a little impressed with the fact that I managed to complete the whole thing.  Let me tell you folks, completing this challenge was more a mental effort than a physical one.

Trust me, you don’t just get up one morning and decide “I’m going to run 13.1 miles today” and expect your legs (lungs, back, hips, and shoulders) to get you through that whole thing.  There is a ridiculous amount of physical preparation that needs to happen.  I was running, on average, 3-4 days per week and doing strength training on the off days.  You learn (very quickly) what foods you can eat the day before (and day of) a long run…and which ones will revolt against you.  There is a fair amount of discipline that comes into play in order to properly prepare yourself for physical demands of such a lengthy run.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really enjoy my running time.  It is the one time that I truly have to myself on any regular basis.  Just me, my thoughts, the road, Pandora, and the lady on Map My Run updating me on my splits every mile.  This time is a great opportunity for me to sort through the discord that has seemingly enveloped my life over the last year.  Problem is, when I let myself get drawn in to the general suckitude that (a) others have created in my world or (b) is a result of a generally shitty situation, I find myself having a more and more difficult time getting through a run.  There is a (very) fine line between using the hurt and anger you feel to fuel your run and allowing it to drag you down.

There was a period of time when running was not what I needed it to be.  My family and I had been dealt a huge blow with the death of my niece, Fiona, in May.  (Click here to read the post that tells the whole story…I just don’t have it in me tonight to retell it.)  After I regrouped and began dedicating my running to Fi, I was able to get back at it and truly prep for the half.

In an effort to keep myself mentally in the game for this run, I made sure that I had little pieces of Fi’s spirit with me for the race.  I wore the number 19 on my bib (advantages to knowing the organizers of the race), and Carole placed Fi’s hat from the hospital in my hydration pack.  I also wore a t-shirt with the letter E on it…for Fi’s brother or sister – due to arrive in April.


A few minutes before the race, I went through my pre-race routine of going to the bathroom (for the 10th time), adjusting my shoelaces (for the 7th time), getting my phone in my arm band, checking Map My Run to make sure it’s ready to go, turning on Pandora, taking my phone out of my arm band to get the apps where I need them to be and it’s easier to do when the phone isn’t on my arm, making sure Pandora is on my Aerosmith (70’s/80’s rock) station, getting Map My Run ready (again), putting the phone back in the arm band, arm band on the arm, and ear buds in the ears.

I got to the starting line and my family gathered on the sidewalk.  After a prayer from my church’s Senior Minister and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, I began the 13.1 mile trek with Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” playing in my ears.  And trying to remind myself that, while the first 2 miles always suck, it gets better from there.


Carole posted this on her Facebook page as I started the race: “So proud of this lady! She is carrying my heart and the memory of Fi. I pray she makes herself known on the course. Keep running ladybird!!!!!!!!”

Sure enough, I was about 2 miles in when I first began to feel the twinges in my lower back that had been aggravating me for the couple of weeks prior to the half.  I instantly began questioning whether or not I would be able to finish the route.  At that moment Carole, drove by me – honking and cheering as I plodded along.

A mile later, still questioning my ability to make it through, I looked to the top of the hill and saw Carole waiting for me.  Knowing me and where I get my motivation, she very intentionally placed herself at the top of that hill…knowing that I wouldn’t walk up the hill with her standing there watching.

That was the first time during that race that I really began to get out of my own head.  It was the first time I really believed that I would complete the course and not have to be picked up by the sweep car…my biggest fear.

At about the 6th mile, I could feel myself really beginning to lose some of my energy and I needed a little push.  I rounded a corner and came to a nice level section of the course.  At that moment, I could feel a little hand at the top of my back, right between my shoulders, gently pushing me along.  The pressure was coming right from the area in my hydration pack where Fi’s hat was safely tucked away.  That got me through the next four miles or so.


Somewhere around mile 11 “Sweet Child of Mine” came through my headphones…again.  Now, I spend a great deal of time listening to Pandora.  NEVER have I had a time when I have heard the same song in a 3-hour span.  NEVER.  I looked up, smiled and said “OK, Fi.  I know you’re here.  Thank you.”

I pushed through the final 2 miles and rounded the corner to my family waiting for me at the finish line.  In fact, Johnny (my 3-year-old) ran the last little bit with me.


I had three goals when I set out to run my first half marathon:
1 – Complete it in less than 2 hours and 45 minutes

2 – Keep my average pace under 13 minutes/mile

3 – Don’t get picked up by the sweep car
My final time was 2:49 and change, but my average pace was 12:55/mile – under 13!  Two out of three ain’t bad!


When I learned that Fiona was going to be born an angel baby, I was crushed, hurt, and broken hearted.  I never could have imagined how heavy my heart would be still today.  I mean, it’s not like I was the one who had carried her for nearly 9 months.  It wasn’t me getting a room ready for her arrival.

I’m still angry that she’s not here.  I still don’t understand why she’s not physically here.  I’m still without the right words to comfort my sister and her husband.  I still don’t know how to comfort Danny, my 7-year-old, when he is missing the cousin he never got to meet.

I do, however, know that her spirit is here with us.  I firmly believe that she makes herself known at the moment when we need her to be here.  I know, without a doubt, that Fiona Michelle gave me the mental and emotional strength I needed to complete the toughest physical challenges of my life.

#halfbefore36 #ihofmr



Yesterday, I did something that, until a year and a half ago, I never thought possible.  I ran a half marathon.  Yup. Thirteen point one miles.  Me.  I worked and trained hard to accomplish the goal and, while it wasn’t as fast as I originally, I finished.

Twice yesterday I was told I was an inspiration and, although I’m flattered, I struggle with that title.  While not a lot of people do it, I’m not the first person to run that distance.  And I am by far not the fastest.  What about what I did yesterday was an inspiration?  There are so many others around me who have done far more inspirational things.

Take, for instance, my sister, Carole.  She is the only person I know who has successfully managed to establish a healthier lifestyle and lose a significant amount of weight in high school.  Yeah…I said high school.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but high school for me was a nightmare in many ways.  The scale went up and up each year for a large number of reasons.  Not Carole.  She didn’t like the way things were for her, so she changed them.

One of the activities she took up was running.  After watching her do that for a couple of years, I decided to give it a go.  After a few stops and starts with the hobby, I really began to enjoy the time I had to myself when on the road or treadmill.  In May of 2014, I was there when Carole crossed the finish line of her first half marathon.  As she did so, I decided that she and I would run one together one day.  A few months later, I learned that our church was going to be starting the first half marathon in the city of Dover, New Hampshire, on November 1st of the same year.

I knew I’d never be ready for a half marathon in such a short period of time, so I decided to wait until the 2015 half marathon.  Around the same time, Carole learned she was expecting her first child, so she decided to wait until 2015 as well.

Over the next several months, I trained for the most difficult run of my life.  I was running and working out regularly doing everything I could do to get my body and mind ready for this feat.  At the same time, Carole was doing everything she needed to do to prepare for the arrival of her baby, a daughter, Fiona Michelle.  Together Carole and I talked about running (and her plans to train after Fi arrived), parenting, and what to expect in childbirth.  Fall moved to winter, winter to spring, and summer was right around the corner.

Then I got the worst phone call of my life.

At 9:57 AM on May 18, 2015, my cell phone went off.  It was sitting on top of my desk, set to vibrate.  I looked at the phone and the caller ID showed it was my brother-in-law, James (Carole’s husband), calling me.  Immediately, my heart sank into my stomach.  We are not a phone call family.  We text, we Facebook message, we occasionally email.  We don’t call.  Unless it’s incredibly good.

Or incredibly awful.

Sure enough, James was making what I can only assume was one of the worst phone calls of his life.  All I remember was hearing him say “They can’t find her heartbeat.  We need you”.  I found one of the other managers I work with, threw my keys and appointment book at her and (literally) ran out the door.

I arrived at the hospital to learn that sometime in the last 24 hours, Fiona had died at just shy of 38 weeks gestation.  The next 36 hours were absolute hell for Carole and James as they prepared for, went through, and survived the delivery of their angel baby.  In her blog, Carole describes Fi’s birth in the most amazing and beautiful way:
“She came out at 4:59 PM on May 19.  She was 6lbs 12 oz and absolutely perfect.  She had my hands and my feet, but she looked like James.  She had his mouth and his eyes.  She was perfect.”

The day before that fateful phone call, I had run one of the 5k races I had signed up for in preparation for my half marathon.  Four and a half weeks later, I was set to run a 5k on Father’s Day.  There was a HUGE part of me that wanted to skip it.  I hadn’t run much since Fi had died.  I mentally couldn’t handle the alone time.  At some point, however, I decided that instead of not running because of Fi, I would continue to run for her.

That day, I ran my fastest 5k ever.  In the pouring rain.  (In some Native American tribes, I am told, it is believed that precipitation is a sign that your loved one’s spirit has crossed over to the other side.  I took the rain that day as a sign.)

Every race, every training run, every jogging step I have taken in the last five months has been for her, for Carole and for James.

Carole has made the best out of an incredibly bad situation.  She is out there telling her story.  She open about her grief, her hopes, her fears, and her dreams.  She is choosing love and surrounding herself with those who keep her strong when she needs strength and allow her to cry when she needs to be sad.  She is not allowing herself to be defined by what she went through, but she isn’t denying it either.

Inspiration. It can be a loaded word.  Maybe my completion of a half marathon will inspire someone else to achieve a dream of their own or so start their own path to a healthier lifestyle. Maybe that’s what being an inspiration is.

For me, however, I have always been amazed by the way Carole takes on the most challenging situations and finds some way to find whatever sliver of good there is to find.  She refuses to be a victim of her circumstance.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is inspiring.