I have made running a part of my lifestyle for more than twenty five years. I ran cross country with the team at Saint Augustine High School in 1978 and 1979. I was a recreational runner through out college and I started doing some local races in northeast Florida ten years ago. My first "big" run was the annual Jacksonville River Run in 1996. The River Run is a 15K with two bridges and a lot of scenic areas to enjoy along the route. My friend Mark Kirk challenged me to run it with him and it seemed like a good test since I had only attempted that distance once before. Mark was an accomplished triathelete who had run the 9.3 mile distance several times before.
On race day I showed up in baggy gym pants and a lycra short sleeve top (it was a cool morning but not "that" cold and I have learned a lot about running apparel since that first race). My shoes were a pair of old sneakers. I had no idea what to expect. Mark looked confident and I felt like a mess. The race started with the two of us near the front of a large throng of runners. I remember seeing Mark only for the first quarter mile and then he was gone. Where did he go? Was he out in front? Is my pace to slow? I really did not want to do this on my own. At mile three I hooked up with an old friend and local meterologist Tim Deegan. He had a couple fun jabs at the outfit I was wearing but in general the run seemed easier because I knew Tim was strong and I figured my pace must be pretty good if I could hold with him. Unfortunately by mile six Tim was moving on and I was beginning to feel the legs getting tired. Most of my training (if you can call it that) consisted of three and four mile runs with a couple of six mile runs a few weeks before race day. I had not trained with a distance that was comparable to that morning!
The Main Street bridge awaited (the route has changed since 1996 and now the Hart Bridge is the last hurdle for the runners). My body shuddered as I began the climb. You can't imagine the conversations I had with myself. Everything centered on not slowing down. I will never forget catching up to a strong runner that had passed me several miles earlier and now (coming off the bridge) he seemed to be hurting. I asked if he was ok but he couldn't answer. We jogged together and I tried to encourage him. The finish line was now in sight and we had less than a quarter mile left to go. He collapsed. His ankle gave out and he could not finish. I stopped for a moment but at that point the race was over for him.
When I crossed the finish line I felt relief and accomplishment. I was tired but energized. But where was Mark? I walked through the crowds and saw a few dozen runners gathered in one area. "Are they drinking beer?" "Wow, they serve beer at these races and people are drinking at 9:00 am." I finished my first post race beer and was feeling very buzzed by the time I found Mark. I asked him how his race went and he looked at me without answering and asked "what are you doing with that medal around your neck?" "Doesn't everyone get one of these?" I answered. Marked laughed, "no, that's a top 10 percent medal!"
Mark and I still laugh about my first River Run with the old sneakers and baggy gym pants. It was the beginning of many races and personal goals that would come.
I enjoy running and I love challenges. This year I have committed to my biggest running challenge. The Jacksonville Marathon. I am training with The Donna Hicken Foundation and we are already several months into the program. There are over 150 people signed up and running towards their own personal goals. Even better — we are all running with a purpose beyond ourselves. Everyone has joined this group to actively raise funds for the Foundation. I will be updating this Blog on a weekly basis. It will be my personal journal as well as a place to share with those friends that are interested in my progress and can help me with fund raising.
If you are not interested in the updates or supporting the Donna Hicken Foundation please do not hesitate to reply and I can remove you from this list. I know all of you have enough distractions in your personal lives and I don't want this Blog to become another one. Next Sunday I will officially kick off the Journal with my first entry. I will also have some information on how you can join me in the Marathon journey.
Thanks for your friendship.