By: Mark Jacobs
This journey of mine actually began the 1st day of Lent in 2016. I'm not Catholic, I’m Lutheran, but I’ve always liked the idea of giving something up for Lent "for God". This year I decided to turn that around: do something for God. I promised to do some form of exercise every day of Lent. I shared this idea with my wonderful friend Sherri Mundwiller, with whom I have shared every step of my success, that poor woman had to put up with all my questions and chatter all year. She was the only person I felt I could talk with about the little improvements. Others wouldn’t understand what I was trying to do, but I felt that it meant something to Sherri. She knew any improvement I made I would share with her because it was important to me...and no matter how insignificant it might be she would continue to show excitement and encourage me. She has my undying gratitude for that. Being a very successful runner herself she had previously shared her story with me, which in turn inspired me to begin thinking of this as my own journey.
The first day of lent I started walking: I walked to the gas station if I needed something instead of driving; I walked to church for Sunday service and for Lent service on Wednesday. Sometimes I’d just work out with some dumbbells. When we had snow, I would ride my bike that I keep hooked up to my indoor trainer. I'd had it a long time but rarely used it till then.
In April, after Lent, I was feeling proud of myself and liking the walking I’d been doing, but wishing with all my heart I could run. I was a little scared to try. My family has a history of heart problems. I was still way over weight and easily short of breath from any exertion. I was at about 265 lbs with a size 40 " waist…I hated any picture I was in. The most recent of pictures at that time completely disgusted me. I’ll be honest, I was really pissed at myself for ignoring my fitness for so long, for allowing myself get so far out of shape.
I decided then and there "no more”! It was like a lightning bolt…I wasn’t having it. That moment of decision was when my determination took hold. I started on Third Street, destination Hwy 47 and back. Walking at first. After a couple days I just wanted to see IF I could run. So, with a small jog down the first hill and walking up the next, I began my running. Not too bad, felt pretty good; I continued like that all the way to 47. By the end of the first week I was running down hill and walking up...both directions.
I was feeling confident about myself but knew I wasn’t ready to run up hill yet. So I decided to move my running to the trail because it was flat. My first goal was to run to the bridge without stopping and after about a week and a half I was able to go one direction without stopping to catch my breath ...and after about another week I was able to go both ways. This was really happening. My improvements were becoming obvious!
I was so happy with that I went straight to the gas station to tell Sherri. She was very happy for me and suggested I enter the Rivertown 5k Race. I thought about that a couple days then told Sherri, “Why not?”. She set me up to meet with Julie Hook. Julie is another wonderful runner and part of our community. I talked to her for a while and signed up for the race. Before I left she mentioned to me about the Daily Run Club.
I was down to about 250 by this time. I felt like my work was starting to pay off. I had decided since “the day my determination took over" that I wanted to get down to 200 by 4th of July. That was a pretty lofty goal. I figured if I belonged to a club that ran daily it would make me want to run every day like the name said. In order to lose 50 lbs, I knew I’d have to run every day and doing so would help me keep it off. I had no illusions of fast or long running. I wasn’t going to win a bunch of medals. But if I was going to run everyday, I might as well have fun doing it, and I didn’t need to run all the time alone.
I was running consistently from Market to Main St and back so approximately 2.2 miles non-stop and I was feeling ready to introduce myself and find some others to run with. My breathing was continuing to improve. I wasn’t fast, but I was steady. I knew I would be able to finish the Rivertown 5k race though I would have to walk some of it.
May 14 2016. Big day my first race. I was early. It was cold. It was windy. Julie was there, I went over and said my good morning, then Sherri arrived to run the half marathon. I promised to wait for her to finish her race after my race. Sherri introduced me to Ximena. I was start struck, this was another passionate and accomplished runner in our community. I was so embarrassed by my appearance and she was styling as always. My run gear just made me laugh in comparison. But she was just so nice and full of encouragement, really a one of a kind type of person and I mean that in the best possible way. She doesn’t know how grateful I was that day for her kindness.
It was an ugly race for me, my finishing time was 45:47. But I was out there and I finished and earned my first finisher medal. I made sure to get a picture with Sherri and Julie and Ximena, three very influential people for me in running. Those three were there for the first race I ever run along this new running path. They’ll always be in my thoughts for that.
Now this was not the first time in my life that I have run. I am a retired Marine and yes I ran 3 mile drills thousands and thousands of times. Often we would run 5 miles, but rarely further than that. I ran two 10ks while in the military...but I wasn’t a distance runner. 3 miles, sure, but long distance? …no way, it'd take me a week to recover. Soon after I retired, work started to interfere with fitness. I joined a gym for the treadmill, but time became an issue; I bought my own treadmill to save on membership fees. Running turned into walking and soon the machine was just gathering dust. I was working 10 -12 hr days and would accept any excuse to not exercise. What a fool I was when I think back now. I had let the gift of running get away without ever having truly embraced it.
After the Rivertown Race I discovered the next race coming up would be the Beer Rrun put on by the Landing. I won’t bore you with more details, but at the finish line I again got a picture with Ximena. In fact, she’s been nice enough to get a picture with me every race this year if she was there.
At this point I still wasn’t part of DRC. I asked Julie about it and she added me immediately. It was very humbling when I first joined…I was a newbie and the club was filled with so many exceptional runners. Since joining, every single person I’ve met have been the nicest of people...I feel like I finally found out where the nice people in the world had been hiding…they’re all here in one place that’s why I couldn’t find them!
Since that first race and joining DRC, 2016 has been a blur! I've run twelve 5ks, one 10k, dropped 80 lbs and went from size 40 pants to size 34, I’ve run from the bank by Subway to Hwy T and back nonstop for 14 miles...just a little over 3 hrs, also have done 20 laps around Lion’s Lake for 14 miles, I have 3 finisher medals and 4 placement medals. And….13 race t-shirts!
In 2017, I’ll start the year with a race at Six Flags and I have my first half marathon on April 1st. I’ll run my first timed race, a 12-hour in hopes of obtaining my first ultra distance on April 29. I also signed up for the 2017 1000-mile challenge so I expect to be increasing my mileage and trying new things in this new year. I’ve logged a little over 650 miles since I started keeping track during the last week of June.
I couldn’t have accomplished any of that without my magnificent friends in the run club headed by John Cash and Meghan. Everyone encourages each other and if I need to ask questions to become a better runner there’s no better local pool of knowledge to draw from. I’ve been in the club a while now and though I still feel humbled around these great runners /people...I feel accepted. I’m not married, I don’t have kids...to me my friends are my family...
I put in the time, running is no longer work for me now, it’s fun. I no longer avoid running, I cherish every moment. It took a lot of work to get to where I am. Blood and sweat (uneven sidewalks - oh yeah, I have crashed) and somehow, to my own amazement, I am now a distance runner. How did that come to be?? I have to thank the influence of such amazing individuals in my running community. I could give a very long list of names here ...but it all started with Sherri. Thank you Sherri, Julie and Ximena and thanks to all those in the club. You saved my life. I will continue to strive to be a better runner, for myself and for my club. My journey isn’t over. Lots to do yet......RUN ON DRC!