Potential - The challenge of a lifetime keeps knocking at my door.


Potential.

While tough to fully realize, we all hope to bust through our inhibitors and squeeze as much from ourselves as we can. Along the paths we travel, life choices are made, wayward directions are embarked upon, and parameters are set that inadvertently hold us back.

Standards we will hang onto form around us for all to see, so we push our boundaries in secret, not wanting to expose true goals to others for fear of our possible failure. Hidden behind our best, no matter the level, is a desire for more, nestled in the harsh reality that we may not get there.

My running life has been a roller coaster ride on the Potential Train. As a high-school sophomore in the mid ‘70’s, I ran times that showed potential. 2:08 for the half-mile, 4:45 for the mile and 10:17 for the two-mile. Unfortunately, the rest of my high school seasons were marred with running injuries and disrupted by a less than perfect home life. 

Garden Grove, California 1974 High School Cross Country
 Brian

I found my way back to running in my early 20’s. Working in an athletic footwear store where there was daily motivation to run, my training became consistent enough to target my first marathon. Eager, but undertrained, I did what most virgin marathoners do; go out too fast and crash. Tumbling across the finish line in 2:59.48, while thankful for sneaking in under three hours, I swore off marathons!

First Marathon 1980 - Orange County, California
 Brian

Roughly eight years later, my return to running marathons came in two options: “just to finish” and “pacing a friend”. It was fun, and safe. It would take another 20 years before I would allow myself the chance to go for a Boston Qualifier, and ten more to commit myself to go to war in the battle of Potential versus Performance. 

Twin Cities Marathon 1991- For fun!
 Brian, Kris

There have always been people that have supported and encouraged my running. I’m so much healthier in all aspects of my life, and they share in the better person I am because of the nearly daily physical, spiritual and mental rinse running provides. I’m so thankful for their support. After my wife, Jeanette, had hit her BQ, the bug infected me, and I began what would turn into a ten-year quest to run Boston. It’s easy to get frustrated and lose interest in getting a BQ, but I can enjoy the journey 100%, so my daily wins kept me from dropping the goal. I knew I had it in me, it was just a matter of getting the work done!

Friends and Family Running Crew 2015
 Stan, Dave, Brian, Spencer, Al

In 2008 I attempted my first BQ at the Twin Cities Marathon. It was a disaster. I had over-trained during the final six weeks, including racing a 20 miler a month out as my last long run, and racing a 5k the week before as a tune-up.  Even though this was my 15th marathon, just like my first marathon I went out too fast. It was run-a-way freight train headed off the rails; I had to hold the drawstring on my shorts because all the gels I had pinned to them were pulling them down! My initial pace was too fast, and I wouldn’t slow down! Adding to the insanity, at about mile 9, a cold rain of big, heavy drops began to pour down on the runners. It lasted for over an hour and my body temp dropped as low as my spirit. My quads seemed to fill with cement. I finished over six minutes off my goal of 3:35.59 with a time of 3:42.08.

Three years later, in 2011, I was ready for another BQ attempt, again at the TCM. I was calmer, ready to go and ready to manage the race much better than in 2008. My friend, Bryan, #FlyBry, would run with me. We had planned to stay with a pace group, however what we didn’t plan for was having the pacer drop out at the five-mile point! “I’ve got to stop at the port-a-potty,” he said. “I’ll catch back up,” he said. Never saw him again! Not ready to run untethered, Fly Bry and I did our best to hit our pace with standard watches, no GPS. The race became a lost cause of mis-managed pacing, neither of us knew what our splits should be, with a nearly identical finishing time to 2008 of 3:42.18. Jeanette had a solid day and hit another BQ with a 3:54.41.

By 2011 my training group had gained a new running partner, Dave. Much younger than me, he soon found his distance legs and after his first marathon in the fall of 2011, was ready to not only train with me, but keep me focused for a third BQ attempt, this time at the 2012 Grandma’s Marathon. June, in Duluth, Minnesota, is a fickle time. Mother Nature came in with a typical hot and humid day in 2012. We knew by mile 8 it was going to be rough and I said, “Dave, I’m sweating way too much this early into the race!” We were just two of the thousands that were battered that day, crossing the finish line nearly 5 minutes off our goal pace of 3:40.00 in 3:44.40.

GrandMa's Finish 2012
 Brian

Not wanting to admit defeat after Grandma’s (it had to be the heat and humidity!), we immediately made plans to try again in the fall. I was done with racing the TCM course for a fast time and instead decided to race Whistle Stop in northern Wisconsin. Dave, and another of our group, Stan, decided TCM would be their fall marathon. After our recovery from Grandma’s we lit up the training and got ourselves all pumped for October. Dave and Stan turned in great performances at TCM; Dave beating our sub 3:40 goal with a 3:39.53 in only his third marathon, and Stan set a course PR for himself in 3:56.57. Now it was up to me to come through a week later!  Whistle Stop turned out to be the right choice, as I finally hit my first BQ! It was a cool weather day and a forgiving course (although mostly on dirt trials, which I would later realize is easier on the quads but slower on the feet). I struggled the last three miles, both physically and mentally, and felt I left some time out on the course. My finishing time of 3:38.32 was 1:28 under the BQ, and with the then-recent changes by the BAA to have already reduced times by 5:59, I was sure I’d make the cut for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Sharing the success of my first BQ with friends and family is one of my favorite days of running! I felt like I had reached a goal that was beyond my comfort zone and dipped into the effervescence of sweet Potential!        

Ready for Whistle Stop Marathon 2012
Val, Brian

A funny thing happened along the way to my first Boston entry, which was for the 2014 edition. I was squeaked out by 6 seconds. Mission not accomplished. Potential not realized!

The sting of missing a chance to run Boston hung around like a sore hamstring. I buried it for a while but was determined to try again. The big carrot was a new age group time. I’d be 60 in 2018, and with a fall 2016 race I was confident I’d hit the time, but I wanted sub 3:40. Dave and I planned to test our revised training program, one that would build our late stage endurance, in the summer of 2016 at Grandma’s. Stan, not being one to miss a race, also signed up. It was another hot and humid day with weather warning flags going from yellow to black by the end of the day. Dave and I revamped our race plan accordingly to account for the weather. Since this was more of a time trial than a race we played it safe.

I’ve never seen so many fit looking runners strung out along a course due to heat and humidity. It got to Stan early but he was able to hang on and finish. With a moderate first 18 miles and plenty of drinking at the aid stations, Dave and I were able to finish strong. We leap frogged each other over the last eight miles, “If you’re feeling it, go for it!” Dave said at mile 18. We both pushed and, for the conditions, held up okay during the last miles. I was even able to put in a last mile of 7:40, and Dave came in less than a minute later, also finishing with a fast last mile. Although my finishing time was 3:44.51, it was all about testing the training program. With a solid last 8 miles, we were very encouraged for the fall!

 GrandMa's 2016
Brian, Stan, Dave

The October date for TCM 2016, if successful, would get me into Boston for 2018, at age 60. Even though I knew the last six miles of hills was not the best way for me to race for time, there were four of us running, including my wife, Jeanette, and I felt confident I’d clear the BQ with enough cushion to get in. The real challenge, the Potential goal, was a sub 3:40. Turns out those darn hills got to me again and I finished in 3:43.08. Not bad compared to a 3:42.08 eight years earlier, and good enough for a BQ -11 minutes. I had hit my goal, but once again, not my Potential. Jeanette earned her BQ -12 minutes, which is standard for her. Dave rocked the day and finished with a new PR of 3:30.02. In five years, this once novice runner had shown me what can be done as he had dropped his time from just under four hours in his first marathon, to the new PR. I was lucky to have such a solid training partner. Stan stayed steady after coming off an injury just one month out and finished at 4:00.39. 

Twin Cities 2016 Post Race
 Jeanette, Henry, Andrea, Dave, Stan, Brian

After chasing my BQ for eight years, actually running the Boston Marathon was not on our radar. I had attained the BQ goal that would get me past the second cut, and yet neither Jeanette nor I had a burning desire to run the race. Life was busy, and we had other running goals. Over the winter of 2016-2017 we traveled to Huntington Beach in February to run the Surf City half-marathon, where I ran 1:42.54. In April, we raced the Goldy’s Ten Miler, where I ran 1:15.16, here in Minneapolis. By this point I was in decent early season shape and the itch of Marathon Potential was creeping in. I had promised to pace my friend, Stan, at the Lake Wobegon Marathon in May, which would get my summer off to a good start. Deep down I was setting things in place for an attempt at a sub 3:40 in the fall of 2017. To get me there I knew I had to do more than I had in the past ten years. I had to identify two of my biggest weak links and come to terms with them. It was time to come clean. 

Goldy's Ten Miler - April 2017
 Brian, Jeanette, Stan

Following my marathon escort run with Stan in May, which was a whole adventure unto itself (here is a link to my story on how Stan and Don survived huge challenges), I took some recovery time and then worked hard to be ready for a local 5k. It would be a speed benchmark for the remainder of my marathon training. On a warm day in early July, I was able to knock down a 21:04 finishing time. I felt ready to head into a running schedule geared toward endurance training, as I now knew I had the speed I needed for sub 3:40. What I had to strengthen was Weak Link #1: the need for better endurance over the final miles of a marathon, and Weak Link # 2: the need to sharpen my mental game for the last six to eight miles. I had to find ways to physically and mentally push past the part in a marathon where the course is lined with the walking dead. “I felt good for 18, maybe 20, then it all fell apart,” was not the refrain I wanted to repeat. Everyone feels good through 20. I had to find a way to race to the end!

Lake Wobegon Marathon - May 2017
 Stan, Don, Brian

I began to read and study what others had written about breaking through walls to maximize ones physical and mental abilities. I was encouraged and felt I just might be able to do this. My friend, Stan, also wanted to come back with a fall race, so we made plans to race Whistle Stop, the same course I had earned my first BQ at in 2012. I continued to frame up my training plan, and in late July, high on the 5k time and feeling good about my chances, I wrote down a complete, day by day workout schedule to get me there. Two days later, on an easy run with Jeanette, I pulled my left calf and would be set back for three months! Potential chewed me up and spit me out like a cottonwood branch through a wood chipper. Stan wasn’t far behind me. He had back issues pop up and had to scuttle his plans for a fall marathon, too.

Schedule for Whistle Stop 2017

With any setback there also comes time to sit down and eat plenty of humble pie, as well as an opportunity to digest said meal with an honest review and dissection of your running program. The good, the bad, the challenges, the hopes and the goals. I was nagged by past near-misses and yearned to join the club of wall busters, those reaching their Potential. I wanted to know the race effort I could give would be smart, well planned and properly executed to the best of my ability. I wanted to leave it all on the course without having it come crashing down around me! I wanted to reach my Potential for at least a day!

Now that fall 2017 was out of the picture, Stan and I set our sights on the Fargo Marathon in May, 2018. Fargo would be a new course for both of us and one we had talked about in the past. It was flat and fast, well organized and we heard great reviews from friends. Except  for the wind. It’s always windy in Fargo! Well, there’s usually some kind of weather during a marathon, we surmised, and agreed to take our chances on Fargo! I had a new target date with Potential. 

Shortly after Stan and I signed up for Fargo, my wife and I, of course, decided to run Boston 2018. Our friends and family helped us realize what a special opportunity we had in that both of us qualified in the same year. Jeanette had qualified many times, but this was my first chance to run. We chose to enter and run together, at a slightly relaxed pace, to celebrate our BQ accomplishment! The only thing was, Fargo, my focus race, was just five weeks after Boston! How in the heck was I going to train, run Boston, recover and then race to my Potential at Fargo? Instead of worrying, I accepted to timeline and knew I’d be able to manage the training. I had to, there was no other choice. Reaching Potential isn’t an easy task, I had to break new ground if it was going to happen.  

Before my calf injury, I had figured that after racing a fall 2017 marathon, Boston 2018 would be my 25th marathon, and a good time to take a break from marathoning. I would have just turned 60, could focus on shorter distances for a couple of years and see what I could accomplish in my age group. Of course, all of this was conjecture as I was still dealing with a sore calf. I was excited about spring, but still concerned if I’d be healthy enough to finish Boston and race Fargo!

Looking back at my training log, I can follow the rehab I needed to get back to where I was before the calf injury. As we age, it sure seems like we get out of shape quicker, and it takes longer to get back to where we were! It was late October before I was able to push through a decent workout and feel like I was back; a 10k run on my own that I distinctly remember telling myself; “Run with fatigue!”. I averaged 7:53 a mile with a close of 7:41. My body was ready to go!

Or so I thought. Four weeks later I was taking three days completely off due to a melanoma spot on my left leg. I was lucky in that it was a local, In Situ, skin cancer, meaning it did not travel. So, a nice gash on my leg (the doc did an excellent job, hardly a scar) that needed healing, meaning about a week of easy running. I’m thankful it was caught early and was confined. As runners, we spend a lot of time in the sun, it’s important that we schedule yearly screenings for skin cancer.

In Situ Melanoma

At this point I was becoming a little paranoid that I’d never get to the starting line in Hopkinton, but once I got back to running after the surgery things picked up. Workouts were coming together, and I was able to test myself a few times. As winter approached it was time to head to the Y on a regular basis. Thankfully there were a few of us meeting there, including Stan, and of course having the luxury of Jeanette also training helped both her and I get to the Y more often.

One thing about treadmill running, you can really work on your mental focus. Over the winter months I was able to dial in on a weekly training program of five to six days running. It included Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday effort runs and two or three maintenance days. This kept me fresh enough to stay motivated, and consistent enough to see measured progress. Tuesday was a progressive run, Thursday was marathon pace day and Saturday, whether at the Y or outside, was an easy long run. As the weeks and months went by I was able to adjust times and efforts, and the physical and mental tools both benefitted. It was a particularly long winter, but other than a minor, three-day setback due to a sore instep, I was very pleased with the training. Potential was getting closer on all fronts.

Winter Training - Typical Week


As spring fought to gain ground on winter, Boston was quickly approaching. Fortunately, all systems were go for Jeanette and me. I told myself that bouncing back after Boston to be ready for Fargo would make me stronger. The plan was to treat Boston as a long training run, a very long training run, recover for a couple of weeks, ramp up for a couple weeks and then taper for about ten days. I was hoping the easy pace at Boston wouldn’t take too much of a toll on me. I’d respect the distance and get back into training as soon as possible. Wow was I in for a cold, wet and windy surprise!

The now famous Boston Marathon of 2018 was a battle, no matter the pace. Jeanette did a fantastic job that day! We made sure she was geared up to stay warm during the race, since her low body fat could lead to hypothermia. Thankfully, the gear we dressed in worked out perfectly! Keeping a steady pace and finally, heading right on Hereford and left on Boylston to the finish line, we conquered the storm! Even with inclement weather and extra gear, which after the race felt like a 25-pound sack of cement, we were less than five minutes off our goal time. Finishing in 4:04:53, Boston was a memory the two of us will share forever! I’m thankful, and lucky, that my wife is such a studette! We celebrated with a finish line kiss!

Boston 2018 Finish Line - The Kiss!

I took four days off after Boston to recover. It wasn’t so much the pace as it was the workload of running in the weather and wet gear. By the following Monday I was feeling pretty good and put in a nice 6 miler at just under eight-minute pace. The next Saturday, about two weeks post Boston, I did a 14 miler with Dave at 8:06 pace. The run felt great and we closed with a 7:19 mile just by stretching out the legs. I was optimistic but cautious. Having been through enough training setbacks I was making sure to take rest days when needed, and ease back on the pace during some of the workouts. For now, it was quality over quantity. The miles were in the bank, and as my brother Al, (the person that got me into running during high school) was telling me, it was down to a matter of sharpening what I had developed over the previous months, even years, for the opportunity to maximize my Potential at Fargo.

Sharing my running with loved ones has always been what makes the effort worthwhile, and the pain during a training run or race more bearable. Jeanette, Dave, Stan and Al, have been the cornerstones of my running over the past years. They have always shown great support, been motivating, listened to my concerns, and provided sparks to keep me going when the flame seems to flicker. I have learned much from each of them, as I have from others, but these four are the ones I think about during the tough times of a race. They’ve been with me on the runs, cheered me on the good days and consoled me on the not so good days. I also think of my kids, friends and family during races. They, too, have seen me work hard, succeed at times, and fail at times. I’ll never forget my kids taking care of me after one of the Twin City marathons when I was too cold and wiped out to move, and how much it meant to me.

The Next Generation of Runners
Bill, Theo, Jackie

As the reality of Fargo approached, I was beginning to feel the pressure to finally break through, to hit my Potential. I’d had enough of the ‘Good job’ races and wanted to do more, but I also held onto the knowledge that however the day went, I’d be okay. I’d have the love and support of family and friends that knew I had put in the prep work and, no matter the outcome, they would be there for me.

But I was ready. I wanted this one. It was about…damn…time!

Two weeks out from race day, marathoners begin to feel off their game. This thing called tapering starts and our training rituals are traded in for a succinct set of runs and off days we hope to parlay into a payoff come race day. After months of piling on miles and grinding through stress workouts, the notion of cutting back takes some getting used to. It’s not like we can set it and forget it, our taper, that is. Each season, each marathon, can be different. We improve, we battle injury, we get older. I knew I had put in the work, and that I was in better shape than I had been in over six years, maybe more, so I had to be mature and accept the taper like a seasoned runner should. Ugh! There goes my fitness, here come the extra pounds!

There was one key run, an 18 miler, just before my taper that I did change, thanks to talking with Al. Before Boston, Jeanette and I were lucky enough to hook up with my good friend, Kevin, (a stellar runner and as entertaining a conversationalist on training runs as you’re ever going to find) for a couple of long runs. Kevin’s group was a perfect fit! We ran the first half together, then I was able to run with Kevin’s friend, Todd, who was also training for Fargo, for the return miles at a slightly faster pace. It was a real blessing to have those runs with Kevin’s group. Post Boston, I was able to get a couple of solid 14 milers in with Dave, so I was looking forward to the final 18 miler two weeks out from Fargo as my last endurance test. Then I spoke with Al. 

Group Runs Are Great
 Bill, Dave, Kevin, Eric, Brian

Sometimes we try so hard to reach our Potential, we blow right by it. We get close enough to grab a cup of success and we have about as much finesse as a rugby player in the middle of a scrum. It’s easy to grapple in the mud, what I needed was a soft landing for race day, and Al set me straight. “The hay’s in the barn. An 18 miler will take you two weeks to recover from, and that’s race day.”

He was right, of course. I had waffled on the mileage, especially after my key runs had been going so well. I’d trade in a slower, longer run for a faster, moderate length run. It turned out to be the perfect answer, a 14 miler at just under goal race pace that didn’t tax me. It also allowed me the opportunity to come back the following Wednesday with a solid, hilly 8 miler at 7:38 pace with Dave. It was a confidence booster at just the right time! Ten days to go and I felt like I was supposed to; In position to succeed and that’s all I could ask of myself. I let myself accept the fact that race day could go well and tried not to let that weigh me down.

Two Weeks Out

The anticipation during marathon week is always exciting, and this week was right at the top for me. Since Stan and I would be traveling to Fargo on Friday, I had a short work week for the Saturday race. Working hard to concentrate on work during the day, not doing any crazy chores at home and trying not to think about the race too much filled my week. It flew by and suddenly it was Friday morning!


Marathon week is also the time to, as Strother Martin so eloquently put it to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, “Get your mind right”. I usually have a few time goals in a marathon; A, B and C. I’ll usually admit C and B to my running group, but A I hold closer to the vest. That’s the Potential, of course. The raw number that McMillan and Daniels charts say I’m good for, according to my other times at shorter distances. The number I have yet to hit. It’s also about the same time needed to enter the New York Marathon as a time qualifier. Way out of reach, leading me to try for the half marathon entry time, which I feel is closer to my ability.

Once I set the time goals I figure my pace plan, which this time was a lot tougher. I announce two goals to my friends, “Sub 3:40, but I should be able to beat my 2012 BQ of 3:38.32 and be somewhere around 3:37.30”. I print out a pace band for 3:38.00. Deep down I feel I can go faster, but it’s safer to think 3:37. It would still satisfy me to beat 2012, six years later, but what have I really got in me? Can I find the perfect pace between crash and burn at 22 miles, and red-lining it to 26.2? My race plan would get me to 20 in decent shape. Hitting my Potential would take getting to the finish line feeling strong.   

Fargo Expo
Stan, Brian

It is always windy in Fargo! Race morning was cold, about 42’, and windy, with gusts over 25mph. Stan reminded me that most of the course is in neighborhoods and parks, so we should have a decent windbreak. I accepted that, and once on the course realized he was right. Sure, we had some tough headwinds, but we also had some side and tailwind. Dressed in shorts, gloves, winter hat, and long-sleeve under a short sleeve, I was comfortable in my gear. It was overcast so I left my sunglasses in the car. I wasn’t going to let the weather affect me. With the memory of Boston so fresh in mind, this weather was, pardon the pun, a breeze!

I knew I had put myself in position to physically perform on race day, Weak Link #1 was history. I was ready to attack the Weak Link #2, overcoming the mental challenge marathons put me through from mile 18 and beyond. In the past I have gone into what I’d describe as a ‘foggy state of mind’ late in a race, and afterward wish I had been able to snap out of it, or not get lost in the fog at all. The fog can hit during any distance race. It’s that point when you should decide to go, and you just can’t get clarity. Being able to fight through would be key to a successful effort. I had to, as Dave advised, “Stay in the mile you are in!” I also had to stay loose at the start. I’ve been told I like to be social during marathons. It’s true. I do like to talk for the first half to keep me on pace and not go out too fast. It also helps me stay relaxed. I needed to be ready to focus at Fargo by the halfway point, so it was extremely important to stick to the pre-race plan; 8:25 pace for the first five, then 8:15 for the next fifteen. That would get me to 20 with clarity, and then it would be up to me to remain in the moment and get to the finish without any major setbacks. There would be no room for excuses today, I just needed the race to start and let if unfold, hopefully, as planned! Stan and I wished each other good luck, and then the Fargo Dome exploded with fireworks to start the marathon. It was time to run!
Funny how so much pre-planning can go out the window at the last minute. Fargo happens to start inside a large, domed arena, a place where most GPS watches won’t catch a signal. Hmmm, how’s that going to work for pacing? I knew this was the likely scenario beforehand and was planning to let the GPS grab the satellite feed once outside. I’d run on pace and miles regardless of how close they were to the official race markers. Later, much later, I would realize how helpful it would have been to know exactly how far off my watch was for overall time.

One of my key pieces of advice for the first few miles of a marathon is to start slow, and then run slower. Having just come off ten days to two weeks of taper, marathoners feel great and have a habit of running too fast at the start of their 26.2-mile race. It’s tough to control, however with a GPS watch you have no excuse for running faster than planned. Although I ran by feel for most of my road workouts, on race day I was an addict for my GPS pace. I monitored it often during the first three miles and as good as I felt, held back to maintain the planned pace. At this point I was running with a few other marathoners and we were beginning to form a group. By mile five we were a bit ahead of the 3:40 pacer, just where I needed to be, and I was feeling very fresh. So far, so good!

Running easy, talking with Florida Guy and Bismarck Guy, I was appreciating the workouts I had put in and the rest I had taken. It was working. Still early, but my mind was already thinking of when to make a move. The farther I got into the race, the more I began to prepare myself for the inevitable clash of mind over body. If I was going to get close to my Potential, I’d have to steer clear of the mental fog that would want to roll in about mile 22.

As much as I had talked in the first half of the race, the second half was all internal focus. I had planned to get to 20 and see what I had, however, I also had a back-up plan of going at 18, as I had in 2016 at Grandma’s Marathon. What I wasn’t expecting was telling myself that at 16 it was okay to get serious. I worked my way up to a small group of runners and ran with them for a couple of miles, and then slowly pulled away. The course then meandered back into neighborhoods, lined with awesome spectators keeping the runners motivated! Lots of music, lots of cheering. I fed off the energy and worked hard to stay on task.

I was excited as I maintained my goal pace, and freaked out when I put in a 7:44 mile around mile 20. It was happening! I had gained momentum by focusing on the mile at hand and was keeping mentally motivated by thinking of those that have been a part of my running. Miles were sweeping by and suddenly I was approaching mile 22, and in good shape!

As flat as Fargo is, there are some rises in the course. Nothing major, but they are there. One underpass comes in the 23rd mile. This year, combined with the wind, it was the one section of the race where I look back and ask, “Could I have been mentally tougher”? I had prepared for this fatigue, it was the battle-royale for me and a key to my success. After coming up from the underpass the course made a quick right and put you right into the wind. It was a double whammy for me; the underpass took a bit more out of me than I had expected, and the wind was brutal. I adjusted my running gait and headed downtown toward the Fargo Theater, watching cups and paper blowing across the road in a frenzied race to the other side.

Although I did not know my exact overall time, I was pretty confident my pace was under 3:38. The mile splits had been consistently under 8:15 all day, except for the first few miles, so mentally I was feeling good about the finishing time. While I was able to fight off the fog, there was a light mist I had to deal with. At two aid stations, somewhere in the miles between 21 and 24, as I grabbed some fluids I took a few seconds to stretch out my quads. They were beat, as were my calves, however I knew from experience messing with my calves that late in a race can lead to serious cramps. Maybe it was 5 seconds, maybe it was 20 seconds of stretching. I have always felt a few seconds used on fluids or a quick stretch can easily be gained back, however on such a day when everything was going so well, I look back and wonder how bad was it? Did I really need the stretch, or was I fighting internal battles to stay “In the mile” and keep my clarity? Whatever it was I shook it off and continued, promising myself that I wasn’t going to stretch again.

The last two miles were all about getting the most out of myself and finishing strong. Striding along, working on meeting my Potential. I drew upon all the workouts I had done to get me this far into the race, telling myself, “You’ve felt like this in workouts, you can do this!” I thought about family and friends and felt their love and support. I was working so hard mentally that my body just went along for the ride. Yes, it was physically demanding, but the mental transformation from being a runner pushing myself along the route, to a racer letting my mind embrace the experience, made the last two miles the best part of the marathon! I was feeling my Potential!

The Fargo Marathon finishes inside the same dome it starts in. I can’t remember if I’ve ever raised my arms at a finish line, but for this one I did. Not knowing my official time (I had stopped my watch a few seconds late and wasn’t sure how much I had to add from the start), I knew the day was a success if just for the effort. I had run the plan and the plan had allowed me to push farther and faster, yet not be crushed. I had avoided the fog, run past the wall, and put in a solid last couple of miles. I had run to my Potential. Stopping just past the finish line, I gave a prayer of thanks to everyone I could think of, I hope they felt the positive vibes.

It’s weird finishing a marathon with no friends around. I wandered about, finisher medal around my neck and a bottle of water in my hand. The post-race food wasn’t very appealing to me, and I was starting to feel a little-light headed and queasy. Not uncommon for me after a marathon. I headed over to the first-aid area and nurse Maria checked me in, read my vitals and gave me a bottle of Powerade. Ten minutes later I was feeling much better and made my way to the bag check.

While going through my gear I was struck with the thought of how fortunate I am. Married to an incredible woman and having three amazing children is my pinnacle of luck. Jeanette and our kids have taught me many lessons and continue to inspire me with the things they do and the way they act. As a running partner with Jeanette and as a youth coach for Jackie, Spencer and Harrison, I’ve had the pleasure to see each of them, on numerous occasions, step up and reach their Potential in sports. As they have gotten older I see their new goals reached in education, life partners, friends and careers. It’s something I draw upon during tough times, and not just running. Their life experiences help me to be a better person, just as the experiences of other family and friends have helped shape the person I have become. The experience of one is shared by many.

It Isn't Always About Running
Harrison, second from left, back row, following his passion one pitch at a time.

Some say life is a marathon. We start out slow, cautiously finding our way among family and friends, jobs and careers. We work hard to maintain a pace we can handle, and grow from, and still enjoy the many adventures life will throw at us along the way. Sure, there are going to be miles (days, months, years) we will need to grind through, and days we just don’t feel like running, but the journey is so worth the effort.

The months of training, both physical and mental, helped me accomplished my A goal with a time of 3:35.41 and run to my Potential at Fargo. I finished nearly three minutes faster than my first BQ at Whistle Stop, six years earlier, in 2012. At age 60, I had run 25 seconds faster than my next fastest time, Twin Cities in 2001, and my fastest since a 3:26.25 at Grandma's in 1987.

I earned my third BQ, this one a -19:19 in my current age group, and a BQ of -4:19 in my previous age group, the one I was squeaked out of for Boston 2014. It was a good day.

If life is a marathon, I hope it’s one where we all reach our Potential.   

It is possible.

Brian James Siddons
May, 2018

 





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