How Running Introduced Me To Confidence
Picture (L to R): Karen Murray, Travis Dowell, Carl E.Reid, Melissa Brady , Angela Sapienza
Republished From NewRo Runners Newsletter "The Soul of my Shoe"
My running adventures provide me with life lessons through each run. By the time you read this article I have just turned the young age of 64 [02-22-2021]. Confidence is contagious. Confidence gets renewed by passing it on to others. Since 2013 I have completed 90+ races that include 8 marathons [10 lifetime], 25 half marathons and 3 Indoor Triathlons.
Above is the end result of an 8 year long process. Below I will explain my metamorphosis. I ran long distance track in high school. I never ran fast enough to win any competitions, but I always felt accomplished after each run completed. It fueled my confidence to get through my awkward teenage years. Being from The Bronx, confidence came in handy working summers in the New York City garment district as a messenger to pay my tuition at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY. When I wasn't running, I walked from the Bronx to Salesian. That daily accomplishment helped me develop confidence too. In 1980 and 1981 I ran my 1st and 2nd Marine Corps marathons in 3:28 and 4:27 respectively. I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps at age 24. I was in the best shape of my life. I thought I was hot stuff or in today's vernacular, a Badass. Fast forward 30 years I became a dumbass. I put poisons in my body, including smoking for 20 years from age 34 to 55. I missed running throughout those years. During that time the only health and wellness activity I did was take the same organic multi-vitamins and minerals, which I still take to this day.
December 2, 2012, I became very ill. I was 55 at the time. I quit smoking that day, exactly the way I started, cold turkey. The next day I confidently told my wife "I'm going to run a marathon". As I expected, she didn't blink for a second. She and I have been together long enough that she knew I always had confidence to achieve what I say I'm going to do. She asked me and I agreed to get my doctor to arrange a stress test with a cardiologist, while she called our life insurance companies to make sure we were up to date with the premiums. Stop laughing. What can I say? I married a smart woman. The cardiologist determined my heart was healthy as a 35-year-old. So off I went to start my marathon training and begin my metamorphosis. Belief Leads to Confidence
The first 3 months I started with walking fast around the block, which was about a quarter of a mile. Next 3 months I graduated to jogging. I was starting to believe I could actually train for the marathon, although I was out of breath quite often. My lungs and I had many discussions, which made me stop often before completing a walk / jog. I told my lungs, which was me telling myself, "I'm not quitting".
Confidence Leads To Action
One day in the 7th month I went for a long [2 mile] run. This was a struggling reach for me. Running up Webster Avenue in New Rochelle I came across runners going across the road. I didn't know it then, but I had just witnessed people finishing the Paine to Pain half marathon. I saw a sign that said NewRo Runners. I made a U turn and jogged back home to find out what NewRo Runners were about. I felt accomplished about more than just completing my run that day. I saw people who were struggling to run just like me. It gave me confidence I was doing the right thing to improve my health. I didn't know they were struggling because they were 2,500 yards away from finishing a 13.1 mile run around Westchester County.
Action Leads To Posture
So, I paid the negligible NewRo Runners membership fee and continued my Marine Corps Marathon training. I had no formal training plan. My only goal was to run a little further than the previous run. I hung out on the NewRo Runners Facebook page. Members were posting about their running challenges and achievements. Very inspiring, although I was just being a lurking spectator just watching. I'm usually more of an action person.
Posture Leads To Conviction
1 month out from the date of the Marine Corp Marathon I pushed myself to complete 16 miles, while cursing myself for the damage I had done to my body over the years. My lungs weren't having it either and they let me know it. Every part of my body hurt to the point I had to call my wife to come get me. Pain prevented me from walking back home. Driving back my wife asked me "Are you sure you want to do the marathon?". I responded "I can't quite now. I want to be able to post on the NewRo Runners page to inspire other members like they have been pushing me with their posts. I owe them". My wife had no idea what I was talking about. She responded with "I believe in you too".
Conviction Leads To Purpose
1 week before the Marine Corps Marathon I had the distinct honor of carpooling with some NewRo Runners to the Sleepy Hollow 10K. Little did I know this run was a good warm up for the marathon with many hills to go up and down. I could not have been with friendlier, high energy and the most encouraging group of people calling themselves NewRo Runners. They treated me, and still do, like they knew me all my life. Wow!! Taking a chance with running and then joining NewRo Runners was life changing.
Purpose Leads To A Vision
Remember, I quit smoking December 12, 2012. I arrived in Washington D.C. the day of the Marine Corps Marathon on October 27, 2013. It was only 10 months and 25 days that I was smoke free. At 05:00, which is O'Dark thirty in military time, my wife caught me having a pep talk with my lungs. We agreed they would be kind to me as long as my only goal was to finish the marathon, not break speed records. From the start, throughout the 6-hour run and to the finish line the only picture I had in my mind was a Marine putting the eagle, globe and anchor medal around my neck. I had a defining moment. About 1,000 yards from the finish line a very painful blister on my foot, from the last 5 miles, decided to burst open. The blister's excruciating pain flowed from the bottom of my foot, through my body, to the top of my head, causing me to fall. I hit my head on the concrete. A couple of runners came over to help me up. As soon as I was on my feet, I let go of those truly kind Samaritans.
Vision Leads To A Legacy
Thanking them I said, "I'm there or I'm nowhere". It seemed like forever those last few hundred yards, but I hobbled between walking and jogging very slowly to the finish line. 2nd to Marine Corps boot camp and the loss of my father being murdered in the Bronx, that last 10 months and 25 days of training, being smoke free and finishing the Marathon Corps Marathon was the hardest challenge I overcame up to that moment in my life. It was more about mental toughness achieved, than the physical pain that started at mile 16. I'm very grateful for the encouragement from NewRo Runners and my biggest cheerleader, my wife Phyllis Shelton. I learned to spare no expense on running shoes. That blister was caused by wearing a 5-year-old $50 pair of running shoes I mostly walked in prior to training for the marathon.
Confidence is contagious. Confidence gets renewed by passing it on to others. Since 2013 I have completed 90+ races that include 8 marathons [10 lifetime], 25 half marathons and 3 Indoor Triathlons.