You may recall my inglorious fall from marathon grace a few months back, as I attempted to train for the Los Angeles Marathon in early March only to be thwarted by first a balky, achy back and then ultimately felled by a wicked case of pneumonia that I came down with exactly one week prior to Race Day.
I wrote about the bitter disappointment back on March 22nd: http://tinyurl.com/nhye4sj
Good times those were not, but the piece I wrote was apparently decent enough for inclusion in one of our local daily papers out here, and we have a print copy tacked to a cork board in the main hallway of our house where every time I walk by it I feel a bit of pride mixed with a sizable dosage of pain. I’m humbled and proud to see something that I wrote in print for the world to see – well, at least folks in the South Bay and online for everyone else – but seeing the article each day brings about a burning in the pit of my stomach that leaves me longing for completion of the marathon task.
There is still a part of me that feels like I let a lot of people down, and while I know that all of the generous donors were more than understanding about my situation and that their money actually did a whole lot of good for the thirsty souls in Africa, I still hadn’t completed the actual marathon.
Certain factors conspired to make today’s run-walking of the “Los Angeles Marathon: For Don Fulton Only” (or LAMFDF) a reality. First and foremost I am 100% healthy with no back pain and no leftover issues from pneumonia. I can’t tell you how nice it is to feel good and be able to breathe normally again. I take so many things for granted and the blessing of good health is certainly one that I need to appreciate a whole lot more. Next, back when I was actually training for the big race I had dropped weight but was still, um, very large. In the interest of full disclosure I was sitting around 265-pounds in the month of March. Most of the weight I had dropped was replaced by muscle mass which was nice, but that is still just too big for my frame. “Oh but you carry it so well Don!” is nice, but it really doesn’t help me. So over the course of the last few months I have simply cut down on desserts and fast food and gotten myself down to a respectable 243, which may be the lightest I have been in years.
I’m fairly close to what I weighed on our wedding day.
So healthier and lighter, while feeling the pangs of guilt and regret for not completing the marathon on Race Day were three important factors that got me to today’s “historic” event, but I also needed something on my mind other than the strain of trying to find a new job. I’ve been chasing more leads than Quincy, M.E. and winding up with the same results as Jack Klugman’s character: Everyone is still dead. It’s really not all that bad, as I do have a few instances where I am on fourth interviews with companies and some fresh and exciting opportunities just entered into the picture, but for some reason I thought I’d be working by now. I’ve been out of work for a little more than a month now, and while I know that the right job at the right company will in fact happen I just lack the patience and intestinal fortitude to walk this thing out with a whole lot of grace and dignity. My mind is forever thinking about “The” job and I keep wondering if it is too early or too late to place a follow-up phone call with a prospective employer or send another email query concerning the status of my candidacy. I got so used to sitting on the other side of the interview that I forgot what a desperate and lonely place it is to be the guy out of work and scrambling to provide for the family.
In short, I really needed to get all of that out of my mind for a few hours, so why not occupy six hours of it concentrating on completing 26.2 miles and get this marathon thing done?
Of course there is always the danger that the entire journey would be filled with nothing but work thoughts, but I made a pretty cool marathon mix for my iPhone and my brain was to be occupied with good music and a steely focus on completing the task.
Trevor and I went out Friday to scout my course and I settled on a route that took me from our porch and through South Torrance then into Lomita. From Lomita I would run-walk into San Pedro, winding my way into Rancho Palos Verdes, ultimately to the Trump National Golf Course. That was precisely 13.1 miles from home, and once there I would turn around and head back through San Pedro but this time I would journey along Palos Verdes Drive until it dropped me back into Torrance and ultimately back home.
I explained to Samantha what I was planning and she wasn’t certain that it was the greatest of ideas since I hadn’t been doing any serious training, but she completely supported my desire to complete the quest and there she was this morning at 4:30 AM praying for my safe deliverance.
I won’t bore you with details of every mile marker except to tell you the following: At the 3-mile mark I happened upon the scene of what appeared to be a most horrific car accident, with one car knocking over a traffic light and the entire intersection was closed. I said a silent prayer for the occupants of the car as well as any bystanders that injuries were minor and treatable. At the 8-mile mark I was greeted by family friend Robert Bobich who had seen my Facebook post about doing “The Marathon” today and as he cycled by he was cheering me on. At the halfway point I was tired. Seriously tired, but pumped by the fact that I just needed to turn around and do it all again. At 18 miles I was cursing City Planners and Engineers for allowing so many hills in San Pedro. Sure, they were an absolute joy to walk down on the way out, but now it was a struggle uphill on the way back. Somewhere between miles 20 and 22 things started to hurt. I’d chomped on some almonds along the way to get some calories and downed a few Gatorades to make sure that I was hydrated, but my body clearly didn’t enjoy the journey now.
As I neared the homestretch for the final few miles I started fantasizing about just laying down on the sidewalk for a glorious nap. I walked past a park and gazed lovingly at the lush, green grassy hills and imagined rolling around on them as a means of soothing my aching feet, joints and muscles.
At one point everything hurt so much that I could have sworn that I was getting a cramp in my right eyelid.
But finally I made the turn towards home – the finish line. I picked up the pace and crossed over Pacific Coast Highway and turned onto Ocean. I wound my way through the familiar neighborhoods that we have called home for the last few years and I started to get choked-up a bit. I actually let out a few audible (or so it seemed) moans that were purely raw emotion. What a year this has been! I thought of my family and couldn’t wait to see them and gobble them up with tremendous hugs, and while I was a sweaty crying mess they were just going to have to deal with it!
And wouldn’t you know it? They decorated our place for the final few steps of my difficult journey. There was a finish line, some streamers and balloons and plenty of supportive and loving messages for me. I had to finally stop hugging Samantha, Emily and Trevor because I was soaking them in my sweat and tears. A little while later my in-laws Fred and Sara along with my sister Denise, her husband Gene, and their pooch Tucker joined the festivities and it was simply a wonderful time to rejoice and celebrate.
I am so amazingly blessed that it just seems foolish that I would ever have a bad day. But I do have them, and understandably so right now considering the circumstances. But today marked a high point for me as I finished something that I knew in my heart and mind needed to get done and then I was surrounded and celebrated by the people (and dog) who mean the most to me.
It really is a wonderful life, and as clichéd as it sounds when others say it; today was a good reminder that our lives really are more like a marathon than a sprint and it is vitally important that we finish what we have started. I finished the LAMFDF in just under five and a half hours and for that I am feeling pretty good about things right now.
Today was a good day. And while things are fairly achy and weak at the moment, I know that I finished strongly today.
Thank You, Lord and many thanks for the tremendous love and support of all family and friends who endured every bit of this marathon with me.