i’ve always wanted to run a marathon. even when i was fat, and i hated running or exercising or doing anything other than eating at chili’s. in fact, i remember when i was in college and i went on a hunting trip with my soon to be father-in-law and brother-in-law. we had just gone night hunting (or nunting as i called it), and we were eating at, you guessed it, chili’s. i don’t know how the topic came up (probably kemp asking what our hopes and dreams were) and i announced that i was going to train for a marathon. they were super impressed (which is probably why i said it in the first place) and then i ordered an old timer with cheese and bacon.
needless to say, it would be at least 5 more years until i actually decided to run a marathon.
in may of last year, the registration opened up for the Houston Marathon. seeing as i will never time qualify for anything (more on that in a later post), i had to sign up for the lottery and wait and see if i would get in. i figured, if i got in, i would run it, and if i didn’t i wouldn’t – but i could build up my denials so that in three years i would be guaranteed entry. surely by then i would look like this, and running wouldn’t be a problem, right?
well, as luck would have it, or some cruel twist of fate, i ‘won’ the lottery and was able to register for the 2014 houston marathon. hope was totally against it. she knew i wouldn’t train. she was sure i would hurt myself. but, she said her piece about it and then supported whatever decision i would make.
knowing my previous history of training really hard for an event way in advance and then completely not training at all in the month or so leading up to it, i signed up for houston fit – a runner’s group that trained together for the marathon. sure, it was expensive, but the program seemed pretty legit. weekday runs were pretty short – the longest ones were just 45 minutes. and every saturday, there was a long run, but you ran with the group so there was the added support of having people with you. it was a win-win, right?
well, to make a short story even longer, i never really trained for the marathon. when it was all said and done, the furthest i had run was 15.5 miles. and that was really, really hard. hope was pretty mad at me, because what she predicted came true – i didn’t train at all. but i was determined to cross a marathon off my list, so i decided to run it anyways.
the marathon was equal parts amazing and horrible. it was well organized, and i felt really great during the first 7 miles. i didn’t stop once (which never happens), so i was pretty excited about my prospects for the rest of the race. when the half marathon peeps broke off from the full marathon runners, that’s when i saw the first cheerleader that i knew. it was a good friend of mine, susanne, who is a runner too (albeit an actual runner who qualifies for the boston marathon and crazy stuff like that). seeing people i knew helped boost my energy and adrenaline, and was one of my favorite parts of running the marathon.
right before the half marathon point i saw hope. she had a great sign, and she ran a little bit with me. my foot was killing me and i was starting to really worry about the rest of the race, but seeing her made me forget all of that. i kept run/walking, but at this point i was still running more than i was walking.
at around mile 15 is when i saw my family. my entire family. it was a beautiful sight. of course, in classic pereira fashion, they were the most obnoxious spectators, and made a huge spectacle of me running by. my sister, melanie, even had some of her friends come with her. scott (my brother-in-law), audrey (my niece), melanie and hope (yep – she was there for a second time!) ran with me for a little bit.
after i parted ways with my family, everything went downhill. runner’s talk of the wall – the part of a marathon where it feels like you mentally and physically hit a wall and cannot run anymore. everything i read said it was at mile 18, so when i passed it i thought i lucked out and didn’t have to deal with that.
then came mile 20. when i saw that sign, i sat down on the side of the road and started crying. i was in so much pain. fatter, older and less physically-whole people were running by me with smiles on their faces. how were they doing so much better than me?
every bone in my body wanted to give up. but an intense war was going on in my head. on one side, i seriously doubted that i could run 6.2 more miles. on the other side, if i quit now, i would have to run another complete marathon so that i could prove to myself that i could do it. so i could either suck it up and finish, and never have to run one again, or i could quit and have to run the next year. so i slowly climbed on my feet, and kept running.
at mile 24, my sister, mariana, and her entire family were there again. they were there at mile 15, but they decided to go further down to support me once more. i can’t tell you how much that meant to me. it made the last 2.2 miles a little more bearable. once again, scott and audrey ran with me for a little bit, giving me encouragement the entire time.
then, all of a sudden, i was back downtown. i had less than half a mile to go. i tried running the whole half mile, but it’s like my brain would shut off every couple of steps and my body would be forced to walk. there at the finish line were hope and her brother kemp. kemp ran along the sidelines with me, and i crossed the finish line 5 hours 35 minutes and 58 seconds after i started. i had done it – i was a marathoner. part of the 1% of the population that has run a marathon. and i swore i would never, ever do one again.
but in all honesty, it was a fantastic event. it was as if the course was designed with my life in mind – it went through so many places that are important to me:
- downtown, where so many runs that i have run before have started
- a former client’s apartment, who taught me how to correctly (and incorrectly) interact with clients and large accounts
- my first apartment by myself, which then became the first place i lived as a married man
- the first house my wife and i lived in, in west u
- the game stop i stood outside of, talking on the phone with my friend robert, three days before my wedding
- the middle school at which i taught 6th grade math for 2 years
- my sister’s town home
- my dad’s office
- my wife’s grandparent’s assisted living complex
running provides you with a lot of time to think. during the marathon, i had a lot of thoughts. mostly i thought about how far i have come – i used to be a completely different person. but i think, for the first time, i am closer to the man that God created me to be. and that is a really cool feeling. the marathon provided me with the opportunity to physically travel my history, and for that reason alone, i am so glad i ran it.