And now, a guest blog post from our very own Roger Long:

When the founder of Charity Miles, Gene Gurkoff, asked me to submit blog posts chronicling my adventure – a middle-aged guy and soon-to-be grandfather who just happens to have Parkinson’s going from not running to running a marathon in less than six months – I was somewhat reluctant to share my thoughts and feelings with many people I do not know. I’ve always been a “fly under the radar” kind of person. Although I have a personal blog, it is a relatively anonymous outlet for expressing myself. Putting my name on something I’ve written and submitting it for examination by others lies outside of my comfort zone, but I believe that getting outside my comfort zone is a proven way to grow. I’m glad Gene asked me to do it. The following is my wrap-up blog post.

Since my last post, I ran in my first marathon race and met my new granddaughter – on back-to-back days. Over the course of nine days, my wife and I made a multi-stop trip to Washington, D.C, then on to Colorado, then back home. On October 27th, I rose early and followed the same routine I have followed before each of my long training runs. I was surprisingly relaxed when I woke that morning. The preparation and anxiety were behind me; I had done all I could do, and all that was left to do was to run the race.

Seventeen minutes after the howitzer fired signifying the start of the race, I crossed the starting line located between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery and began the quest for 26.2 in earnest. I remained true to my training and my comfortable pace using the Galloway run-walk method (5 min run: 1 min walk). Between the start line and the Key Bridge leading from Virginia over the Potomac River into the Georgetown area of D.C., thousands of runners passed me. As I began the out and back portion of the race on Rock Creek Parkway, I noticed the seemingly endless, massive pack of runners completing that portion of the race and moving on toward the Tidal Basin and Ohio Drive. I was officially in the back of the pack. By the time I reached Hains Point, the halfway point of the race, my pace was slower than all of my long training runs. My troublesome left leg was slowing me down, and I began to have doubts that I would be able to reach the Gauntlet at mile 17.5 or “Beat the Bridge” at mile 20. But, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and my hobbled gait continued to move me closer to the finish line. 

When I reached mile 17 near the Washington Monument, a Marine shouted out the amount of time I had the reach the Gauntlet at the intersection of 14th Street and Madison Drive – I had to run as fast as possible for nearly a half mile to make it. I passed through the intersection with 2 minutes to spare, and then the toughest part of my race began. It was at that point that the little voice inside whispered, then shouted at me to quit, to give up. I kept moving forward, running some and walking some. One of my closest lifelong friends found me and ran beside me briefly, encouraging me to pick up the pace. Just as the 20 mile mark came into view, the love of my life and my wife of 25 years, herself a new runner, bolted from the crowd of bystanders to run beside me. As always, her strength and love enabled me to overcome my doubts and my body’s resistance to continue, and I sprinted the last quarter mile to beat the bridge and avoid being pulled from the course … by mere seconds.

Much of the last 10K was the kind of slog in which my mind finds another place to escape to while the body continues onward. My wife and friends found me at the 25.5 mile point of the race, and again with their love and encouragement, I found the inner strength to sprint to the finish line and complete the race with mere minutes to spare for an official finish.  Eleven years after Parkinson’s entered my life, the three-year journey from being a long-time prisoner in my own body to a marathon finisher was complete.

That night and during the flight to Colorado to meet our newborn granddaughter the following day, I had time to reflect on what the marathon meant to me and my family. It was a microcosm of life in general – a shared experience of struggle and triumph. There’s purpose in the struggles and the victories. As I held my granddaughter for the first time and looked at her sweet face, I wondered what struggles and victories lay before her and the legacy I pass on to her by never quitting when things get tough and by making it through to the other side.

None of us who run the race have the exact same experience, but we have a shared one. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to share part of my marathon experience with other members of the Charity Miles community, and hope you are encouraged to run your own race.  Perhaps we’ll have the opportunity to meet and run together in New York City on November 2, 2014.


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