I remember as a kid my father running in fun runs and we would join him as a family to help support him, but also to run in the kids runs. It was something fun and different for us to do, and to be honest I never thought anything more of it. It was just running. It was easy for me, despite not having the best respiratory system, I could just run.

Fast Forward About 26 years later…

November 14: The Night Before

We just got to my in-laws’ house that evening after celebrating my father’s birthday with my family. I was already starting to feel a bit nervous and it was hard not thinking about the next morning. This would be my first half marathon ever, and I had no clue how I would do. All I could do is stare at my bib and think, “What did I get myself into. I haven’t been training like I should have.”

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November 15: Run Day

5:30AM – A Little Over An Hour Till Start Time
I still remember my wife waking me up telling me it’s time. Of course when she told me at 5:15 I knew I wasn’t going to spring out of bed, that’s just not me. Finally I get up off of the sofa bed, thinking how I missed my bed at home. I sure hope it would affect me today, not sleeping too well. I look at the clock and think, “In a little over an hour my run will start.”

6:20AM – It’s Time To Go!
No, not start time, we were still at the house and we hadn’t left yet. By this time I was nervous I wouldn’t make my start time. Everyone else running was doing the 5K and had a 7AM start time. I told my wife I needed to go,  and started walking the mile and a half to the start line. I got a little down the road and I realized I didn’t have my shades. I texted my wife and see if she could somehow get them to me.

6:38AM – I’m Not Going To Make It
I felt like the mile and a half was taking so much longer to walk than I would have expected. At one point I started to jog a little, but I didn’t want to start running yet, I needed to save every step of that for the actual run, but I had no choice. A volunteer on the bike passed me as I was crossing one of the major streets along the way. He looks at me and my bib and says, “You better hurry!”

6:42AM – I’m Here! I’m Here!
The National Anthem has played, the talks were over with, and everyone was pretty much just waiting for the start gun. I stretched the little bit that I could. I was trying to get my headphones properly in and stretched as much as I could before we started.

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 6:45AM – We started?
I didn’t even hear anything, I just saw the crowd moving. So I hop down onto the road, find the pace that I felt I would stay with (12:45/M), and slowly walked up towards the start line. “I can’t believe this is about to happen. Crap, I don’t have my shades”, I thought as I hear the announcer say, “See you guys in two hours and forty-five minutes!” Then my thought went to, “Crap! I’m gonna be running for almost three hours!”

6:47AM – My Shades!
It happen to be by pure luck that I turn the corner and see Erin walking towards me along the side of the runners, looking for me. I waived at her and she handed me my shades. Perfect timing I might add, because it was around that time that I started to get a little emotional.

6:48AM – Santos, Allyson and Sgt. Bearden
As soon as I got my shades and started focusing on my run, I thought about these three and the people that love and cared for them so much in their lives. I dedicated my run to these three, special human beings who lost their battle with some form of cancer. My eyes quickly became watery, and it was hard holding back the tears. Their memories, and the memories their loved ones have shared with me, would help carry me all the way through this.

6:59 – 1 Mile Down
I’m feeling pretty good. I had to slow myself down a little because I was running faster than I wanted to be at. I don’t want to take the chance at tiring myself out. “Find a happy pace!”

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7:12 – 2 Miles
I decided to try and keep myself around the 13 marker. I’m thinking “No 14. We will not see 14!” Getting to two was a breeze, no worries, steady pace. Soon after this I get a text from my wife, “Your whole family is cheering you on, love.” It made my heart expand.

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7:24AM – 3 Miles
“Had I’d been running the 5K, I’d almost be done!” Yes, my mind was already here. I can’t help it, I usually think like that, and I’m sure it doesn’t help. Then I thought, “I have ten more miles to go. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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7:37AM – 4 Miles
Still feeling good here, nothing too bad. Except for after I passed the three mile marker I had the urge to pee. I really don’t want to stop! Stopping is VERY bad for me.

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7:53AM – 5 Miles
If you look at the pic above of me seeing the fourth mile marker ahead of me, you can see two ladies, one in a lime green shirt. She was setting a pace for the lady in the gray shirt. But what she didn’t know is that she was also setting a pace for me. She kept me close to a 12:32/M which is about where I wished to be. I still felt okay at five. Not as great as I did the first few miles, but still good.

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7:53AM – My First Nike+ Cheer
And also my only one. I posted this run on my wall on Facebook, and I was hoping to get some cheers from likes and comments. But only one came through. It was my mother-in-law. I hope she realizes how much that meant to me. Thanks, momma!

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8:02AM – I Could Still Be Sleeping
I don’t know if I’m the only one who thinks about things like this, but this though happened to cross my mind at this point. 8AM, I could still be sleeping. But then I thought, “I’m ALMOST halfway there!”

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8:09AM – More Than Halfway!
I got this! I’m over the hum now! No turning back, right?

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 8:14AM – 7 Miles
I’m feeling okay. Still have to pee. Still behind my pacer. I’m thinking I’m gonna be okay in this.

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8:27AM – Leg Pain
Eight miles into it. My right leg is starting to hurt a little. This is not a good thing. Pain shouldn’t be happening this soon in my run. It hadn’t previously, so I’m a little confused where this is coming from. I also have to pee SO BAD! I see port-a-potties! I had to stop and pee. So unlike me, but I couldn’t take it anymore, it was just something more to have to worry about in my run, and I didn’t need it. To make things worse, I lost my pacer and her partner. No bueno.

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8:41AM – The Hunger Games
Mile nine and I was starving. “Dang it. Why? This hadn’t happened before. I ate a peanut butter toast in the morning, and I never eat!” Grrrr… a bit frustrating. But not as frustrating as the knee pain that started at this point as well. I still have four more miles to go and I’m in pain. I was a little deflated, but my wife’s texts kept my spirits up. So I changed my mind to think, you ONLY have four more miles to go. Let’s go.

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These signs along the way had been funny to read, so I took a pic of one, to share with you all. Whoever put them out, thank you, they kept a smile on my face. Photo Nov 15, 8 45 36 AM

8:54AM – Record Tied…… Record Broken
My previous longest run at home had been ten miles. I felt great that day, not very tired, not hurting. That was not the case today, but breaking that point helped me a little. Every step I took would be one more step breaking my previous record. Not long after the ten mile marker did I make the turn onto the long home stretch back to the high school. This was it.

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9:07AM – Run With Me, Santos
For four years, I marched along my good friend, Santos Herrera Jr. We marched mile after mile carrying the two biggest bass drums of the line. At that point, I was in the best shape of my life. Today, I talked to him and asked him to once again, run alongside me. My pace on my app weirded out a bit and not sure what it was, but I can tell you that I was NOT running a 21:32/M at that point. Maybe my friend was there with me and it was just catching both our paces together. I like to think that at least. It wasn’t too long after that mile marker that I saw the entrance to my in-laws’ subdivion. I’m close. Really close. I already walked this earlier this morning.

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9:19AM – Sweet Allyson and Sgt. Bearden
From eleven to twelve I thought of Allyson and Sgt. Bearden. Two warrior that fought so hard, and wanted to live so much. My eyes began to tear as I thought about them and their families.

Allyson is the daughter of an ex-coworker but still great friend, Pat Conner. Allyson kept a blog about her dealing with it all, and even though I’d never met her, I felt like I knew her. She had a foundation setup for her, which I think is pretty awesome, called Ally’s Wish Foundation.

Sgt. Wayne Bearden was a near and dear friend to my brother. I’d heard stories about the dedicated Georgia Bulldogs fan for quite some time. My brother only spoke great things about him and his family, and when he passed I could see the hurt in my brother.

Oh how I wished they were ALL here with me, running and about to finish this run right alongside me.

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9:32AM – 13 Miles
As I approached the thirteenth mile, I couldn’t believe that I was here. Just a little more to go. These streets, I drive them before visiting my in-laws and here I am running this. Finishing this.

The Finish
My feeling of being accomplished quickly got swallowed up by pain and tiredness. When I turned into the high school driveway I thought the finish line would be near, but see as my mileage wasn’t close to 13.1 I knew I had a little more to go. But if I could just catch a glimpse of that finish line, I know I would get strength. More curve after curve of road, and no finish line in sight. My body hurts. I’m tired. I don’t think I can make it. Yes, even after all that running and less than a tenth of a mile to go, I thought I would not make it. I’m past the starving stage, and the bottoms of my feet were hurting/burning like never before. I have to stop. I have to finish. Where is the line.

Then I hear it. The faint sound of the announcer in the near distance. There’s a turn up ahead, that must be it. I turn and there it is. The beautiful finish line. It’s right there. “Do you see this, Allyson? Do you see me, Sgt. Bearden? Are you still running with me, Santos? Because I’m seeing all you three at that finish line right now.” Tears are building up in my eyes right now. For them. As I approach the line I see a group of kids come around a corner like a heard of little deer running in a pack, running so fast. It lets me know how slow I’m running right now….. but I’m only steps away from the line right now. Doesn’t matter if my pace has dropped….. I’m about to finish this. Then I see my family, right to the right of me, cheering me on. I had pictured me blowing them all a kiss as I passed them, but I didn’t have much strength in me, except for a half smile and a half waive. But my heart smiled fully when I passed them as I was a few steps from the finish line.

And then it was done. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t pretty, but it was done. And then the pain hit me. My legs felt like they’d been stung by a thousand bees, swollen and in pain. I had to keep walking. I don’t even remember being handed the finisher medal. Everything was quiet around me for those next few minutes as I slowly walked toward a secluded section behind all the crowd. I did it. I actually did it. Then here she comes. My #1 cheerleader. The one who helped me keep my head up when I was down on myself. I could see tears in her eyes, even with her shades on. “You did it! I’m so proud of you.” I hugged her and my son.

I did it. For Allyson. For Sgt. Bearden. For Santos. I did it.

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To my family for being there to cheer me on. Even though you could have went home, you waited for me. My family over the texts, cheering me on, thank you for encouraging me.

My wife, Erin, thank you. For those of you that don’t know, my wife was supposed to run this run with me. She trained harder than I did, longer than I did. She was meant to CRUSH this run. But a week before the run, she rolled her ankle. She was disappointed to put it very lightly. She wanted to run it. She was ready. More ready than I was. But now, she was sidelined and was limited to walking the 5K with her dad and my son. But what she didn’t know, was how much of a factor she played in helping me through it. I know she hates that she missed this run, but without her and her texts, I’m not sure I could have made it without stopping. She’s already signed up for the run in February in Katy, where she WILL complete her Half Marathon. And I hope that I can be the encouragement to her as she was to me. I love you, Erin. Thank you for helping me finish.