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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest post: Chris' thoughts on the marathon!

I would love to tell you my Ogden Marathon experience, but it wouldn’t be complete unless I gave you the back story and the great inspiration that led me on this journey.

Just over six years ago when we had our 4th and last child, Priscilla and I were both over-weight and totally inactive.  I’m still overweight; it’s a work in progress.  I watched in amazement as Priscilla took up walking everyday to lose that weight.  It didn’t matter the weather or the situation, she made sure that she got her walking in every day.  She walked all that weight off until she was smaller than when we got married.  I on the other hand, remained in my sedentary lifestyle doing nothing to better my health.  I weighed 290 lbs, but would always use the excuse that I was tall and carried it well.

Then Priscilla did something more amazing.  She took up running and committed with her friend to run the RimRock Marathon in Colorado.  I thought she was crazy.  Being a police officer and going through the Police Academy, I did my share of running, including a 12 plus mile run.  Running was painful, I hated running with a passion.

As I saw Priscilla start training for a marathon, I started feeling motivated to run and lose weight.  I didn’t want to race; I just wanted to be healthy.  One day I stepped on the scale - I weighed 293 lbs, my highest ever.  I thought to myself, why should my wife work so hard to be healthy while I do nothing?  I decided to start losing weight.  Priscilla ran the Pocatello Half in the fall of 2010, then she ran the RimRock Marathon that November.  I never knew Priscilla was so mentally tough that she could complete something so difficult.  I lost around 30 lbs or so that summer and fall but then something happened.  It was called a southeast Idaho winter.  I hate the treadmill.  I gained most of my weight back that winter since I stopped running.

The next spring, Priscilla ran her second Marathon in Ogden, UT.  I watched as Priscilla crossed the finish line and they put the biggest medal I have ever seen around her neck.  I was never so proud of her mental fortitude in doing such great things.

Watching that stirred something in me.  I wanted to run, but I didn’t want to run to just lose weight.  I wanted to run with a purpose, I wanted to run to compete.  Being a three sport athlete in High School that competitive fire was already there, but was now starting to resurface.

So I started running.  I signed up for the Pocatello Half Marathon that September.  Now when I ran it wasn’t just about losing weight, it was about training to do something that would make me feel like I had accomplished something.  I remember those 7 mile “long runs” where I would come home and feel like my legs could fall off.  I had a purpose and a goal that I had committed to, so I kept at it.  I finished that Pocatello Half Marathon and signed up for another Half Marathon in November and finished that as well.  Both of those races felt very tough and I struggled during the last three miles.  I had gotten my weight down to 260 lbs at the time and was starting to feel so much better and had so much more energy than before.

At this time I had no goal or desire to complete a full marathon.  Priscilla and I had discussed the idea but I still thought running 26.2 miles was the craziest thing someone could do.  Well, somehow I got talked into signing up for the Ogden Marathon in 2012.  It was one of those things where you basically have to sign up the first day to get a spot and Priscilla was on the phone with our dear friend who said he would sign us all up and pay for it – I had to decide if I was I in, or out.  Talk about pressure!  Well I said yes and immediately regretted it, although I’d never admitted it to anybody.  I’d committed and so I was going to do it.

Since Priscilla and I were doing the same race, we tried to stay on the same training schedule and started training together.  I’ve never had more fun than going on long runs together and being able to just have fun and talk and be together.  I did notice a trend when running though.  I would always start out strong and energetic and urging Priscilla along and then as the distance dragged on, I would fall back and watch Priscilla put up with my slow drawn out pace.

I really felt like my training was going well and I was starting to see it was possible for me to complete this whole marathon thingy.  Yea, I would experience a little IT Band pain, but nothing I couldn’t fight through.  About 7 weeks prior to the marathon I started off on a planned 23 mile training run with Priscilla.  My longest run yet.  About 19 ½ miles in I experienced a sharp pain in my right knee.  It felt like I was literally being stabbed with a knife.  I could hardly even take steps to walk.  I told Priscilla to just run ahead home and come back and pick me up.  I just walked as best I could.  Eventually I just forced myself to start jogging and would stop and walk when needed.  I was so determined to finish that run that I called Priscilla and told her not to come pick me up because I wanted to finish it.

I did finish that run.  The problem was I was unable to walk for two days.  I called in sick to work and felt pain for a week.  Now I had this internal dialogue going on about whether I could finish this marathon.  I was scared.  I had committed to do this but wasn’t sure if I could.  From that point on, I only did short to medium length runs.  If my knee started bothering me I would stop.  My only hope was that if I let it rest I might be able to complete the marathon.  My longest run from that point on was only 12 miles.

Two weeks prior to marathon day I caught a bad chest cold.  I’m talking the kind of cold where it hurts to eat and talk and you can’t sleep at night.  In fact, I still had a couple coughing fits during the race.  The only exercise I did was a 1 hour spin class on the Tuesday and Thursday the week of the marathon.

There I was, facing a marathon with my last long run 7 weeks prior and coming off a sickness where I hadn’t been able to run for two weeks.  I had only one goal, I wanted to finish.  In my head I was thinking, “5 ½ hours would be great and I just hope I’m under 6.”

We were at the starting line an hour before the race start.  We used the restroom first thing, but since I had been hydrating so well the last two days, as the race was getting started I was feeling the urge to use the restroom again, but the lines were way too long.  As the race started, I ran with Priscilla for about a quarter of a mile but then I told her I was going to run ahead to the first port a potty.  When I came out of the bathroom, Priscilla was nowhere in sight, so I just started running.  I knew Priscilla was utilizing her 4:1 ratio of run and walk.  I figured if I used a 5:1 ratio I could likely catch her.  At about mile 3, I saw her and our friend’s distinctive gloves that they had been wearing lying on the side of the road, which confirmed to me that they were definitely ahead of me.

Trying to catch up to Priscilla, I was running at a pace I probably would not have chosen to start a marathon but I figured she could not be that far ahead of me.  As the miles passed by, I was getting disappointed that I had not caught up to her.  At mile 10, I started getting cramps in my right calf and I knew my pace was way too fast.  I was not wearing a gps watch and could only estimate my pace with my regular watch, mile markers and knowing when the race started.  When I reached the half way point, I looked at my watch and realized that as I was running my first marathon, I had just beaten my best half marathon time of 2:18.  My split was actually 2:20 but as I said, I couldn’t tell my exact pace.  At this point I thought that there was no way Priscilla was ahead of me because she had never run a half marathon that fast.  Those gloves I saw had to have belonged to someone else.

I knew I had to consciously slow and let my calf cramp go away.  I slowed to a 4:1 run walk ratio but continued to run at a fairly good pace.  Cardiovascularly I was feeling great and as I slowed my cramp went away.  At mile 14,  I stopped and posed for a picture with the Ogden PD and Weber County Motor Officers that were conducting traffic control.  This was right before the only big uphill of the race.  While on a scheduled walking break, I was observing a runner passing me exhorting a lot of effort to run up this hill but he was barely going faster than me.  I told myself that if running up this hill is that slow, I was just going to walk and save some energy.  It only took about 5 minutes to finish walking up that hill and all the runners I had been running with were still close and I easily caught up to them on my next run because I was so rested and they were exhausted from the hill.

By then I was wondering several things: where’s Priscilla, I ran that first half so fast and I feel pretty good, can I actually finish this thing in under 5 hours and at what point is my IT Band going to act up because I’m getting into the upper teens in mileage?  Some of these questions were answered at the 17 mile mark.  As I crossed the dam and was getting ready to head down the canyon I heard someone call my name and I looked and saw our friend Kent.  Kent took my picture and told me Priscilla and Marsden just went by about 5 minutes ago.  I was in shock, I couldn’t believe Priscilla was on such a fast pace.

The canyon is 5 miles down hill and I took off trying to gain some ground on Priscilla.  I went too fast because I started to get side cramps and at this time my legs were beginning to get heavy and I could feel the fatigue and pain in my legs starting to grow.  Around mile 20 I looked ahead and saw the most beautiful female figure up ahead of me that I have grown to love and appreciate.  I called out her name, but she was still a long way up and couldn’t hear me.  At this time our friend Kent was driving by on his way down the canyon to go wait at the finish line.  I saw him pull up along Priscilla and then I saw her turn around and make eye contact with me.  I was visualizing her pulling up and waiting for me but nope, she turned right around and started running again.  I knew Priscilla was trying to PR and I knew she was just strictly keeping to her run walk ratio.  I took off trying to catch her knowing she would take a walk break in another 4 minutes and I could catch her.  As I caught her I gave her a soft pinch on the back side and smiled.  She and Marsden asked how I was doing and I admitted I was not feeling well and my legs were hurting.  I had exerted so much effort catching up, that as they took off on their next run I fell back behind them again, feeling tired.

When I watched them pull away from me something clicked.  I don’t know if I was just lonely from 20 miles of running by myself and I wanted some company or maybe it was a little competitiveness - likely the latter.  I just took off as fast as my tired legs could go and passed Priscilla.  In my head I had no expectation of staying ahead because as I mentioned before when it came to long runs I would always fall back as Priscilla charged on. 

As I reached the bottom of the canyon and entered Ogden at about mile 22.5 I was somehow still ahead of Priscilla.  Both my calves were starting to cramp bad and the entireties of both my legs were in severe pain.  As I ran through a park portion of the race there were gentle short up hills and as I stepped up the hill my calves would cramp and force me to walk until the pain subsided.  I had really started to slow and figured Priscilla would catch and pass me at any point.

Looking at my watch I knew I had slowed considerably in the second half and that the 5 hour mark could slip away if I did not stay motivated and strong.  I left the park and was now on the last leg of the journey.  At mile 25 the race made a left hand turn at a busy intersection.  Ogden Police would stop traffic as runners turned to cross.  As I did I felt a sharp pain in my right calf causing me to stumble and almost face plant on the roadway.  An officer asked if I was alright.  I didn’t look back I just mumbled that I was fine, it’s almost over.  As I turned the next corner I was on the final stretch of road.  I couldn’t see the finish line but I could see the large crowds down both sides of the street indicating the end was near.  Soon after making that last turn, the 5 hour pacer passed me.  I was disheartened, but knew I started near the back of the pack and that my actual time would be faster than the pacer because I had passed them near mile 8.

A couple of things occurred to me then.  As I looked behind me and couldn’t see Priscilla, I knew she had to be close.  I thought it would be really cool to wait for her and cross the finish line holding hands.  I also thought, I was really close to the 5 hour mark and I wanted to make that cut off.  If I waited, I may be over 5 hours.  I passed the 26 mile marker and saw the finish line ahead.  I took off as fast as I could and almost stumbled and fell a second time with a sharp calf cramp pain. 

I crossed the finish line by myself and saw the gun time above my head at 5:01.  I waited only a minute to see Priscilla cross.  I gave her a big hug.  She showed me her Garmin and it showed a time of 4:58.  I was elated; we both broke 5 hours and she PR-ed. 

I cannot describe the emotions at the end of that race.  I was in so much pain and so exhausted I could hardly function.  At the same time I was so happy I had accomplished something so difficult that seemed, at one time, impossible.  To add to it all, I had never run at such a pace for such a long distance.  My 23 mile training run took about 5 ½ hours and I had just run 26.2 in under 5 hours.  I had no idea at the time how I was able to do it, but as I sat down and wrote about it, I think I’ve discovered the reason for my strength.

Priscilla is the love of my life and my inspiration.  She inspired me to do something I never would have considered on my own.  She showed me impossibilities are possible with hard work and determination.  I spent the first 20 miles of that race running harder than I ever trained for trying to catch Priscilla.  If I hadn’t seen those gloves lying on the side of the road, I am not sure I would have run as hard as I did.  Once I caught her, that loving competitiveness that we developed on our long training runs together took over and allowed me to move my body even though my body didn’t want to move.  Maybe that two weeks of rest let my body and IT Band heel and rest to allow me to perform but it was Priscilla who pushed me that day and continues to push me.

I may or may not run another marathon in the future but will definitely run more half marathons.  I weigh 245 lbs and will continue to run and lose more weight.  I will always credit my beautiful Priscilla for making me a better, healthier person and for pushing me to do great things, whether in running or other endeavors in life.  I LOVE YOU! 


  1. What an inspirational story! I loved reading it. Made me feel like working harder on my own running goals. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. That is so awesome, so glad Chris found such a good girl...great job you to for working and doing so well and not giving up! You go guys!!

  3. Chris, you should be a writer. You are both amazing and inspiring. Jared and I appreciate your friendship. Keep working hard at running, marriage and life. I am so proud of you both!

  4. That is an amazing story! Chris, you should be a writer. Now you understand why marathons are so addicting. They bring you closer to everything that is good and make you want to keep trying in the race and in life. Keep it up! You both did great!!!! Keep running!

  5. What an inspiring story! I'm so glad you are able to share the love of running.


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