by Chris McClung
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt
The Dallas Marathon in December 2000 was supposed to be my first marathon, but I didn’t make it to the start line. I was sidelined with injury just two months before race day. Diagnosis: tibial stress fracture. Translation: broken leg. Doh!
Ok, now, listen carefully… I want you to run your first marathon THIS December, and I know you can do it. Yes, all of you on-the-fencers, I am talking to you! You might think that I am crazy, but give me just a few more moments to push you off that comfortable seat on the fence.
It’s been almost 14 years since I signed up for that first marathon. I was barely 21 years old and had run only one other road race in my life – a 10K. Dallas was a natural choice. Even though I lived in Houston at the time, it was a relatively short drive away to run on my home streets with no shortage of friends and family to cheer me on. There would be plenty of time for the big, exotic, destination races. There was work to be done, and I loved the simplicity and familiarity of my chosen race.
I laugh when I think back on the naivety of that new runner. I had no idea what I was doing, but oddly at the same time, I had absolutely no fear of covering the distance. Now, I am jealous of the boldness of my younger self; real or not, youth brings a courage and fearlessness to do things that is often stifled as we get older and wiser.
Interestingly, at that age a marathon was already on my “bucket list.” I am the son of a runner and marathoner, so it was something that I had witnessed as a kid. My Dad’s story of his first marathon was the stuff of legend in our house. To this day, he swears a guardian angel appeared to him after collapsing to his back on a swath of grass just beyond the finish of the Cowtown Marathon. The angel appeared in the form of a mysterious woman who was oddly willing to massage his cramping calves into relief before disappearing as quickly as she appeared. To this day, we don’t know if this actually happened or was a vivid post-marathon hallucination, as are known to happen.
In addition, my then girlfriend (now wife Amy) was also already a marathoner, something she accomplished in Houston at the absurdly young age of 19. So, as a new runner and 10K-finisher, I was somehow the “slacker” in the family. Others around me had finished a marathon, so my assumption was that I could to. That, paired with the naiveté of youth led me to sign up for Dallas with absolutely no doubts that I would be a marathoner 6 months later.
As you know already, I was wrong. I spent race day in December on the sideline, cheering on my friend and training partner. We were college friends and were supposed to checking the box on this milestone together. Instead, he would do it alone while I watched from behind the barricades with a boot on my leg.
What went wrong? Well, the same naiveté that urged me to fearlessly sign up for the race also pushed me to make every mistake in training that I can now think of. It wasn’t enough to just finish my first marathon; I wanted to hit a specific time. To reach that, I assumed that I could do it alone without a coach. I found an online schedule, and dove into training.
I ran too much, too soon. I ran too hard. All the time. I didn’t do any stretching or strength work to supplement my running. And, most certainly, I didn’t slow down at the early signs of pain. A little shin pain turned into shooting pain up and down my leg, and before I knew it, I was doing 3-hour “long runs” on the elliptical machine in denial over what was happening and determined to still run the race.
If I had a coach or a structured program, then none of this would have happened. I mean that quite literally. I wouldn’t have ended up with a broken leg, and the Dallas Marathon would have been my first. But, it’s bigger than that. Everything happens for a reason, and I don’t think that I would have been inspired to be the coach I am today without that first experience of failure.
A broken leg left me with lots of time to sit. Devastated by the outcome, with time to spare and emboldened to never make the same mistakes again, I poured myself into every training and coaching book I could find over the months that followed. That began a journey for me that would lead me to successfully coach myself to my first marathon in Chicago the following year and then eventually to Rogue where I now coach a seriously cool and committed group of Morning Show athletes.
I, along with am amazing cohort of fellow Rogue coaches, am committed to making sure that new marathoners don’t make the same mistakes I did. Our methods are tried and true. Thousands have walked and run on this now-very-well-paved path to their first marathon and you can too.
So, what’s the moral of this story? We end where I started.
Get off the fence. You can do it. Stop doubting and just sign up. Then, let us help you. Our Texas Marathon program, starting in July will get you ready for one of 3 familiar, well-organized, and beginner-friendly races in San Antonio, Dallas, or Bryan/College Station. [Note: Dallas and BCS are two of my personal favorites] All you have to do is take the first step where, in the words of the great runner-philosopher George Sheehan, “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.”
Will you be the person you were destined to be? Or will you continue to sit comfortably on the fence in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat?”
The Texas Marathon training program will begin on July 12, 2014 with a huge kick-off party, open to everyone! Come on out to run, enjoy breakfast, win prizes, chat with coaches and receive a swift kick off of the fence.