310 lbs. is not an enormous weight if you are 7'4" tall, in the NBA and possess a killer jump hook, but when you are 5'10'' it is a different story. At 5'10" you wear a size 52 sport coat and 48x30 pants. When you travel on business you fill your seat and part of the center aisle and small children are astonished and declare (to their parent's embarrassment) exactly how enormous you are. When you have your gall bladder removed your doctor enters codes that indicate that you are morbidly obese (in case that obvious fact escapes the casual observer).
August 2003 was time for change. I was 49 ½ years old and my doctor was warning me that heart disease was around the corner. I had not exercised regularly in 10 years. It was all I could do to catch my breath after walking from the parking lot into the office. I dreamed of losing 135 lbs. within a year. The Atkins craze was in full swing, so I jumped on the bandwagon. I thought exercise was out of the question until I had lost at least 60 lbs. By Thanksgiving I met that milestone and began the strenuous task of attempting to touch my toes without bending my knees.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years, I managed to touch my toes and do 25 push ups and 25 sit ups and lost another 20 pounds. The doctor said it was time to work on cardio vascular. I moved the treadmill from the garage to the family room. It was covered with cobwebs, spider eggs and dust. It required a through cleaning before I could start a sweat producing walk at a pace of 3.5. As I blazed along at this speed, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to run again. People at work told me how great I looked after loosing the weight and how inspiring it was that I woke up at 5:00am to walk on the treadmill every morning. By mid January I had upped my pace to 4.0, and ran, or jogged, or walked really fast for the first time. A crazy thought entered my head, "Would it be possible to go from your worst physical condition to running in the Chicago Marathon in ten months?" So, the chase was on.
I celebrated the close of January by running my first continuous mile. I hooted and hollered and pumped my arms like it was the biggest accomplishment ever. Pretty foolish behavior in the winter darkness at 5:00 in the morning, at least that is what my son, Patrick, must have thought as he ascended from the basement to witness this milestone.
Suddenly, all I could talk about was losing weight and running. The running community is different than others. Runners celebrate participation at every level up to excellence. So, my meager running skills were celebrated by accomplished runners and they offered advice, assistance, support and encouragement.
When my old shoes needed replacement, Don at work (who ran the Chicago Marathon a few years earlier) sent me to the Running Depot in Crystal Lake for shoes. Pam's husband fitted me with a pair of Saucony Omni Grid 3s. And the running continued, this time with fewer blisters and less foot pain.
As winter gave way to spring my neighbor, Joe, suggested I try my first race, a 5k. Over three miles! Further than I thought I would ever be capable of running. We signed up for a run through Lake in the Hills. After 32:00 minutes I understood why the town was named Lake in the Hills. There were hills and hills and more hills surrounding a lake. My wife filmed the uphill finish and narrated, "Joe looks OK and so does Eric (my, then, 17 year old son) but I'm not sure Stan is going to make it." But, I finished the Hills 5K, the Healthbridge 5k, the Elgin Fox Trot 5K, the Rutka 5K, and by September the Crystal Lake Half-Marathon. My running guru (unbeknownst to him), Hal Higdon, coached me from his books and website. And the running continued as October 10th neared. I missed a few key runs due to a calf injury caused by bounding down my second floor stairs. (Something a 220 lb., 50 year old man should not do when marathon training!)
I did not complete the scheduled 20 mile run and the race date was coming fast. Karen the lady who owned the coffee concession at work (another experienced marathoner, she missed the Olympic team in the 80s by a few seconds) encouraged me to go to Chicago and see how far I could go, "Who knows you may finish it!" So, I listened to Karen, and showed up on race day full of anticipation.
I ran a great 18 mile race. Unfortunately, the marathon is 26.2 miles long. I was determined to finish (not to mention I was lost in Chicago), so I decided to stay the course. It was a very nice day for October so, I ran, jogged, limped, skipped, goose stepped and kept striding toward the finish line. The last mile, two of my sons, Josh and Eric, and my wife Judy came along side carrying signs to encourage me. Go Stanimal! The Chicago Police lined the last uphill leg (since it was nearing the close of the race course) and joined the chants! "Come on old timer, only 365 yards to go!"
What better year, than your 50th, to run your first Marathon? !!!!
My second Chicago Marathon will be with a group of friends in 2005.
Hmmmmm, if I learn to swim and trade in my Huffy, just maybe, I could celebrate my 53rd year with a triathlon and just maybe, my 55th year in Maui at the Iron man.
I still have a few pounds to lose to meet that original goal.