639 Who knew a run could
change your life?
By Brian S. McRobert
I needed to get away, and my cousin Royston had just moved to London,
England. I decided to book a last-minute flight to London for four days.
Just before I left for London, the Boston marathon took place and the lives of
thousands were changed in an instant. The bombings that happened that day
were all over the news, and I, along with millions of others, followed the story on
television, in newspapers, online, and through videos. This affected so many
people, just a little over a decade after the September 11th bombings. The FBI
had suspects in the bombings and you likely know how the events unfolded.
Millions watched on TV as the manhunt for the bombers began.
A few days later I left for London and arrived as the police were closing in on the
suspects. Because this unfolded during the night, it was morning in London
while I watched the drama, which was easy because there was blanket coverage
on all the news networks.
After seeing how the events and subsequent capture affected so many people, I
really started to think. The London Marathon was taking place the weekend I
was there, and I noticed an older gentleman on the Tube (subway) who had
clearly just finished the marathon. And although I never really had any interest in
running, it was just after that moment that I looked at my cousin Royston and
said, “I’m going to run a marathon.”
Now, you need to understand where I was in April of 2013. I was in a very
challenging place in my life, drinking a lot, and just very confused with life
altogether. But I had been training very hard with weights for about year prior to
that and was in okay shape. Let me clarify what I mean by okay: I had 25 to 30
pounds of fat that shouldn’t have been there so my condition wasn’t exactly that
of some Greek god by any stretch of the imagination.
July 1, 2013
This was the day I started my training to run a marathon. Please note that I have
never run in anything in my life, so, running and me, well, let’s just say we didn’t
know one another at all.
I got a training sheet from my friend Joe. He aggreed to run the marathon with
me, as he has done this type of thing before. We decided that the Hamilton race
would be our target given the amount of time we had. The race was taking place
on November 3, 2013.
Joe, an experienced runner– was acting coach, told me to follow one of his old
training schedules. And I did... by running six days a week! It was only later that I
found out the schedule was for an experienced runner who wanted to keep their
race times ridiculously low. Later, Joe thought it might be a better idea to run the
Toronto Marathon, which was on October 20, two weeks before the Hamilton
race. That meant two less weeks less for training. But I said okay and continued
the best I could.
The weight started to drop off and the distance I was able to run was fantastic.
What I learned is that on a run, you can just climb into your mind and stay there
until you’re finished. I also learned that if you choose a problem in your life and
ask yourself a question before you leave for the run, you can work that problem
out during the run. And boy, does it change your life. You gain such clarity about
so many of life’s challenges. I also listened to audio books, figuring I could
become more knowledgeable as I went along. My first book? “Born to Run.”
Then Joe broke the news that he hadn’t been training enough so he wouldn’t be
joining me on the course in Toronto. Now I was on my own! But I kept going–
even though I didn’t feel like it every morning. Something inside me kept
nagging, and it was easier to get up and start running than listening to the chatter
in my mind. If you set a goal and have something to shoot for, just stick to the
plan and you shall be successful. I’m not talking about the success of reaching
your goal; I’m talking about the person you become as you work toward your
goal. That’s the real diamond.
Which brings me to my WHY. Why did I decide to attempt something so out of
whack and something I had no interest in ever doing in the past? My Why was to
change my life. It was about the person I would become during this training
phase. It truly was about the journey.
Well, two weeks before the run I had major knee pain. It was inflammation in the
joints from overworking them. With five days to go until the run, I went for a
short jog and felt pain in my medial collateral ligament area. I then drove to The
Running Room to get advice as I was very upset, scared, worried and confused. I
went there to ask for help and to see if they had anything I could use to ease the
pain. I was told initially that if my knee was that sore from a short run I likely
shouldn’t even consider running a marathon – it’s 42.2 kilometres!
I felt so defeated and sad I almost broke out in tears. All I could think about was
how hard I had trained for this and that I may have to pull out. I had already told
people I was running it, and I felt so down. The staff (Kelly and Al, who were
amazing to me) advised me to see a specialist. With five days to go until the run,
it was a long shot, but I still had hope.
I went to see a chiropractor and he assured me that there was no damage to the
ligament and that I could give the marathon a try. I would just have to work
through the pain.
October 19, 2013
I was trying to convince myself that if I pulled out it would be okay, that I had an
excuse and that everyone would understand. But in the evening of October 19th
I made up my mind that I was running this and that nothing was going to stop me.
I found a quote in a book called “Mind Gym” that connected with me on so
many levels. The quote was of Muhammad Ali, who said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now
and live the rest of your life as a champion.” I wrote this quote in black marker
on my arm, so that anytime during the run I could look at it and it would keep
October 20, 2013: Marathon Day
I got up quite early and sat overlooking Lake Ontario drinking a coffee and
getting my mind focused. And focused is what I got. For whatever reason, a
reason I can’t explain, something clicked in my head. Something pulled me
together and said, you can do this, you WILL do this.
I got to my starting position and began my run with 25,000 other people.
At the four-kilometre mark I felt a twinge of pain in my knee but I ignored it.
This sounds strange, like, how can one just ignore the pain? But I did, and
I learned at that moment that I could change my mindset and control MY MIND.
It is, after all, my mind, so I’m in control of how it thinks. This is something I
have learned throughout this process. The mind is very controllable. And when
you get this, you realize you really can think any way you want.
Around the twenty-kilometre mark the pain started to creep in even more. It was
always there, however, now it was getting worse. I chose at that moment that
I would not stop and that this was not an option, so off I went, and worked
through the pain.
The other magic that day was the people on the sidelines who were cheering
everyone on and helping them keep going. Signs were erected, some funny, some
for family, but they all had the same message: don’t give up, you can do this.
With fourteen kilometres to go, my knees were in excruciating pain but never did
my mind revert to quitting. It stayed focused and in the game. Truly in the game.
As I ran into the downtown area, I could see the CN Tower and hear people
yelling “Only two kilometres to go!” I looked above to the sky, between towering
buildings, and saw that the sun was shining in the blue sky with just a hint of
clouds... and I started to tear up. I thanked my granny and grandpa who were
looking down on me and felt something I had never felt in my life: I was going
to make this. The feeling of joy and accomplishment hugged my body and soul.
I do not have the words to express it.
I rounded Bay Street and saw the 400-metre mark. As I got closer, I could see the
200-metre mark and beyond it, the 100-metre mark. At the 200-metre mark
I decided to sprint as fast as I could and I crossed the finish line in a sprint.
Where I got that energy I will never know, but it was there.
I did it. I ran a marathon. A full 42.2 kilometres. I went through so many
emotions and that’s what made it a true journey.
My life would, from that day forward, never be the same. I am a changed person.
When you accomplish something like this, it changes you, it changes your soul,
and it changes your DNA. You ARE a new person.
I truly believe in my heart that I can achieve anything (and I mean anything)
Although this was the toughest thing I have ever done, it was what I needed to
change my life and it was worth every drop of sweat, every painstaking step,
and all the dedication and discipline.
I am a better person and my goal now is to show others it is possible,
My friend Joe and his family came out to cheer me on.
Here we are at 30km– the Home Stretch!
Four days later
Now that I have had a few days to let this challenge set in and acknowledge the
personal accomplishment I obtained, I can sum up what I’ve learned in a few
Challenging yourself beyond your limits changes your entire life because you will
never look at things the same again. No longer can you make excuses in other
areas of your life because your new mindset just won’t allow it. I think that’s the
hardest part of challenging yourself: the fact that you just might actually make it.
I will leave you with another quote that has helped me though this journey:
“If a task has once begun, never leave it until it’s done. Be the labour great or small,
do it well or not at all.” ~ Chinese Proverb
Your life to choose. Start living outside the lines.
Brian S. McRobert