The Connection Runners + [weight loss]

Passion has a funny way of trumping logic

The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon is Sunday, race #8 in my bid to finish 12 marathons in 12 months. This is a race I've always wanted to do, even before I started running again.

Back on New Year's Day 2007 six college friends of Mrs. 12 Marathons (all College of the Holy Cross alums) started a running blog, and invited me to join. The whole point of the blog was to see how a bunch of (mostly) former athletes would do if they transcribed their running endeavors down in the hopes of staying accountable and in the process providing motivation to the rest of the group. That was at the height of my, shall we say 'Fat Elvis' period, and looking back I never even gave myself a fair shot at it. I was defeated before I even began. A few spins on the elliptical trainer, and one half-hearted attempt to run the trail that we have here in town, and I was done. I wasn't ready to commit. So just like that, I vanished from the blog - partly embarrassed because I'd let myself get so out of shape, and partly intimidated by how much work I'd have to do. Truth be told, I basically was resigned to the fact that I was going to be out of shape for the rest of my life.

The Holy Cross guys continued to blog and run, and while I was in voluntary 'seclusion' they trained for and tackled Vermont City and had great war stories about the race. I read their posts with great interest, however, and I wanted to be able to run 26.2, but it seemed like such a daunting feat and something well out of my reach.

Then something interesting happened. My son and I started Taekwondo together, and as I've mentioned in previous posts, that was such a seminal moment in my personal fitness renaissance. I began running on my own to get into better shape for TKD sparring, and then one day, over three years later, returned to that running blog. I just recently re-read that blog post, and I was in the final weeks of training for the Sugarloaf Marathon, and had finished up an 18.89 mi run - but I was a changed man by that point, as I had been running for nearly five months. Just because I gave myself a chance at success.

I began documenting my running life on that blog for about six months before starting this one in October 2010. So seven marathons/seven months later, it's my turn to run Vermont City. Something I should've done years earlier, but I don't look at it that way. It may have taken a while to get my behind in gear, but in a way I have more than made up for lost time.

I've received some good insight into the KBVCM race from the Holy Cross runners, and every bit of reconaissance helps. Thanks again, fellas.

Unfortunately the weather looks to be a bit unsettled on the 29th and somewhat humid with a good chance of scattered thundershowers. Fine with me - I am so focused on finishing up my 12 month challenge, it really doesn't even matter at this point. Bring it!

The race is sold out, and 3,600 marathoners will toe the line at 7am (8,000 total runners including relay teams) to tackle a fairly challenging course. It starts at Battery Park, which overlooks both Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. It spins through residential neighborhoods and the pedestrian marketplace, then has an out-and-back component on what looks to be called the Burlington Beltline (?) which should make it easy to see the family twice. Back through the marketplace, through Oakledge Park, and alongside the Lake again before Mile 15 - the "assault on the Battery" 6 blocks of climbing Battery Street. I hear there is great support at this point and a drum corps to power you up the incline. It's net downhill from there (but using Flying Pig and Atlanta are examples) net downhill doesn't mean all downhill - plenty of "rolling" hills along the way. It finishes up at Waterfront Park, and I am looking forward to seeing the family at the finish, and some Ben & Jerry's ice cream as a post-race treat.

I was looking for a bit of pre-race inspiration, and I stumbled across some of the Versus commericals from the past few years.

This is from their 'You vs. Them' campaign:

Perhaps the best line in the whole clip is "The only thing you can count on in any given moment... ... ... .is you."

I"ll try to remember that on Sunday as I churn up Battery Hill.

I also like this one, titled 'Underdog':

Terrific spot, even though, I must admit the real underdog in that video is the deer (but that is another story.) I love the line "... passion has a funny way of trumping logic... " and it often does.

You can't quantify passion or desire, and the willingness to push yourself to a place others in the same situation are unable to reach. It's harnessing whatever raw talent you have, fusing that along with all of the relentless training and practice, but it's that little bit extra that often makes the difference. That's what made someone like running legend Steve Prefontaine so great.

Can you imagine a freshman distance runner making the cover of SI in this day and age? Here's a kid who clearly was blessed with undeniable talent, had a fierce work ethic, had a great coach in Bill Bowerman (the founder of Nike) but also put himself out there, win or lose, and held nothing back.

"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 2 miles. Not with me. If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself."

My favorite is the one about why he runs:

"You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."

Simple, but true. It is self-satisfaction. A sense of achievement. Why am I running around the country and putting my body through 26.2, plus all of the training miles, every month? I do it for myself. It just feels like the right thing to do, and it is immensely gratifying to put forth so much effort and then reflect upon what I've just done.

Speaking about sense of achievement, I always look forward to the final episode of The Biggest Loser. As someone who has dropped 50 lbs, I can relate to the struggle that the contestants go through. To see the culmination of such hard work and dedication is gratifying. I admit I was surprised by the revelation that Brett Hoebel, the trainer who taught the contestants capoeira, a stunningly elegant form of martial art, was overweight as a teenager. Jillian Michaels also credits martial arts to her weight loss as a kid, too.

What I was happy to see, however, (and I can't remember which one of the sisters in the final two said it) was when she admitted that her biggest challenge was just admitting that she needed help in the first place.

It's different for all of us - in my case it was Taekwondo with my son. That was me admitting that I had to make a serious change and was willing to put on a white belt twice a week and seriously commit to learning a martial art. Sometimes all we need is a little push, some direction, and that very first front snap kick, or that very first run around the block, can ignite into something that will burn for a lifetime.