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Paying it Forward

For those of you that don’t know, I used to be an Engineer. I worked, for a few years, designing and overseeing the production of networks for Naval ships and submarines. Once I realized that I HATED being cooped up in an office for 40+ hrs a week, and there was no way I could stand moving up the ranks and putting in 60-70+hrs a week in an office, I got the hell out of Dodge! Since leaving that life I have been working in a running specialty store, San Diego Running Institute, which I now manage. There are a few things I love about my job; low stress, schedule is very conducive to training, discounted running gear, etc. but my favorite part of my job is dealing with the customers…even the pain in the asses.

See, there really aren’t that many difficult customers. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few, and the ones that are difficult can be brutal. But for every difficult customer there are a dozen that are just cool people that love to run. My favorites, though, are the beginners. The people that come in and have never really run but want to start because they are trying to get healthy or they want to do their first race. I LOVE dealing with these people. The guy who tells us that “Fat Ass” is the limiting factor in his running, or the woman who lists “Ice Cream” as the “issue” that keeps her from running. These people realize they have been leading an unhealthy lifestyle and want to make a change for the better…and have a damn good sense of humor!

Then there is the person that got talked in to signing up for their first 1/2 or Full Marathon by a friend. These are great! The deer in the headlights look when they realize what they have gotten themselves in to can be priceless. I love working with these runners. I’m by no means an elite level athlete and I’ve only been participating in endurance sports since 2006 so I don’t have a lifetime of experience. However, I have had the honor of having some great coaches and mentors that have helped me learn and get to where I am now. That, combined with my constant desire to learn by making as many mistakes as possible, has given me a pretty good idea of things you should and shouldn’t do heading in to your first event.

I was recently contacted by a friend of mine from my Pitt days. He’s not the first to contact me about this but since I’m the “most expert person” they knew to ask about these things, he wanted some advice going in to his “first and last Half Marathon.” I was more than happy to help! I love the ability to bring new people in to the endurance community. I want him to finish that half marathon with a huge smile on his face and be hooked like I was when I crossed the finish line of the Lavaman Triathlon.

Another group of people I was fortunate enough to help were some guys I used to work with when I was still an Engineer. These guys came to the store one day and told me they wanted to do the Rock N Roll Marathon. The full 26.2. In six weeks. I think I need to point out that these are some BIG dudes! At the time they had gone out for a couple runs together, but prior to that had been doing little to no physical activity. Now I need to say I would NEVER advocate this idea to people but these guys were determined and came to me to help them through it. I had to at least try. I gave them a crash course training program, ran them through all the hydration/nutrition information I could, and fortunately Dr. Runco was able to work them through a couple injuries that popped up along the way.

On race day Carrie and I were watching from mile 21 and I was so excited when I saw these guys coming down the road. They were looking good, smiling and they were going to make it! The best part of all was that with their training they all had started dropping impressive amounts of weight, lowered their cholesterol levels, and been taken off various blood pressure and diabetes medications. Seeing these guys make a positive change in their life through endurance sports was an amazing thing. Even better, I still see one of them out mountain biking on some of the trails I run and he’s lost a bunch of weight and is loving the outdoors.

The world of endurance sports, whether you dedicate yourself to it or just dabble in it occasionally, can do incredible things to a person. It’s significantly changed my outlook on life for the better and the more people I can introduce to this lifestyle, the better.

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