This time of year is often set aside to reflect on those things we are most thankful for, and while I would hope we do this all year long, I thought I would take a minute to express the things I am most thankful for, here publicly.
First and Foremost, I am incredibly thankful for the love and support of my beautiful and amazing wife Dione. She has been my rock for 23 years and I love her more than life itself. As I transitioned from 250 pound couch potato to gym rat to runner she supported me in every way possible. Immediately after completing my first half marathon in October of 2011 she was there, at the finish line, with a hug and the statement "I love you. I am so f**king proud of you." and that is a tradition she continues 22 half marathons, 10 marathons, and 3 ultramarathons later. Even when I ran destination marathons that she was unable to be there for, upon finishing and calling her, the first words she said were "I love you. I am so f**king proud of you." As I train to run faster and faster, with the goal of one day running the Boston Marathon, I draw upon those finish line hugs for strength knowing that one day she will stand on Boylston Street with the words "I love you. I am so f**king proud of you." after I cross the greatest finish line of all.
I am thankful for my children. I have three amazing children. I have ridden 3 rides and run 1 half marathon with my oldest and countless 5Ks with my youngest. The middle child hasn't shown an interest in the athletics herself but she's always been very supportive and proud of her running Daddy. I want to inspire my children to know that no matter what it is they want to accomplish in life, it is possible with hard work and determination. I hope that as they've watched me transition from the old out of shape me to a runner, that they've seen that I accomplished the goals I set for myself, because I wanted them bad enough to get up at 3:00 AM for a long run or to get back out there after an injury or by doing the really hard work that is found within speedwork and hillwork.
A "What I am thankful for" blog would not be complete with a bow to my friend Abel Berry, who in December of 2010 challenged me to come to the gym with him and workout 3 or 4 days per week. Upon accepting that challenge he was at the gym with me for almost 9 months busting my ass on the weights and the machines as we watched pound after pound shed. I became stronger. More in shape. Healthier. And even happier. And with that newly found fitness I had the courage to sign up in June of 2011 to run a half marathon in Dallas with TEAM in Training to raise money in memory of my nephew Mavrick whom we'd just lost to blood cancer. And with that decision a runner was born who actually ran a full marathon that season with TEAM in Training in Dallas. I am grateful that Abel's accomplishment in transforming me gave him the courage to go on and become a certified personal trainer and use his ability to motivate and his knowledge of the "gym" to help others.
And I am thankful for Running. Not just for what it does for me physically, mentally, and emotionally but more for who has it brought in to my life. I have become friends with some of the most amazing people in the world through running. The TEAM in Training program introduced me to some of the absolute most selfless people I've known through my long 50 years. Jessica Watkins, an assistant coach my first season, ran every single step of a cold, rainy, miserable 5 hours and 32 minutes, marathon with me in Dallas. David and Meg Burdette, season after season, are out there coaching all levels of runners to complete their first or their fifth event. Dianna Bacon, TEAM in Training's number one cheerleader and hardest working volunteer. I have found new inspirations in my life in people like Rhonda Foulds, a rock of daily inspiration in my life, who has run more half marathons and full marathons since recovering from a stroke and with Parkinson's Disease than most of us will ever run in our life. Or in Kelly Thomas, mother of a child with blood cancer and breast cancer patient herself, fundraised and trained with TEAM to complete a half marathon and then went on to establish a charity outreach program (Love is Louder Than Cancer) to directly assist and aid families with cancer. I have seen people turn disappointment into triumph from one marathon to the next, like friend and fellow RunJunkEe Sponsored Athlete, Mike Peragine who completed the Chicago Marathon with a BQ time of 2:59 after he disappointed himself 6 months earlier in Pittsburgh. For all that running has done for me physically and for all that I've personally accomplished I am far more thankful for the people it has brought into my life. For it is those people... their courage, their selflessness, their drive and motivation, their kind hearts and support of each other that drive me daily to continue on no matter how bad the suck may be. I have found the Magic in the Misery. In each of you. And for that I am truly thankful.