How and Why I Started Running

5 minute read

I was recently given a chance to tell the story of how, and why, I started running marathons, and thought it would make a great (and long-overdue) update to this personal blog.

While I played all kinds of other sports all throughout my youth, I never ran specifically as a sport. In junior high school I played basketball, softball, flag football, and soccer. High school saw me dabble in basketball and excel in football at fullback and middle-linebacker, earning team MVP freshman year and defensive MVP sophmore year. After I was expelled for smoking pot (different story, different day), I moved schools, and did not resume sports, opting to work instead, marking the end of my youth sporting life. It wasn't until my early 30s that I started doing anything resembling and active sport again, and finding my way back to fitness.

By now, you likely know that I am a software engineer. People in this profession usually end up leading a very sedentary lifestyle, and I was no exception. Since 2005, I would spend 8—10 hours a day in front of a screen, more so when I started my own company in 2008. My max weight was about 225lbs with no muscle mass. I had bad skin, high blood pressure, knee issues, low energy, and poor self-esteem.

With my weight skyrocketing and my health plummeting, I decided that I needed to do something about it around early 2011, just as I entered my 30s. I spent my 20s taking very little care of myself, and that needed to change ASAP.

I started out by walking on a treadmill desk a few hours each day while coding. I would walk a little, then sit a little, walk a little, sit a little, over and over.

Before long, I was walking at least 20mi each day (2.5mph * 8hr), started shedding the weight, and feeling healthier. My fitbit was off the chart! At some point, I felt I could take a little more strenuous activity, so I started using an elliptical at the gym a few times a week. The weight loss trend continued, and my motivation to push further increased. I started looking towards running outside.

I used a couch to 5k app which began with a lap around the block, and slowly got me to 3.1 miles. Set my sights on a 10k and slowly worked my way up to that distance, not worried at all about speed. Setting and hitting these distance goals gave me the rush of endorphins, pride, and fulfilment drove me to continue. I committed myself to training for something I never thought possible: completing a marathon.

After chatting with a runner that I randomly met in a bar, I heard about the 9+1 program offered by the New York Road Runners in which you would gain access to a paid spot in the NYC marathon if you ran nine smaller races throughout the year, and also volunteered to work at least one event. I signed up in late 2014 and started running races.

2015 came around and I ran a few 5ks, 10ks, and my first half marathon.

I hit the 9+1 very early and knew that I would have at least a full year to train for my first marathon, so I thought. After applying for the 2015 NYC Marathon lottery with low hopes of getting in, I got in! This meant I had to start training really hard to get ready. That year I really dug deep and put in the hard work to increase my distance endurance.

Race day came in November, and I miraculously finished marathon #1 in just over four hours, forever hooked on running the 26.2 mile distance of a marathon.

#1: NYC 2015 - 4:02:53

Since my distance goal was now met, I needed to find a new goal, and that was to improve my speed. I wanted to get faster and faster, and ultimately find my personal best. Using various apps and programs I found online and in books, I increased my weekly mileage, tweaked my form, learned to rest and recover, and constantly broke personal best times over the next several years.

#2: D.C. Rock ’n’ Roll 2016 - 3:34:19
#3: NYC 2016 - 3:29:50
#4: Miami 2017 - 3:27:13
#8: San Francisco 2019 - 3:21:39
#9: Berlin 2019 - 3:06:47

Ultimately, I got faster and faster in my self-guided improvements and could potentially see a sub-3 hour marathon time in my near future, but following a recommendation from a friend, decided to join the New York Harriers running club to help me get there faster. Turns out that simply joining the team and running in a team singlet got me sub-3 the very next attempt.

#10: NYC 2019 - 2:58:04

Now that I hit my speed goal or a sub-3 hour marathon, could further work with the Harriers help me continue to build upon it and continue to PR? While certainly possible to improve my times (I would pr a few times after this), I shifted my commitment to quantity instead of distance or speed. I pledged to run 100 marathons over my lifetime, and decided to document my commitment on my leg with a tattoo that has room for 100 tally marks, in 5 rows of 20.

Age 38 at the time, I figured that I would try to front load these remaining 90 marathons while my body is able to. I figured if I can get 5 or 6 marathons run in a year, I might be able to finish by the time I am 60 years old. So I began to sign up for marathons all over. Sometimes pushing for PRs, sometimes just pushing to finish.

Covid cancellations derailed my plans a little, but I completed 3 marathons in 2020…

#13: Mt. Charleston 2020 - 2:59:32

…completed 7 marathons in 2021…

#14: Gettysburg 2021 - 2:58:45
#19: Philadelphia 2021 - 2:58:59

…completed 5 marathon in 2022, including my personal best in Boston…

21: Boston 2022 - 2:54:21

…and am signed up for 5 marathons in 2023 so far. My current tally is 25!

So that's it, the short story of how and why I started running, where it has led me so far, and where I plan to go with it. I'm sure I will update here periodically as I continue to run, as along the way to completing the 100 marathons, I am also hoping to achieve the following crazy goals:

  • A marathon run in all 50 states.
  • A marathon run on all 7 continents.
  • A sub-2:50 race time.
  • An Ironman.

Stay tuned!

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