Saturday, October 29, 2011

My First Marathon: Vinny's Story

I started running in February a few years ago, after I quit smoking in late November the year before. Like a lot of people out there, I ran in high school and always thought about a marathon.  I found Team in Training and joined up not only raise some money but to keep my motivation in perspective. I figured, if I wanted to quit at any time, I could think about the people that I was raising money for and it would keep me going. I also dragged my sister, Theresa, into the meeting and she signed up for a half marathon
I joined the team for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in June. A local half marathon fell at about the halfway point of our training. Our marathon group got to train with the half-marathoners for the race.  It was a huge group (about 30 of us) running together every weekend and getting to know each other. I heard a lot of great stories and made a few friends.

Midway through the training season, the half marathoners had run their race and weren’t around anymore. At that point, it was just us full marathon runners (only about a dozen). The first time seeing that few of us was a little different for me. I was used to being surrounded by groups of people talking and being part of conversations. So, I started my run and struck up a conversation with a woman who was running about my pace. I had noticed her before and she always ran with her Mother. I didn’t know anything about her at all, but I had about 18 miles to run (my longest run at that point) and I REALLY needed someone to talk to. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said the first thing that came to mind, “So, you left your mother back there huh?” That was around mile 2. I found out through the next 16 miles of our run, her name was Nichole.

During our run we talked about different things, mostly nonsense just to keep the run and the conversation going. I found out she ran in high school, and this was her 4th full marathon. I told her about my life, how I also ran in high school, and how I had smoked for the past 13 years. I explained to her how much I loved a local cross country course. Her eyes lit up and she began to tell me all about her memories of it as well. We made plans to meet there for a practice run on our own during the week. In my high of running my first 18 miler, I totally forgot to get Nichole’s number. Thankfully, she wasn’t as winded from the run, and pulled me aside to exchange.

Midweek we met at the course, Sunken Meadow State Park. We went out again on a run, and didn’t stop talking. We only ran for about 6 miles this time, but still had the same great conversations and laughs. We continued our Saturday runs together, with the team around us, but we also met mid-week by ourselves. After our Wednesday runs, we would stop and get something to eat, to “re-fuel” but more-so to continue our conversations.

Race day finally arrived. We started the race together, running and talking as usual. Somewhere around mile 12, I started feeling it. We were moving faster than I was used to. We were talking way too much, and I was in pain. We both were feeling it. The next few miles were very quiet. I managed to make it to mile 16 before saying, “Go ahead without me, I need to stop for a minute”. I’m pretty sure Nichole knew that we wouldn’t meet up again, but I was determined.

I muscled through what I guess what my “wall” as they put it. Being the Rock-and-Roll series there were lots of people cheering and running. I found a group of Elvis runners, pushing a stroller with a boom box playing nothing but Elvis tunes. I stuck with them for a while. I have to admit, it was pretty cool, and it kept me going. Around mile 24, I did it. I caught up to Nichole. I saw her next to one of the coaches from Team and Training. She was having a very hard time. They were helping her through the end of the run. I wanted to stop and check on her, but one of the coaches assured me she was okay and started to run next to me for the next mile and a half pulling me into the end of my run. Once I crossed the finish line, I was relieved, it was over. I had officially finished a goal I had since high school. I walked around in a daze, and found a spot to sit and just plopped down. After sitting there for a few minutes, I heard my name. Nichole found me and was looking for me to congratulate me. We talked about the run and what we experienced on our 10 solo miles. Then we caught up with the rest of the team.

Later that night, we all went out for drinks and dancing and celebrating. Nichole and I broke away from the rest of the group and went to another bar. We spent the night dancing and having a great time. Some point in the night we kissed, kept dancing and enjoying each other. When we got back home, we kept up our routine of running for a few hours followed by eating and talking for a few more. Eventually we made our relationship "official."

It’s been over two years since then. We've run a few marathons together; even worked our way up to ultras and moved on to 50k, 100k, 50-mile and 100-mile races. We run a lot in the mornings together. We spend our dinners talking about our run, or how we can get our times down. We plan our vacations and long weekends around a race. We look for new local trails to run around and spend time it. We finally got into NYC this year and will be running it together.

My life completely changed because of my first marathon. I found a passion in running that keeps me going, and I found a woman that I can spend my life with who has the same passion. Running has become one of the biggest parts of my life and Nichole has become more than just my running partner, and my partner in life. She is my “sole” mate.

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