I can still remember back before I was nine years old, day dreaming about running a marathon. Everyone would be so proud of me and I would feel so good. That was just the child in me talking about a long dream.
Running was not something I enjoyed while going through school and college, even though we ran in gym class each week. It wasn't until the age of 35 that my son and some of my friends ran together for about a year. We never went more than eight miles. Softball and other family activities soon took front stage and so my running stopped.
In 1996 we lost the son that had run with me when I was 35. His brother started to run in 2000. He had this crazy idea that he was going to run the St. George Marathon in the fall. Since my in-laws live in St. George, my wife and I stayed with them and went to see Jeff finish his first marathon the next morning. Jeff had stayed with his friends the night before. As I saw Jeff running down the road to the finish line, something very interesting happened to me. I had the notion that maybe I could live my dream and run a marathon. Jeff stopped by for a hug before going over the finish line. I had tears streaming down my face. Wouldn't his brother be proud?
The next week I purchased a pair of running shoes at the age of 54 and off I went with a goal in mind. Utah has cold winters and training was a little difficult. I ran my first 10K in March 2001. I was almost last, but my wife was waiting at the finish line with a big kiss, which made it a worthwhile adventure. I also ran two half marathons and another 10K before the marathon, trying to get used to running with others.
My brother-in-law was going to run the St. George Marathon with me. He had run it several times before. Jeff had purchased a new business and was unable to run the marathon with us.
Like most first timers, I had a hard time sleeping the night before the marathon. We had to get up at 3:30 A.M. to get to the race on time. We rode the bus to the top of the course where it was cold.
There were bon fires to take away some of the cold. The excitement of the race, all of the runners, and the music that was playing reminded you why you were there. You have to remember that in October of 2001 there was some concern about being in large groups. We experienced on September 11th that we are not always safe. When the National Anthem was played our thoughts were to those who had died in the twin towers. Many runners were wearing or carrying reminders of that day (one runner carried a flag the whole way). What a special feeling we all had and we had special thanks for the fire and police officers that helped in the search and rescue.
I was able to keep up with my brother-in-law until mile three and then it was, "see you at the finish line". He was gone.
The course had some gradual uphill and some pretty good down hill for the first several miles. At mile eight I knew what runners were talking about when they say they hit the wall. It wasn't that I was tried, but up ahead was Veyo Mountain. There was one mile of major up hill. It took a lot of effort to get to the top. Fortunately, I had a friend at the top waiting for me with a drink of flat Mt. Dew. I drank it and was on my way.
About a month before the race I had a dream that I was running around a curve in the road that was fairly flat. My wife and I drove the St. George Marathon route a couple of weeks before the race and at mile 14 there was the road and curve I had seen in my dream. I knew I would make it to at least that point. During the race as I rounded that corner I had a big smile on my face. I was living my dream.
The rest of the race was down hill with a couple of ups. At mile 19-20 I did hit the real wall. I had cramps and was thinking I cannot do this. I stopped and stretched on a guardrail. I said a silent prayer. I did not want to train all year and get this far just to quit. All of a sudden I felt my deceased son's presence. I could hear him saying, "Remember when we ran together when you were 35. Let's get going dad. It is only 6.2 more miles."
The rest is history. I was like a piece of wrinkled bacon when I crossed the finish line, but I did finish. I wanted to break 5:00. My time was 5:04. I had to tell my wife the experiences I had on the course to explain the tears that were running down my face and the joy of our accomplishment.
Since that day I have run over 60 races, including two more St. George Marathons. Each one of them has brought me special experiences. I saw a saying lately. It says, "If you want to run, run a mile. If you want an Experience run a marathon." My wife has been running shorter races with me and so the experiences continue. Always save some treats at the end of the race, because I might be finishing the race slowly and I will be hungry.
Gary Turpin 2001