One of the very important functions of this blog is to provide current info on my training and my fundraising. But to start, I have to explain how I got to this point of insanely wanting to run 26.3 miles. I can barely drive 26.3 miles without stopping, much less run the whole way.
Many of you who have known me a while, going back years, will have seen me at various weights at various times in my life. I have rarely been in the kind of shape that one normally associates with endurance running. I have been thinner at times — right out of high school, beginning college and during law school — and have been not as thinner other times, and not exercising much at all.
But during all those times, for some reason I’ve had a desire to run. When I have been a more traditional weight, the major exercising I have done is jogging and running. It’s always been the best way for me to get exercise and control what I eat. I haven’t always kept up with it, and have started and stopped and started running again several times over the years, but I always came back to it. Several times I got to where I could run 4 or so miles. I even did a 5k race in 2001. Also, I’ve always had an idea that I would eventually run a marathon. Not sure why — I suppose I figured it was the most logical extension of a desire to run.
When I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, one of the things I thought of doing was completing a marathon. And, quite ironically, I signed up to train with Team in Training — to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This was in 1999, over two years before I would be diagnosed with it. I stopped training after just a couple of weeks, because I got took a position with heavy travel, and thought that it would be difficult to start a new job that entailed a lot of training and train for the marathon. Funny how life works out.
More about how I got to this point to run a marathon in the next post on this topic.
More on the history of how I talked myself, or rather, let myself be talked, into running a marathon….
After finishing treatment in the summer of 2001, I was still on low dose chemotherapy and was still tired, roughly at about 75% of normal. I began volunteering for a Team in Training program, but as an honored patient, not as a participant.
I’ve thought of running a marathon with TNT for several seasons in the past couple of years as I got back to 100% health. I had really considered, told a few people, made a few plans. But I never could do it. I never thought I could finish it, with my travel commitments for work (I still have the same position, now as a manager, but with similar travel). Plus, I never thought I could finish mentally. What was holding me back was more a bit of confidence that I could complete it. Now, I have seen people of all shapes, sizes and abilities train over the years in TNT programs, and almost all finished their marathon. But that was others, not me. Yet another irony — some people when they go through a terrible life-threatening disease have a new appreciation for life, and attempt all sorts of things they never attempted before. For me, though, it didn’t work out that way.
I have other posts which go into detail about the reasons why I’m doing a marathon, from the perspective of the 5th year anniversary, the people I admire, and the need to raise funds. But from a purely athletic perspective, the reason I know I can do this now is a co-worker at AIG, Rene McGillicuddy.
Rene is another consultant from another division in AIG who I’ve known for years. She also has faced a similar health challenge that she’s overcome. After, she began running triathlons, having completed a few sprint distance triathlons. We were talking about her athletic experiences, and I mentioned my desire to eventually train and finish a marathon. She immediately told me I could, and encouraged me. Not just verbal — she has begun running with me after work, pushing me to run farther. Our runs on Marina Green towards the Golden Gate Bridge on afternoons are a great treat.
Since we began running last fall, I have gone from just being able to run a few minutes without stopping, to, as of last Saturday, January 20, I ran five miles. I have never run five miles in my life, but it seemed easy, the right thing to do. In a casual conversation recently Rene, without thinking about it, said “Gregg, you’re pretty athletic, and ….” I don’t recall the remainder of the sentence or the point. But I was honored to think someone would consider me something of an “athlete.” But that’s what you call someone who runs five miles, right?
I have thoroughly enjoyed running with Rene, and now feel fantastic when I run, just incredible. I now know that finishing a marathon is quite doable, and it will be done, even if at my own slow pace. There will be lots of people who will help me finish the marathon, but I can say that it was Rene who first got me to really understand I can run, and got me to understand the fantastic way you feel when you run.
On Saturday the 27th we had the official start of the training season for Team in Training. It’s called the kickoff, and over 500 people who are training for, or coaching, all of the sports TNT has for this season gets together and gets energized for the cause.
In the main program, Carol, the head of the Silicon Valley TNT program, starts off the program talking about how the funds raised will be used. She said there are specific research programs at Stanford that are funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (L&LS). Nice to know that funds go directly to research done right here.
Then we heard a keynote speaker, an honoree who tells her story. I’ve done these in years past, and know what an honor they are to do, and how powerful it is to tell people of your story. Remember, while I have been around TNT for many seasons, most of the people participating have no connection to blood cancers, and may never have heard some of these stories. The training programs are so good, that many people sign up and participate just for the opportunity to complete an endurance event. So this kickoff speech is huge motivator.
Carol was a terrific person to accomplish this. In her story, she said she’s unusual, in that she was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia, but had never progressed to the point of needing treatment. So she’s been an honoree and a participant, having walked a marathon, rode a century bicycle race, AND completed a sprint distance triathlon. And you’d never ever guess all that from looking at her. She looks like the very friendly lady in front of you at Safeway.
However, she’s begun to have symptoms, and likely will need to start going through treatment. So she made a tremendous appeal for further research to assist in her recovery. Even more devastating, she mentioned some other honorees who are beginning to lose their battle – one is in Stanford right now, fighting a fungal infection in her lungs. Carol did a tremendous job and was very inspirational. My thoughts are with you through your treatment, Carol…..
Then we broke into specific rooms for our own groups and specific teams. I’m part of the North Peninsula Run Team, which trains for running a marathon in locations just south of San Francisco on the “peninsula.” There we were introduced to the program, our coaches and other volunteer assistants, and the training program.
It’s kinda daunting. We will slowly build up mileage each week as a group on our long runs on Saturdays, up to a height of 20 miles a couple weeks before the marathon. That will be the highest before the actual marathon (26.3 miles – apparently not running the whole thing is fine). There are lots of parts to the program, but it includes weekly runs and coached track workouts, with lots of clinics and other information about completing the program. I know I can do it, since I’ve seen people in worse shape than I am start and complete a marathon. BUT ME????
But the big motivating thing about the kickoff was not me and my program, but once again being an honoree. An honoree is a patient who works with the team and introduces those who don’t have a connection to one of the blood cancers to the disease and the recovery. That’s what this program is all about. And as I’ve said earlier, this will be a unique (for me) opportunity to be a participant/honoree. I think I’ll be able to make an even more unique impact on the participants, going through what they are going through while introducing them to what I went through. These kickoff programs are motivating for me in normal years; I am REALLY REALLY looking forward to this season.
And so it begins! Yikes!!
One of the things I want to do in this blog is to let you in on some of the events of training — not just blogging, but providing pictures. I bought a new camera before Christmas just for this — one that is water resistant and shock proof. (A 7 megapixel Olympus Stylus 710 All Weather, if you must know.) The idea will be to take the camera with me on runs and to other events. And I’ve already started — the pictures from the Marina with my running partner Rene were taken with it, as were the pics from the Kick-off.
So I also wanted to share with you the other great place I’ve been running to get ready for the season. I’ve been running along the Great Highway in San Francisco along Ocean Beach. It’s a really quick drive from me where I live in the West Portal neighborhood. I park right where Sloat Boulevard ends at Great Highway, and start running north to there up to Golden Gate Park. It’s a beautiful location to sweat and become oxygen deprived.
Here’s the Ocean Beach area, and here’s some views of the beach from that area.
Here are some views running north along the trail. You’ll see at various times you can see the surf, and at times you can.
I started just walking a part, then run walking, and then running the whole way to Golden Gate Park. If you know the park, one of the landmarks on the western side is the windmill. That’s my turnaround spot. It’s 2 1/2 miles, so there and back is five.
And this is a view of the run going back south. Once again, you can see the ocean at times; the rest you see the beautiful colorful ice plants.
It’s a great run. And it has a lot of meaning to me. I had never run 5 miles complete. The first time I did was the weekend before the kickoff. I had built up to it, and felt ready for the upcoming marathon training season.
Now, I ran it v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, but I did run it. The first time I would do walk breaks one every nine minutes. But I cut back the second time, after I had run that amount previously.
I know it sounds crazy, but I didn’t choose to have, and survive, leukemia. I dealt with what I was given. This, however, something very foreign to me (me? an athlete?) is something I’m CHOOSING to do. To choose to do this and succeed is very very empowering.
Published February 8th, 2007
So the first weekend of the training season was the Saturday after kickoff, held on the Stanford University campus. (Irony alert — I start treatment for leukemia on the Stanford campus; I start training for a marathon for leukemia research on the Stanford campus. Yikes.)
This first major workout had a lot of introductory information, particularly for a novice runner like me — learning about stretching, etc. After a quick warm-up run, the head coach of the team, Doug, started by showing us some stretches. Amazing I can take a picture while stretching!
Then, we divided ourselves into three groups — those who were fairly accomplished runners, those who could comfortably run about four miles or so, and novice runners. I had done 4-5 miles, but just a few times, so I couldn’t call myself a competent runner yet. So I was in the novice crowd.
In the newbie group, we had a talk by two other coaches, who talked about beginning running issues. But at length they discussed doing a marathon in a run-walk fashion. They said that many runners, not just novices, do a run-walk pattern. It gives the body a chance to recover. Fairly accomplished runners are using this method to cut time off their marathons. I had been planning to use that method, since running the whole way for 26.2 miles sounds like just insanity.
So, after that, we did run around the campus. I ran with a group who were doing running six minutes and walking two. We did this for about 2 1/2, 3 miles. It was great to be able to meet more of the other runners. Amazing how many remembered me from speaking at the information meetings.
I had been doing 4 – 5 miles or so, so after run/walking 2 1/2 I felt fine and wanted to do more.
But, I do know there will be lots lots more. Within a couple of months, I’ll be doing 15-20 miles, longer than I want to be in a car without stopping, much less running. So, I’ll be patient, and go slow….
More info as the season progresses.