A bit more than 25 years ago a man named Bruce Cleland's daughter Georgia was diagnosed with leukemia so he and a few of his friends signed up to run the New York Marathon while raising money to benefit leukemia research. And that evolved into the program known as TEAM in Training that has raised millions of dollars to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while training and enabling thousands of people to become endurance athletes and complete marathons, triathlons, hikes, and century bike rides. Once when asked about the program, Bruce said "In the beginning it was all about fundraising." And so it was for my journey from a 40 something couch potato to runner.
On June 11th, 2011 my daughter Krystal and I got lost trying to get home from downtown. We drove by Children's Medical Center of Dallas, which is where my nephew Mavrick lie losing his battle to blood cancer. We stopped to visit and there we visited with a boy who, unknown to us at the time, had less than 12 hours left on this earth. The next day, June 12th, 2011 Mavrick's battle ended.
The week before, my friend Bea McKnight had completed the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon in honor of Mavrick after successfully raising over $5,000 with TEAM in Training to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. So, Monday, I called her and suggested we complete a season to run the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon with TEAM in Training in Mavrick's Memory. And two weeks later, June 27th, I put on an old pair of "tennie shoes", a pair of shorts, and a cotton t-shirt and headed out the door to run for the first time since having left the Air Force twenty years before. I had only one goal on that first run: Get to the railroad tracks, turn around, and come home. Oh and between here and there was a hill that goes up at a 5% grade for close to a quarter of a mile that even today I run every single time I leave my house as it's the only way out of my 'hood. 30 minutes later I was back at my house. Sweating. Out of breath. And pretty sure I was going to die after running that far. I had no idea how far the tracks even were from home yet. But I knew, that however far that was, that I'd run that far tomorrow and that eventually, in Mavrick's Memory, I'd run 13.1 miles through the streets of Dallas. The next morning I drove to the tracks and back and found I'd run all of .9 mile there and .9 mile back. Less than two miles. And that damned hill on Summit.
About 4 weeks later I attended my first TEAM in Training meeting with Coaches David and Meg Burdette and was a bit ahead of the training schedule as I had progressed to running out to 4 miles. I had also learned a few things through the internet: Cotton is bad and shoes should be fitted by someone who knows how. Running in clothes that wick and shoes that fit and support correctly for my pronation wasn't nearly as hard as that first week of running to the tracks and back.
The 4th week of training I ran into Meg at Run On! and she said that her and David wondered why I hadn't signed up to train for the full marathon since I was already so far ahead of the half schedule. I told her it was crazy to run 26.2 miles and I wasn't even doing this because I wanted to run as much as to use it as an excuse to ask people to donate money to the LLS in Mavrick's Memory and as I had more than doubled my fundraising commitment I felt like completing the half was enough. But, then, on the way home I had a moment of clarity and in that moment I realized that I actually loved running and training for a full was completely achievable. If I was going to run White Rock it might as well be the full. So, I emailed her and David that evening to tell them it would be the full for me.
I ran my first 5K race in September of 2011, my first 10K in October, my first half marathon in October, and culminated that season as a marathoner on December 4th, exactly 20 weeks after that first slow painful climb up the hill on Summit to the railroad track and home. And I was hooked. Totally. I was a runner.
But, in the beginning? It was all about fundraising. As it is even now.
You can help me by donating to my campaign to raise funds while I train to run the Marine Corps Marathon.
This is Mavrick Andrew Veal. The young man who started it all.
Fellow RunJunkEes™ Sponsored Athlete Megan Caton posted an amazing blog today, which can and should be read here, in which she talks about the struggle she faces some days to get out the door and just run. In that blog she challenged, the people who are out there running for what seems like forever, "to tell us, the ones who are in park or idling in neutral, is there ANYTHING that will help us to find our drive? Is there anything that we
can do to hijack our lives back and push us forward? Are there tricks we can do to help us along? "
As a RunJunkEes™ Sponsored Athlete I promised, after reading the article, to answer the challenge.
As many of you know I began running on June 27th, 2011 - not that long ago really and in less than 3 years have completed 20 half marathons, 10 marathons, and 2 ultra (50K) marathons. I have run many training runs of 16, 18, and 20 miles and even run 34 miles in a day around around a 3.1 mile loop. I love to run. I love chasing the elusive runner's high, which should never be confused with the simple endorphin rush that we experience when exercising, day in and day out. I would rather be running than working out in the gym, spinning, or road cycling. Yet, there are those days, when I get up, get dressed, and then doink about the house trying to just get out of the house to push the start button on the Garmin. But, much more often than not, the button is pushed, the feet move, and 6 or 7 miles later I've completed the run I dreaded and I feel amazing for doing so. What drives me each and every time?
I hate to let myself down. I can, quite honestly, handle rejection from others but then that's not even likely to happen as runners are all incredibly supportive and rather than tearing another down for being unmotivated seek to help that person find his motivation while offering virtual hugs. I know, that whether or not I run, my wife and children will love me. I know that I can raise money for the causes important to me without ever running again. I know that if I never post another run to DailyMile or Facebook that it will matter very little to anyone. Except me. And I hate to let myself down.
Don't get me wrong, there are days I'm just too tired and I've learned to listen to my body and rest those days. But on those days where physically I am capable but mentally blocking I tell myself: Six miles. For you. Nobody but you. Remember how amazing you felt yesterday? Half mile of suck, 4 or 5 minutes, less time than you've spent arguing with yourself over it. And I'm out the door, the Garmin button is pushed, and every single time a half mile or less of suck later I'm feeling it... and the miles roll by... and I feel amazing. And I commit that feeling to memory, intentionally commit that feeling to memory, for the next time I need to to get myself out the door.
Sounds simple, right? Not always, but for me it has always worked. I hate to let myself down because I am worth much more than that to me. Most days I run to train to run races to raise funds and awareness for people with blood cancers, but there are those days I need to run for nobody else but me. Because to quote an amazing friend, Michelle Tomlinson, I Am Worth It. And so are you.