The 2021 OKC Memorial (Half) Marathon

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” — Oprah Winfrey

The Backstory

In August of 2019 I weighed 260 lbs. It was the beginning of Megan’s senior year of high school and she pulled me aside one day to ask if I would run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon with her. Of course, I said yes…and we started to run.

1 mile a day 3 days a week.

I had absolutely no idea at the time that she had asked me to run with her because she was worried about my health. Only later would she confess that she had begun to fear that my weight would prevent me from meeting my grandchildren one day.

Neither of us could have anticipated the hardships of the year that was to come. So much of what she should have been able to experience in her final year of high school was denied to her.

She missed her senior prom, though we tried to make up for it.

She missed the last day of her senior year of high school; one during which she should have been able to sign year-books and cry together with friends whom she had grown-up together with.

After years of singing in the choir while other classes graduated, she was denied the chance to experience for herself what she had helped to make possible for those classes who went before her.

She missed her first day of college, along with all that could have gone along with exploring her new campus for the first time…in person…as a freshman.

My heart broke as I watched her forsake so much of what constitutes a uniquely American rite of passage. I couldn’t change that for her…

…but I could run.

So, as the pandemic raged on, so did I. She had asked me for one thing, and it was the only thing that I could control in a year that was entirely uncontrollable.

I ran.
I sweated.
I cramped.
I woke up earlier and earlier each day, because I told her that I would.

I couldn’t give her a normal senior year of high school. I couldn’t give her a normal first year of college…

…but I could keep my promise. So I did.

1 mile a day 3 days a week turned into 10 miles a day, 5 days a week.
260 pounds became 170 pounds.
10 miles a day became 12 miles a day the last 2 weeks before the half marathon.
14 miles week of the marathon.

By the time it arrived, I was here for it. More importantly, I was here for her…

…and she was there, all throughout my run that day. Cheering me on at the beginning, at the middle, and at the end, just like she had been there from the very beginning…for me.

The Training Plan

Day 1 was brutal.

On a random August afternoon, Megan and I went for a run together. We decided that we would run the track of a local park. At just over 1.3 miles, we didn’t expect it to take very long. 95 degrees and twenty minutes later, we were both just happy to be alive.

I started slowly, running one mile a day for three days each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). The runs were difficult, but I learned that by waking up early in the morning, the temperatures were bearable and the timing fit the rest of my daily schedule.

One day, a few weeks into this new training cycle, Megan asked how I would feel about changing my diet. At first glance, I was as adverse to the idea as you might expect anyone who had a regular habit of stopping for two Bacon, Egg, and Cheese breakfast biscuits and a large Dr. Pepper for second breakfast on the way to work, followed by a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese as a pre-dinner snack on the way home from work each day might be. Running was fine. Changing my diet was not.

Megan let the idea go, but I didn’t.

At 260 pounds, I was carrying more weight than my frame was made to handle; something that was confirmed with each morning run. As I was running, I began to wonder what it might feel like to carry a little less weight…to be able to run without my stomach bouncing up and down as much as had become the norm. I decided to try something as an experiment, and committed to cooking at home for a solid month…

…and in doing so, discovered a love of cooking that has become the subject of my most often read blog and social posts.

A month later, my weight had begun to fall away. I had stopped eating fast food entirely, as well as soft drinks of any kind. I began to prepare meals with lean meat and vegetables, keeping ice-cream-day on Thursdays as its been since my daughters were little. Over the course of the next year, I would lose an average of about 2 inches off of my waistline each month going from a 44 inch waist in 2019 to a 32 inch waist roughly one year later.

As my diet trimmed out my body, my runs became less taxing. I transitioned from running 1 mile each day, 3 days each week, to 1 mile each day, 5 days each week. At the end of the second month, I added an additional mile, running 2 miles each day, 5 days each week.

That plan became a pattern for me. I would run until I could make my current distance with relative ease, then add 2 miles to my run. Eventually, I would develop the following plan, which I still use today.

As an example:

Week 1
Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles
Wednesday: 2 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: 2 miles

Week 2
Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: 2 miles

Week 3
Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 2 miles

Week 4
Monday: 4 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 4 miles

The following month begins where the last month left off, working toward adding the next two miles before the end of the month. This month (Oct 2021), my plan looks like this:

Week 1
Monday: 12 miles
Tuesday: 12 miles
Wednesday: 12 miles
Thursday: 12 miles
Friday: 12 miles

Week 2
Monday: 12 miles
Tuesday:1 2 miles
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 12 miles
Friday: 12 miles

Week 3
Monday: 12 miles
Tuesday: 14 miles
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 14 miles
Friday: 12 miles

Week 4
Monday: 14 miles
Tuesday: 14 miles
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 14 miles
Friday: 14 miles

The day of the race was an amazing experience. I am so glad that my first (half) marathon was here in OKC…in MY city. I have to admit, the moment of silence followed by an early morning run through downtown after two years of preparation and training was a little emotional for me. As it stands now, I’m training to run in my first full marathon at the end of April…right here in OKC.

I’ll keep you posted.

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