Depending on which report one reads, somewhere between one and two percent of the U.S. population has successfully completed a marathon. On October 28th, I joined this small group of people when I, along with 30,000 other runners stepped across the starting mat of the 32nd Annual Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C.
To say it was an amazing experience would be a gross understatement.
Everything from the densely packed start to the semi-isolation of the 4 mile Haines Point loop to the triumphant finish beneath the inflatable arches was in a word, remarkable. And even though I felt I was well prepared physically, I was completely overwhelmed by the intensity of the energy, adrenaline and excitement emanating from the multitudes of people, both in the race as well as along the course. Welcome shouts of encouragement and support from well wishers echoed throughout the 26.2 miles providing me and others with that little something extra when we needed it the most.
Completing this event signified the achievement of a personal goal; a goal quite frankly, I never even considered until a year ago. But more importantly, to do so in partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program represented the true significance of this accomplishment.
For the past twenty years TNT, the world's largest endurance sports training program, has provided coaching and support for people like me to cross the finish line at marathons, cycling and triathlon events. In doing so, over 340,000 participants have raised more than $800 million to help blood cancer patients live better, longer lives.
Pretty impressive numbers which have produced very impressive results.
Such as advanced treatments, in-depth research and exceptional patient services; all resulting in lower mortality rates and a better quality of life for those individuals and families affected by blood cancers.
These diseases affect 1 out of every 5 people in this country and my brother-in-law, Billy Obenchain is one of them. For the past 6 years he has battled lymphoma and it was in his honor that I signed on with TNT.
And while I understood and believed in the mission of this organization, it wasn’t until the pre-race pasta party that I came to fully comprehend the Go Team spirit of Team In Training. As my wife Beth and I arrived at the hotel with our group and began to make our way towards the large conference room which would serve as our dining area, an increasingly loud roar filled the halls. The closer we got, the louder it became until we rounded a corner to see a large crowd of smiling TNT supporters, coaches, mentors and staff, all holding signs, clanging bells and cheering for us.
It was unbelievably emotional and incredibly inspiring and as we entered the room, we listened as the din of applause continued unabated as the next group arrived. This kept on until all 667 TNT participants, along with their guests were finally seated.
As we “carbed up” and got to know one another, our first speaker was introduced and came to the podium. Runner’s World columnist and TNT spokesperson, John “The Penguin” Bingham treated the crowd to his own brand of runner’s humor combined with the Society’s never ending message of perseverance, determination and confidence in the ultimate goal; a cure.
And in a short while, he introduced Lynn Oudekerk, a woman who’s self described ordinary life abruptly changed seven years prior with a single phone call. The call was one informing her of a conclusive diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her ensuing battle took her through the rigors of both physical and emotional pain and in the process; she lost her ability to enjoy her ordinary life. But with a lot of help and support, she came out on the other side. And on this night, she stood before us as a testament to the success of the efforts of those who helped raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
When asked by some of her friends why she was running her second marathon, she replied, “Because I can and seven years ago, I could barely walk across the room.”
She concluded her talk by expressing her gratitude to those who raised money in support of the Society’s mission but as evidenced by the standing ovation she received; it was we who were grateful to her for sharing her story. And throughout the race the following day, I was equally grateful for the many TNT supporters who were quick to shout encouragement to every purple shirt clad runner who passed by.
When I finished the marathon, I was very proud to have accomplished my goal and grateful for all the help I received along the way.
My TNT coach, Mike Arrington drove 35 miles from Blacksburg every Saturday morning to meet and run with me at 5am and my family, friends and co-workers continually encouraged me, even though at times I’m sure they all thought I was nuts.
In addition, I appreciate the encouragement received from the blogging community; specifically Amy’s Running Life who always found time to offer words of support even while her youthful energy kept her running full speed while working full time, attending classes and planning her upcoming wedding.
And also Fe-Lady who continually demonstrates that being over fifty in no way means you’re over the hill. There have been many mornings during the past six months when reading her blog has helped me overcome the “I just don’t want to do this today” mentality.
I’m very grateful to you both.
But by far, my biggest supporter and asset was, and is my wife.
She stood by me during all the months of training making sure I was always well fed, properly hydrated and reasonably well rested.
She reassured me when I had doubts of my own.
She jumped on and off the Metro in D.C. so she could cheer me on at various locations along the route and she (perhaps too gleefully) dumped bags of ice into the tub afterwards so as to hasten my recovery.
Thank you Beth, I love you and I couldn’t have done this without you.
Along with this sense of pride in accomplishment is also the pride of being a member of Team In Training. It is an association I will always treasure and the true significance of Go Team! will never diminish.