Running has opened so many doors. Running has also introduced me to a ton of great people. People of different abilities. People with different goals. People with different experiences and people from different backgrounds. Sure we all meet people different then ourselves, but when you run with them you learned more about them and yourself then you ever thought possible.
Eric H. is one of those people. I did not know Eric before he responded to my Facebook add about a 50 mile run as a train up for Graveyard 100. Running with him I found out he is in the military, new to our area and wanted to meet a few new faces. He joined us for our run and a connection was made.
(Running the Noland Trail)
A few weeks later Eric posted that he was going to run a 25 mile training run and wondered if anyone wanted to join him. I met Eric at 8 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning and four hours later we found we had a lot in common.
Eric is the Running Program Director for the US Military Endurance Sports (USMES) Association.
What is USMES? Founded in 2010, USMES is a non-profit charity organization chartered to support endurance sports education and activities for current, retired, and Veteran members of the United States Uniformed Services. USMES has programs for athlete development at all levels from novice to elite. Current programs include: race teams, sponsored individual athletes, regional and local club events, education, coaching, and equipment discount programs. In addition to supporting active cyclists, wounded adaptive cyclists, runners, and triathletes, USMES seeks to raise awareness of the physical and psychological benefits of endurance sports within our military community.
The natural thing when running with someone new is to talk about our past running accomplishments. Eric told me about some of his highlights.
(Running the Noland Trail)
I have to admit, I was impressed, so I asked him how he became a runner? I never had a problem passing my PT test, and would run a couple miles from time to time as part of my “workout”. I had PCS’d (military change of station) to Tucson in 2011 without my family (daughter was finishing school) and I was bored one weekend. I saw a 5k advertised, the Tucson 5000, and figured I would give it a shot. 5K led to a 10k, which led to a half marathon, which led to a marathon, which led to an ultra!
How did you feel after that first race? I did fairly well for my first time out (22 minutes), so I felt proud and exhilarated. My first half marathon was they Veterans Day Half Marathon in Tucson, and I thought I was going to die. But, like the 5k, I did fairly well with a 1:45 (ish) finish. My first marathon was the Tucson marathon, and this time I knew I was going to die! But, I pushed through the pain, and finished with a sub 4. The endorphins were really flowing after that finish, and although I could barely walk, I was on cloud nine.
Eric’s accomplishment are not solely running related as I soon found out when I asked him what else was he proud of. So many personal accomplishments, it would take forever to name them all, here are a couple. As a high school dropout, I think completing my masters degree next year will be at the top of the list. I have had a very successful military career where I have been fortunate enough to make rank rather quickly, and have been selected for some choice jobs on staff. Six deployments and counting, but have made the best of each one. Leading the Tucson Team RWB chapter was an amazing experience. I had no idea working with fellow veterans and the community would be so rewarding. Our team took the club from just a handful of members to the 500+ member chapter it is now. Still so many things on my bucket list, especially in the adventures category!
As we spoke about bucket lists, we found out we share many goals. I asked Eric what his favorite racing distance is and why? Well, right now marathon is my favorite because it is the longest I have run. However, I am hoping to make ultra-distances my favorite! I prefer the longer distances because it is a true test of endurance. It takes both the mind and the body, unlike some of the shorter distances.
During long runs, what do you think about? Running is my therapy time. It’s my time to block out everything else, put on the blinders, and contemplate life. I think about family, school, work, future endeavors, upcoming life choices, and sometimes I think about how much my body hurts. A runners high exists for sure, but mine usually doesn’t show up until the finish line.
Eric then told me his big goal is to qualify for Boston. Boston is just another bucket list item. It would be awesome to be able to say I actually qualified for Boston, and it would be even more awesome to say I actually ran it.
After Boston what’s next? I have no idea where my running will take me. But I do have a feeling I am going to stick to the much longer distances until my body can’t take it anymore. I have been doing a lot of reading about the Umstead 100.
Learning about his desire to qualify for Boston and getting a snap shot at his running resume I asked him what advice he would give to new runners, and runners jumping to the marathon distance? I was smart enough to map out a great training plan to work up to my first marathon. Because I was prepared mentally and physically, I enjoyed it. So many people don’t put in the time and end up hating every second of the 26.2 miles… or whatever they can crank out. Put the time in, get the weekly miles done, and you will enjoy your marathon much more. Best advice I ever got was “start with your mind, and finish with your heart”. I pass that on every chance I get.
And finally, realizing qualifying for Boston is not easy I asked him how he pushed on when things got hard? This is a tough one. I have so many “places” I go in my mind when the going gets tough. I think the main thing I remind myself is that there are so many people who can’t run, and I try to “run for those who can’t”. I think about how proud my family is of me for my accomplishments, and I think about that runners high I will get when I am done.