Here are a few stories that some first time marathoners want to share.  All are very inspiring and show the struggle of the journey but also the elation of the destination – crossing the 26.2 mile finish line.

Melissa Haddox

IMG_6382I Really Did Run a MARA-FREAKIN’-THON!!! I’ve come a long way. I was a couch potato back in 2011. I had spent a lot of years working in an office and sitting on my butt. I was 55 pounds overweight, stressed out at work, and had blood pressure that was creeping to the point of needing medication. I needed to do something, so I started eating healthier, cooking more, and walking. At first, I could only walk around the 2 small blocks in my neighborhood without giving out. Over about 3 months time, I was walking for an hour. My athlete-daughter told me I should try running a little.

At first, it was pretty much slogging (slow jogging) to the end of my block and then maybe a short distance again after a 10 minute walking break. I finally discovered the couch to 5k app and in August 2012, finally ran (very slowly) the entire distance of 3.1. Before I knew it, I was running (slowly…I’m a turtle!) 4-6 miles, 3-4 times per week. Along the way, I also lost 30 pounds, de-stressed, and found my health again! Same daughter convinced me to do a half marathon with she and her friends in Dec. 2012. Probably not a good idea. I was tired, sore, and walked most of the last 3 miles. But did I die? No!!! I kept on running. In 2013, I discovered the Cypress Running Club. I found people my speed…Yes!!! Whatever pace you are, there are others just like you! I did more half marathons in the next few years. I worked at getting a little faster. I ran at the track with Andrew Robia’s bunch on Tuesday evenings, even in the middle of the hot summer. I was usually dragging up the rear. I ran alone during the week sometimes. I ran with CRC folks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings sometimes. I even occasionally drug myself out of bed and ran with Mark Peterson’s bunch in the mornings. I did a lot of early Saturday long runs.

I registered for the Chevron Marathon for 2015, didn’t train enough, dropped down to the half. I registered for the 2016 Chevron Marathon. I really wanted to run THIS MARATHON. This time, I started to believe. I trained more consistently. I cross trained with a little swimming, cycling, workout videos, and yoga. I tried to get my mind in the right place. I was finally beginning to understand that sometimes, it’s ok to hurt a little when you train. Not a lot, like doing things injured, but more like keeping going when it’s really hard and your legs and lungs burn a little or sometimes a lot. I learned that my mind was holding me back. I had CRC running friends that taught me I can do more than I ever thought!

The date to drop back to the half came and went. I was in for it all…26.2! I had friends to run with and a plan for race day. The first 7 miles flew by! I felt we were staying on the exact pace we needed to finish. I felt strong, happy, and joyful! It was a glorious, beautiful morning! The CRC tent VolunCHEERS were there with hugs, bananas, and kind words that made me confident! I got to the turn where the half and the full split and turned right at the FULL MARATHON THIS WAY sign and jumped and cheered…I’m now going to be a MARATHONER!!! It did get a lot harder along the way.

I lost one friend around mile 7. I stayed with the other for a while, but she had some problems as well. She told me to go on and run my race and she’d be waiting for me at the finish line! I ran by myself and with strangers along the way from mile 10 till the end. I won’t lie! Mile 18-19 really sucked! I was cramping badly and because of road construction, there was almost no crowd support. I got slower. It was HARD! The cramps got a little better and I got through the next few miles. By 21, I was cramping again. But my son and daughter in law were there with their dogs and hugs and cheers! I can keep going. It was here in Memorial Park when I was passed by the sweepers at the end of the official 6 hour marathon time. It was a little demoralizing, but I never wanted to quit! There were others that kept going with me. The CRC folks were waiting for me at 22 with pickle juice (YAY!!!), bananas, gatorade, etc. I was happy to see them and kept going! I saw my mom and daughter at 23.

My daughter came to run with me and get me to the end! I think I cried a little! the last few miles were really a lot of walking, but it wasn’t horrible! It was a matter of just not stopping, knowing the finish line wasn’t too far ahead. I finished the race, my friend was there at the finish line, and they were still handing out medals! I ran a MARA-FREAKIN-THON!!! I went every step of the way and my Garmin proves it. I don’t care that I’m not in the official results because my time was over 6 hours. I’m so glad I didn’t back out. It was a great experience and while not totally sure, there’s a pretty high likelihood that I may do it again. I’ve got to get faster so I make the 6 hour cutoff next time, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing some of you at the track! I couldn’t have done this without my fabulous running friends and coaches to give me advice and training plans. However, the biggest thing I got out of it all was confidence in myself. I now believe I’m strong and that I can push myself more than I ever thought. You really can do anything if you put together a good plan and believe!!!

Zubair Ahmad

IMG_6381My journey towards my first marathon started in 2014 quite accidentally while playing golf in woodlands. It all started when I took a massive swing that caused my tummy to traverse from one end of the horizon to the other. The next thing I saw was my playing playing partner, who happened to be a recreational runner as well, was rolling over the ground laughing. His first piece of advice was to take up running as the antidote and hence at that moment a sluggish and burly runner was born. That innocent little drive did what my wife’s 23 years of nagging was unable to do.

Truth be told that I have never been a runner. Even though I had played different sports none of those required continuos running for longer periods of time and the longest I had run was 1-2 miles. So the first task was to learn how to run. To solve that problem I invested $2.99 in an App that would teach me how to run 5K in 7 weeks. My OCD nature helped me stick to the plan and at the end of 7 weeks I was able to run 5K on a treadmill just by running 30 minutes three times a week. During that process I noticed a slight dent in my overall weight but then in 6 months I lost from 35-40 pounds. That gave me a big confidence boost and motivated me to keep on running.

All this time I would dare not run outside due to some unknown fear. Now that I think about that I think it had to do with what others would say when they see an awkward runner on the trails. To overcome that fear and to expand my horizons I decided to sign up for a 10K fun run. I signed up for 2014 Bridgeland Turkey Trot 10K that was coming up in 5 weeks. In 5 weeks I had learn how to be able to run from 3.1 to 6.2 miles. I searched online and the first link that showed up was that of Hal Hagdorn’s free training plans. I studied his 10K plan and followed it to the letter. It took me 9 months to go from treadmill to road running though. I finished that 10K race in a little over an hour but not without a lot of effort. That boost of confidence compelled me for loftier goals. So in December of 2014 I signed up for the Feb ’15 Woodlands Half Marathon and a 5K and 10K leading up to that. 

Now I was committed to running and needed a support group to keep me going. That is how I joined the CRC group but after showing up one early Saturday I realized that groups at large were following marathon plans and running much longer distances than what my plan dictated. So for the next 2 months I ran solo which suited me fine since I travel during the weekdays anyways. During that time I benefited from Eric’s speed work plan on a remote basis. I met more CRC folks at ABB 5K and after seeing the excitement around the Houston Marathon decided to sign up for it. Keep in mind that by that time I had not even run a Half and my longest by then was 9 miles or so. None of that deterred me since I had one year to prepare for that distance. 

After I ran my first half in February I subscribed to Runner’s World, read “Marathon” by Hal Hagdorn and studied different training plans therein to came up with a schedule for the next 9 months. During that time I made great friends at CRC who helped me immensely with this journey. They offered great advice on Facebook, Strava, Coles Crossing trails during the long runs and I even get to join them on their Terry Hershey and Memorial Park excursions. Each one of them was a better and much more experienced runner than I was but their invaluable running tips, support and affection transformed me into a confident self. 

Houston weather like sushi is an acquired taste and similar to how I never care much for Tako sushi, I am still struggling to get used to hot, humid and never-ending summers of Houston. Despite that I sprinkled a few 10Ks here and there to stay focused. In late September I formally started my Full Marathon training by joining Eric and Joann’s Progression group but also took bits and pieces from Tim’s Foundation group to stay realistic. Every once in a while I would peek at Alan’s Advanced group and Mark’s Mileage builder group depending on how I felt that week. I diligently followed Eric’s track work albeit on a remote basis. All was going well until October rolled around when I ran a Katy 10 miler, Big Sur at Monterey Bay Half, Cypress Half and Houston 25K races in consecutive weeks. Until then I was hitting a PR every time I would run a new race and as such I would go all out in all of them. Big mistake and a rookie move on my part. My body went through constant fatigue and never recovered well enough that prevented me from doing any further speed works or meaningful tempo runs. I finished all my long runs with stressed quads and grudgingly ran the 30K to complete my warmup series and then went into a taper mode prematurely. Despite all that I had run 1000 miles by November.

I promised to run ABB 5K the day before Houston Marathon by pacing for my daughter. She has been my faithful partner and have either ran a 5K, 10K or a 5 miler in all the races that I have participated in except one in which she ran Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society cause that she ran by herself. Despite that extra exertion I felt energetic enough on the Marathon day. 

I was lucky to have a veteran runner David by my side that day. It helped that I did almost all of my CRC long runs with David so we both knew each other’s limitations. We decided to follow the 4:30 balloon lady from the get go and did pretty well until we had to take a quick pee-break around 8 miles. We must have lost a minute or so but it took us 1.5 miles to catch up with the balloon lady. We had to go out of comfort zone and that extra effort came back to bite us in the rear later. It was after that dreadful bridge around 11/12 miles that I realized that it is not worth my while to keep on chasing the red and blue balloons and slowly and steadily I started losing sight of the balloon lady around the halfway mark. Now it was just David and me pushing each other. Finally around 16 miles after we crossed Galleria area I told David to not let me slow him down.

Around 18 miles I felt my quads screaming for help and my adductor muscles getting irritated by the slightest bump on the road. I slowed down to the extent that folks doing walk and run started passing me on a regular basis. Heck with the show of bravado I said to myself and started taking walking breaks at the water stations and at every minor incline. After 20 miles I looked at every opportunity to walk to recover. Soon enough I saw the 4:45 group pass by me but at that stage I didn’t care. I zoned out and focused on trying to keep this run within 5 hours.

I appreciated all the folks who were cheering on the side lines but none more than I saw after 20/21 miles because that was when I needed that extra oomph and bounce in my stride to carry me over the hump. Even my fellow runners who would overtake me had encouraging words for me but one CRC fellow in particular helped me immensely when around 23 miles he reminded me that the last 6 miles are all mental and have nothing to do with physical limitations. I also retuned the favor by encouraging the folks I was passing by. Finally 26th mile rolled in and now l was seeing light at the tunnel. The downtown roads were looking familiar and it was time to run all the way for that home stretch.

Nothing was more exhilarating than to see your family by the finish line. A rocky pose while crossing the finish line, a little bit of whoo whoo and it was all over. Somehow I managed to scraped by and finished it under 5 hours. I collected the medal, had my pictures taken and then just wanted to go through the winding corridors of GRB Convention Center as quickly as possible to collect my finisher’s shirt and the extra medal. I even skipped the free food lines and went to greet my family who were impatiently wait for me to emerge from the runners only area. Hugs, kisses and group photos culminated that experience. 

It was then that it hit me that walking these extra yards were far more painful than the 26.2 miles that I just ran. Not sure if it was the lactate acid or the blood trying to rush through the fatigued muscles that was causing this excruciating pain. I just wanted to sit down on the floor to ease this pain but a fellow runner advised me to keep on walking. Nothing worked until I took an ice bath as soon as I got home. The ice bath, foam rolling and Ibuprofen did the trick and I was back on my foot in no time. 

Reflecting back on the marathon journey I ask myself whether I would ever run a marathon again? The answer is a resounding yes. As a matter of fact I have already signed up for 2017 Houston Chevron as soon as the registration opened. If somebody like me who has never run before can do it then so can you. All you have to do is to put one foot in front of the other.

Deidre McClaugherty

IMG_6383First a little background – This past year was a year of great accomplishments for me in running. I had been dabbling in running for the past 10 years, never really committing to anything and just running at most probably 3 – 4 miles at a time (and not a straight run, either).  In 2015 I decided to push myself and see what I could do – so as any novice runner would do, I signed up for a marathon. I had only ever done one 5K back in 2012. My first run with CRC was a 5 mile run… straight through! I thought if I could finish this, I could already do more than I thought I could, and I did! Excited and filled with encouragement from the club, I started training with a wonderful group of CRC members that now feel like my running family.

So, fast forward to now. Not only did I finish my first half marathon back in November at the Cypress Half, I also finished my first Marathon this past weekend at the Chevron Houston Marathon. My experience for the half was a little better than the full. For the half, I was confident, fully prepared, healthy and pretty much crushed what I had expected I could do.  For the marathon, I had just recovered from being sick with a chest cold for 3 weeks, meaning I didn’t run but once in that timeframe, my longest run up to that point had been 19 miles and I didn’t feel so confident. I wouldn’t advise to do what I did and decide to just go for it, but I will also say that I knew I had put in all those months of training and that it could carry me through to the end, no matter how brutal. I didn’t finish in the time I had wanted, but I did have to remind myself that my goal was to finish, and only to finish. And I did that. The first half went pretty well, CRC voluncheers were AMAZING at mile 7 and I thought, hey I just might pull this off, who needs training?! (kidding!). At mile 12 I wanted to find out who decided to put a hill there and give them a piece of my mind! At mile 15 my knee started to hurt; not the one I had treated with Airrosti for IT Band issues, nope, the other one. I tried pushing through, at mile 18, I was in pain, by mile 19, I was pretty much walking then sometimes slightly jogging. It was difficult. It was painful and I was wishing I had dropped down to the half. At mile 22, even though I was all the way in the back, there were still CRC members cheering us on, and that was pretty encouraging. That last 5k felt like forever, but crossing the finish line was something I never thought I could do. I was thankful to have all the support of the CRC Members this past year and also the support of my brother who ran the entire thing with me (I’ve made him a runner for life!).  To sum it up, even though it was challenging, that feeling of accomplishment at the end was incomparable. I may not be fast, but I am crazy just like the rest of you all – I signed up already for next year’s Marathon! That’s one of my favorite things about running, there’s always a new goal to aim for!

York Zhang

IMG_6380Last weekend I ran and completed my first marathon at the Chevron Houston Marathon, after finishing my first half marathon 10 months ago and my first 5K two years ago. My finishing time was 5:11:51, well over what I believe I was capable of. But I am now officially a marathoner, something that only 0.5% of the US population has done. Suddenly I have become a celebrity in my company and the gym I go to. And I had the opportunity to wear my finisher shirt and medal to work, have a group picture taken with other co-workers including our president, and invited to write my story which will be published in a next company newsletter.

I would like to use pregnancy as an analogy to my marathon training and delivery as the marathon race itself. Training is long and consists of excitement, frustration. I knew I could use some help from others who share the same inspiration and hold me accountable. So I joined CRC FB group in May and became a member the minute the registration was open. Since then I have run more than 1000 miles, 30+ long runs ranging from 10 miles to 20 miles, attended 20+ track sessions including a few 4:30AM sessions. I have not missed even one weekend long run with CRC and have been injury free.

Now the big day.  It was a perfect day for a race: the race organization was among the best in the country, the course was beautiful and overall flat; the race volunteers and CRC volunCheers provided the well needed support. It was like you are ready and check in to the delivery room. You are excited, anxious, not sure what to expect in the last 6.2 miles, when the pain started and how serious that would be like. I decided to enjoy the race, so I ran (not race) the first 18.6 miles, and then parade (jog/walk) the rest, with some pain/soreness in my legs and chafing.I believed I would ‘PR the 30K split, and I did…The moment I crossed the finish line, I felt the same relief and happiness the same way as when I had my son (My wife delivered of course).

The recovery is important, and you don’t want to get back to running or race soon, much like you don’t want to get pregnant immediately after giving birth. I am pretty happy with my recovery so far. And I know my next marathon will be much better, as the second delivery will be easier.