Waiting outside of Corral Three in the cool, early morning of January 15th, I pondered at how far I'd come. Six years ago, I saw a picture of myself dancing with my daughter at her wedding. I wondered who that man was. Surely it wasn't me. But at 260 pounds, I knew it was time to do something about my weight.
I did the diet thing -- watching my calorie intake -- but not much more than that. My weight came down, which made me happy, but something was missing. I needed to do more.
Then, about two years ago, we had an incident in our family that woke me up. My wife was rushed to the hospital with what we thought was a heart attack. Talk about putting your health in perspective. We both decided that we needed to include exercise in our daily regimen. So we joined a gym.
The first time I stepped on the treadmill, after five minutes I remembered why I hated to run. I couldn't do it, literally. Our children are members of the same gym and so they would motivate me and encourage me when I couldn't run one more minute. And things began to change: five minutes became 10, until one day, I could run one hour without falling to my knees.
My daughter, Tashina, and son Dallas had run marathons and half marathons. They encouraged me to run my first half marathon last year. Now one year later I was running a full marathon with my two sons. Twenty six point two freakin' miles!
The marathon was delayed due to traffic issues, so as we waited, I wondered if I had lost my mind. I had only been running for two years. Could I do this? Was I crazy? Yes to both!
When they finally let us start, I felt pretty good. Slow and easy -- find my pace -- get into my rhythm. I could do this. I knew Dallas was somewhere in front of me. He is young and in great shape and had already finished the PF Chang's Rock and Roll marathon last year and was back for his second attempt. The one I was concerned about was Hunter, my oldest son. He had never run a marathon before, but with only three weeks of training under his belt, he was going to tackle this marathon with me. Like he has always said, don't ever tell a LOUDEN he can't do something, because he will prove you wrong every time. A LOUDEN will always finish what he starts. I knew he would finish this.
About Mile six I saw my family cheering me on. I saw them again at Mile 13. I was still feeling pretty good. At Mile 16 I could feel the tight pull of my hamstrings, but I was confident that I was on track. Just as I hit Mile 19, I saw Hunter running toward me on the out-and-back section of the course. We high fived each other and he looked to be doing okay. I, on the other hand, was not doing so great. My thighs were starting to hurt, and not in a good way. I had 7.2 miles left to go.
They say the last six miles are the hardest, and they weren't kidding. My family was waiting for me at Mile 19 and my daughter joined in and ran with me for a few yards. "How you feeling, Dad?" she asked. "I hurt!" was my response. "You're doing great, Dad, you can do it." she said before peeling off and leaving me to finish the race on my own.
At Mile 21, I asked myself why I was doing this! Somewhere on my bucket list someone had written "run a marathon," so I was running a marathon. I was going to have to hurt that person. Oh wait, that was ME that wrote that. At Mile 22 I couldn't even begin to fathom why I had paid the entrance fee to torture myself. At Mile 24, I knew I only had two miles left and was determined to make it, whether or not I had to crawl to the finish line.
It seemed like forever before the finish line came into view. I could hear the screams of the crowd and the music blaring loudly over the speakers and through the noise I could hear and see my family jumping up and down and screaming "Go, Dad, Go!"
I crossed the finish line in four hours, twenty one minutes (4:21). I had wanted to come in at four hours, but I had finished, and it was okay. Now I join an elite one percent of the population that has run a marathon. What a personal accomplishment! If you had asked me six years ago or even two years ago would I have ever run a marathon, the answer would be NO! But with a lot of work and determination, I learned that I could accomplish anything, especially when I was my own worst critic.
Next on my bucket list, I am going to take on the 2012 Ford Ironman Arizona. And with the help of my coach, Lorie Tucker, I know I can scratch one more thing off my list.
After all, LOUDEN's don't quit!