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Leading his son through their condition, Tony thrives

I can see it! I had just finished mile No. 13 and I could see the finish line approaching. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, but, when I saw my son extend his hand to greet mine, with a smile on his face, I had a sudden sense of wellbeing overwhelm my abused body. I realized at that moment why I love to run, race and push my body beyond what is was structurally born to do. Ironman 70.3 California was a challenge, but understanding the impact on my son makes it worth my struggles living and training as a disabled, long-course triathlete.

I was born with bi-lateral clubfoot, which means that my feet were completely backwards and upside down at birth. My son, now 6, was born with the same condition. He endured years of corrective casting on both feet. My case was an extreme case that required many experimental and painful surgeries. I had two major surgeries before I had turned 2, and was in casts and braces for several years after that. The doctors removed all of my bones, reshaped them, placed them back underneath the skin and stretched all the ligaments in both feet. But the procedure only served to make the foot look cosmetically appealing rather than correct the structure of the foot itself. I am missing several muscle fibers in my lower calves, which means my body has to work extra hard to compensate for the imbalances. This results in a significant amount of pain in both feet and my lower legs.

I was told my whole life that I would be wheelchair-bound with severe arthritis by the time I was 20. I would not be able to participate in normal activities. I used that as an excuse for many years to be lazy and gained a significant amount of weight. At my heaviest, I was 250 pounds at 5-foot, 8-inches. After Eli was born, I decided to prove the doctors wrong by losing 90 pounds and becoming a competitive triathlete at the age of 37.

I have raced at all distances of triathlon as well as several half marathons. I am currently training for Ironman Arizona 2012. After each race my feet are in severe pain, but it is worth it in hopes that I may inspire my son, Eli. He was given the same grim outlook as I was given. Well, guess what? My son is following in my footsteps. Eli finished his first triathlon two months ago, taking fourth place in his age division. I have told him that regardless of our physical limitations we can accomplish any physical task set before us, including Ironman. Eli’s determination, smiles, and playful youthful drive are why I love to run.

Walking proves difficult, so Amalie runs instead

It’s a constant feeling of walking under water; or with an anchor tied around one leg. That’s how I feel every day. Walking sometimes feels funny; my balance is always off. When complications of spinal surgery ten years ago resulted in permanent nerve damage on my right side, I was devastated.

It could have been worse. I could have been paralyzed on one side of my body. So I walked everywhere, and every chance I could. I would walk for miles, for hours. I tried to run, but could never get past the end of the block. So I stopped, and thought, “I can’t do this.”

But one day, toward the end of 2011, at the age of 35, I decided I would give it another shot. I signed up for a 5K scheduled for New Year’s Day. On December 4, 2011, I took that first step and I never looked back. My first time out I could barely run a quarter mile, and when I finally reached a mile it took me 16 minutes. That didn’t stop me.

I vowed to finish my first race in less than thirty minutes. And I did, finishing at 28:58, placing top ten in my age group. I was ecstatic and signed up for another race that same day. I improved my time with each 5K I did, finishing in 27:21, 26:52 and 26.39. I improved in just a few months’ time. It was exhilarating.

I was never considered an athlete. I was that shy kid in school who dreaded gym class and was always picked last on teams. But when I discovered I could run, I realized that there is an athlete in me. With my husband’s tremendous support and the help from an old classmate of mine (who’s also my coach), I’ve come a long way since that sixteen-minute mile. And I plan to keep on going. My current goals include finishing a 10K in under an hour, and a half marathon in less than two.

I love to run. It doesn’t matter how slowly or how fast I go. It doesn’t matter if, because of my ‘disability,’ that it feels like I’m dragging my leg with each stride. I love how free I feel when I’m out there, the camaraderie of fellow runners and the idea of competing against no one but me, always striving to be the best I can be.

It’s all about the mindset for superhero Meghan

I’m an undercover superhero runner. I have lost approximately 12 toenails, suffered through shin splints, experienced at least two horrific porta-potties, survived close encounters with aggressive poodles, rogue geese, sneaky felines and persistent beetle bugs. Some people say I am crazy when I come home drenched in gnat covered sweat with a twig stuck in my ponytail and river mud smeared on the back of my calves, but what they don’t know is that during the last hour I have combated threats against humanity, like poodle-sized super villains.

I’d like to tell people I have profound, motivational and inspirational thoughts that flow like poetry from my lips with each gazelle-like leap I take but the reality is that every time I lace up my dirty Brooks and take a flat -footed pound at the pavement, the one thing that keeps me going is my imagination. When out for a run my floppy posture and flailing arms morph into bat wings with the agility of Katniss Everdeen and I move at the speed of light, leaving hungry zombies and criminals in the dust. On my runs I am forever 8 years old and invincible.

Sometimes when I nervously chatter with fellow runners at the starting line and puff my chest to discuss my race plan my negative splits, pre-race meals and post-race recovery I think to myself, “You’ve got nothing on my lasso of truth…but your Batman utility belt is pretty cool.” However, every super hero has their kryptonite, and I suppose mine would be the harsh realization that takes place when I see my time flashing on the race clock and my “super-fast running” is actually just your average, ho-hum, 9-minute-mile pace.

So yeah, I may not have a Boston Marathon Q.T., but when I look across at my fellow runners as they push through the finish line, I can see it in their eyes, and they are all thinking “SHAZAM!” and having one of those “I am awesome” moments that only another undercover superhero runner can understand. So forget the PR, the QT, the negative splits and the calorie counts. Just run like the wind, think, “Shazam!” and kick some super villain butts.

Comfortable in her skin again, Anabelle makes a vow

I was 30 years old, 252 pounds, and dreading walking up the stairs to get the laundry because I knew how hard those 10 steps were going to be. It was going to be sweaty, I was going to be out of breath, and it was going to absolutely suck.

I was laid off the year before, and even then I was 200 pounds, but the added stress of losing our house and moving in with my parents, with daughter and husband in tow, literally ballooned me up into a woman I no longer recognized. It was no shock, I’d been “chubby” my whole life, too lazy and unmotivated to change.

Depressed, and horrified by my appearance, I disliked going out in public because I knew everyone stared and judged. I was a person just like them…I felt things just like them.

A girlfriend of mine mentioned how she started running and had lost 25 pounds. She looked great, and she was smiling and happy. I wanted to be her. In my early 20s I started running too, and I used to love it. Back then I went from 272 pounds down to 135 pounds in a matter of 10 months. Did I really gain most of that back? Why did I fail???

Because I stopped running.

I downloaded and printed off the Couch-to-5K program, I bought a cheap pair of sneakers and a pair of ugly sweats, and I literally ran laps around the yard with my then 3-year-old daughter riding her Power Wheels behind me. After three months of training to get to the 5K distance, I wasn’t fast, but I could do it, and before you knew it I’d lost 30 pounds. I finished my first 5K in 47 minutes pacing a 79-year old woman. I was addicted.

I have been running ever since. Almost three years now, 90 pounds down, I have my life back. I can breathe, I chase my daughter and I shop for clothes without being horrified. I’ve run two half marathons and this summer I start training for my first full.

Running has literally saved my life…and I’ll NEVER stop again.

Inspired by taunting, Albert refuses to get in his own way

“You mean to tell me you’re going to let an almost 50-year-old grandmother of two punk you?” Everyone has a reason why they started to run, and this was mine. In October 2009 I decided to run a 10K with no training, planning or thought. I registered on a Tuesday, raced on Sunday, and ran a 42:14. When I mentioned this to my sister-in-law, she told me I should run a Half Marathon with her in 4 weeks. I politely explained to her that she was crazy and there was no way I could run a half marathon. Her response is above.

Now, no normal 38-year-old man can stand an insult like that, and I was no exception. I have never played a sport in my life throw a ball at me and I will scream and duck. I was the last person picked to be on the team, after the girls and heavy guys. Yet I was going to show her, so I did what any sane person would do. I went to the beer garden at a local festival, had one too many, and crashed my bike, rendering my knee useless. I limped along for 3 weeks then managed a 5-mile training run the week before the race.

I could have claimed injury, but I could already hear the taunts and insults. So I showed up at the start of the race with my sister-in-law/nemesis. She began to do this strange “stretching” thing. I tried to imitate her but felt like she was tricking me to look like a fool. We got to the start and she asked me what my pace was. “What’s that?” She looked at me, shook her head and suggested I should probably go for 10-minute miles, which would have meant something if I’d had a watch. Well, needless to say, I ran a surprising 1:36:54. Unfortunately, I was wearing old shoes I found and my feet were covered in blisters.

The next week I went to a running shoe store, bought my first pair of running shoes, became best friends with the sales person who became a “coach” of sorts, and have now finished 43 races, the most recent my PR at the Boston Marathon 2012: 3:10:19 in the heat! My first full Ironman is in July and I am training for a 50-Miler in January 2013. To be continued…

Diving right in has Arena hooked on racing

My running story starts when I wanted to get into shape and be a fitter role model for my kids. A close friend on Facebook had posted her progress in the Couch-to-5K program so I looked into it and figured if it worked for her, then it would work for me, too. I made a motivation board filled with pictures of runners I aspired to be and quotes to keep me fighting, made a get-my-butt-moving playlist and started.

Running on the treadmill was okay, I had to use the motivation board a lot to get through, but running outside is where I found my love of running. There’s so much to love outside: the fresh air, the immediate progress you see as you pass block after block and mile after mile, the feedback I get when GPS tells me I’m running a great pace, it’s all something I never thought I would find addicting.

Now you have to know that my area is not known for a lot of big races, but there is one BIG ONE. The Prefontaine Memorial 10k. I had just finished Week 4 of Couch-to-5K, and armed with my newfound love of running and possibly more naive than healthy, I enlisted a friend and we signed up. Only one problem with this plan…the Prefontaine 10k is challenging to SEASONED runners. Any race with an incline named ‘Agony Hill’ should have alerted me to this, but I’ve never backed down from a challenge.

By mile No. 4 it was pure steel determination that was pushing me further (mind you at this point I hadn’t done more than 2 miles IN MY LIFE). By mile No. 5 I think my body had begun to shut down and I urged my friend to abandon me and head in. When I got closer to Marshfield track and heard the cheering and ran the final lap, the sense of accomplishment and pride in myself, I can barely put it into words. I LOVED THIS. LOVED IT. I was not fast, I wasn’t in the best shape in the world, but I had found a passion at 30 years old and I can’t wait to see where it takes me and how it will transform me!

You can bet Tom didn’t see this coming

I’m a 5-foot, 8-inch, 197-pound male, and two years ago bet a couple of friends dinner that I could run a mile in less than 7 minutes with one month of training. According to height and weight charts, I was 25 pounds over the standard large frame scale of 152 to 172 pounds. I’ve been athletic all my life, so even with a few extra pounds, my mentality was still young at heart. I guess my pride and ego made a silly bet at the time, but that bet turned out to be one of the best I’ve made in my life.

For me, running is the last resort when it comes to exercising. I would rather play sports, work out or swim with the kids. Running! No way. I hate running. I never did any running as a form of exercise other than when I was in high school, when they made me run for PE. But since I made the bet, I decided to train and win my free dinner. I went to the track and ran the four times around. I was out of breath, and it took me 9 minutes and 24 seconds. I was depressed and thinking about just buying my friends dinner. “No way,” I thought, “I can I do it in under 7 minutes.” Then, my ego kicked in. “Just train, and do it.” So, I ran four times a week, and long story short, I ran the mile in 6 minutes and 48 seconds after one month of training.

My story doesn’t end there. I felt great, healthy, and lost 10 pounds after that month of training. So, I decided to keep it up. Two years later, I have run two half marathons, and just last month I ran the Honda LA Full Marathon. I’ve also registered to run the upcoming Wipro SF Marathon on July 29. Since the day of the bet, I’ve been running consistently three to four times a week: 5 to 6 miles on weekdays and 6 to 10 miles on Saturdays. I now weigh 168 pounds and am feeling better than ever at age 43. My wife, who couldn’t even run a mile at first, finished the Kaiser Half Marathon, and my 8-year-old ran 3 miles with recently. He walked a little but still made the 3-mile run. My two daughters are riding their bikes as we run, but it’s only a matter of time before they start running as well. So this is my story of how a silly dinner bet changed my life and my family’s lives. We run together and it’s part of our lifestyle now. Never would I have believed that, one day, I would be called a runner.

Aaron vows to keep pace with his wife and kids

As a 35-year-old father with five kids under 11 and a volunteer Boy Scout Leader who keeps up with 12- and 13-year-old boys on campouts and backpacking trips, I felt strong until August 2011. Playing dodge ball with the Scouts, I was on the floor and exhausted 90 seconds into the game! I realized how out of shape I really was. I had no exercise routine and no endurance. Something had to change. I didn’t want to be a spectator watching my kids grow up I wanted to be a participant with them.

My wife’s desire to run another 5K inspired me. The year before she worked hard and ran a 5K and 10K. This upcoming 5K would be just four months after giving birth to our fifth child through C-section. I thought if she’s going to do this, I can man up and get out there also.

We headed down to our local Road Runner Sports store, got fitted using Shoe Dog, became VIP members and each got a new pair of running shoes. This was the first pair of running shoes I’d ever owned. Now it was time to get to work.

I hijacked the program my wife was working through to train for the 5K. I started getting up early to go running 3 times a week and was stoked as I increased the time and distance I was able to run. The time flew by and my first 5K in early November 2011 was upon me. I went in with a goal of 30 minutes. Before I knew it I was crossing the finish line with an official time of 30 minutes, 3 seconds! I was thrilled with the 30 minutes, but crushed by the 3 seconds.

Three weeks later on Thanksgiving 2011, I entered my first 10K with my wife. My goal was 60 minutes and I was determined not to let the clock beat me again. I surprised myself at being able to run over 6 miles without stopping when only four months previously I couldn’t run down a basketball court without getting winded. I was even more thrilled with my finish time of 59 minutes, 2 seconds!

I’ve since participated in a couple of fun runs with my local RRS stores and continue to get out and run 2-3 miles a couple of times a week. Next on the to-do list train for a half marathon!

Tung doesn’t let the rain wash away his goals

Am I crazy?

That’s what I was wondering when my alarm woke me up at 7:40 am on a rainy Saturday. I could either go back to sleep or I could get dressed, eat yogurt for breakfast, and then drive 30 minutes to go run a 5K race…in the rain.

I got up, but it was a close call. If I hadn’t set a March goal of running a 5K in under 22:30which I failed to do two weeks earlierI might have gone back to sleep even though I’d registered for this race.

Yea for motivational goals!

I started running (jogging, at first) at the beginning of 2011 to try to lose some weight. Six months later, when I hit my desired goal, I had developed an intense love for running: how lean it had gotten me, how incredible I felt after running, and notably, how it had dramatically improved my blood lipid profile, and how jealous I felt seeing other people running on my rest days! Racing was the latest manifestation.

Well, I had another reason to brave the rain. Just over a week earlier, I had gone to the Road Runner Sports to get new shoes. Love being a VIP! In the past, I’d just picked up whichever shoes looked right, put them on, and bought them if they fit. The Shoe Dog fit experience was so much better, and I ended up buying not one but two pairs: Nike Air Pegasus+ 28s as the primary pair, and Saucony ProGrid Kinvara 2s for short distances/races. Without the help of my saleswoman, I never would have thought to get the Kinvaras. The first time I went running in the Kinvaras on my training route, I set a personal record! I was eager to race-test them.

I drove 22 miles to the race course. It was pouring during the drive, or at least it seemed that way, between the velocity of the rainfall and the backsplatter from trucks. Parts of the park were flooded. I am crazy, I thought to myself. Uberthons usually get 100-500 runners, but only 36 5Kers showed up.

GO!! I ran too fast of a first mile and suffered during mile 2. But I picked it up on the third mile, and finished in 22:24. Yes, goal achieved, thanks to the Kinvaras and Road Runner Sports!