Team GSF SB Marathon: My X-Factor and the Final Stretch.

October 21, 2011 by Bill Strong

Hard to believe, but nine months has come and gone since I set out to do my first training run for the Santa Barbara Marathon while on a trip with Victoria and Gwendolyn to Monterey, California. And it's been five months since I decided to go for it and we officially launched our Team GSF SB Marathon challenge. Looking back, it has all been awesome!

Since then, I've clocked nearly 500 miles on the road, burned nearly 70,000 calories, finished my first half-Marathon in under 2 hours, and 30 inspiring runners have enthusiastically signed on to join me in the Santa Barbara Marathon. And together -- collectively -- as a team -- we've already smashed our $26,000 fundraising goal, raising over $36,000 to date and gathering over 35 Team Sponsors for theGSF to help end SMA. To say I'm humbled by the support would be a massive understatement. But more than anything, I'm pumped. I'm excited. I'm appropriately nervous about the Marathon. And I'm unbelievably motivated to tackle this home stretch as Team GSF SB Marathon heads for the starting line on November 12, 2011.

I've truly enjoyed every second of the challenge and I've found it extremely therapeutic and rewarding -- exactly what I was hoping it would be. Although I've battled a few frustrating injuries, my training has gone pretty smoothly. I have an awesome trainer and -- now -- friend named Mike Claytor of SB Training to thank for that. I'm surrounded by motivation and inspirational people. And above all else, I have the world's-best-wife and daughter to thank for being so supportive over the last nine months.

At this point, it's officially crunch time with less than three-and-a-half training weeks left until the Marathon. Crazy, but I'm down to two long runs -- only TWO more -- before the big day and my first shot at what 26.2 miles will feel like. I'm feeling pretty good physically and I'm now finding the training to be more mental than physical. I'm still doing three workouts per week. My short workouts during the week are in the gym with a quick strength routine and 60-70 minutes of cardio on the elliptical and treadmill to placate my injury and keep my heel/Achilles from flaring up. My long runs are on the weekend and they are currently 3 hours plus and 18 miles plus long. Every long run I'm doing is longer than the last -- and the longest I've ever run (by far) in my life. My run this weekend will be in the 19-20 mile range and my final run, depending on how I'm feeling, will be in the 20-21 mile range. The theory behind the strategy at this point is to continue to get comfortable with the time on my feet to finish the Marathon, not overtrain and risk a last minute injury, and taper my running regimen approaching the Marathon so I'm fresh and in my best shape the day of the race.To be honest, I can't believe that I'm running this long or this far. And it just seems crazy to leave the house on the weekends for a run and not return for a half-a-work-day.

As time on my feet and miles have increased, I've found the mental aspect to be more challenging than the physical. As I pass the half Marathon distance my body just kind of goes numb and it's a constant battle with my mind to keep pushing, keep focused, keep resisting the temptation to stop. The mind is actually pretty rational (I think). The beginning of runs are tough because my mind wanders to how much longer I'll be out pounding the pavement. And the middle/end of the runs are challenging because I'm physically spent and I find my mind telling me -- "You know, you can stop running. Take a breath. Give it a rest. Just for a minute." And that's the challenge. Because the reality is I can always stop if I want to. I know that. I can take that breather. I can give it a rest. But none of that is going to help me the day of the Marathon. And it's that constant battle mentally that I've found to be the key to getting through these training sessions as they've ratcheted up.

But I've also found that I have an immeasurable "X-factor" running with me every step of the way that gives me that extra motivation to keep training, keep pushing, keep running, keep going. I have Gwendolyn. And anytime I find myself losing focus or wanting to take that rest or feeling exhausted, my mind turns to Gwendolyn and the unfathomably heroic battle that she has fought and continues to fight every single day for every single breath she has ever taken. She has shown me what courage is. She has taught me what determination looks like. And she has never, never, ever given up. And she never will. And with that thought -- at some point on every long run I've done -- I get the chills and literally a rush of something goes up my spine and through the top of my head. And all of a sudden stopping is an option no more for me.

I'm really looking forward to November 12, 2011. Sure it's going to be a bear to get through. But it's definitely going to be a fun day for me and I'm really excited to be running in the Santa Barbara Marathon with 30 inspiring Team GSF warriors who have all decided to turn their personal training into something bigger than themselves. Sure, we're all doing this for us. But we're also all training and running and fundraising so one day they, those with SMA, can too. And that's awesome. That's inspiring.

Talk About It

So proud of you Bill. so honored to be doing this with you and Team GSF. And so inspired by your beautiful girl and all those other little SMA warriors ... they become all of our personal "X -factors". This morning, hit my run before daybreak and just kept thinking about the reasons we choose to push ourselves, physically and mentally, and and each time I return to the common bond: to our incredible children, who's lives have taught us more about living, then we would have ever, ever known. Their indomitable will to survive. Their 4 year old bodies filled with more strength and determination then we could ever hope to harness in our own lifetimes. Unfairly so, yes, but we learn and live by their example and in our case, we put one foot in front of the other, simply because we can. Sending you love and strength as you finish of this last part of your training and please give your two beauties a kiss from me. We will see you in a few weeks!
Posted by Zoey's mom on 2011-10-21 10:44:28
Good luck with your final weeks of training. I know I'm pushing myself the next two weekends to get out there and do some "longer" runs to help prepare for the half. I'm excited beyond belief to be running this with everyone and although I have yet to met Gwendolyn, I think about her often during my runs when I need that extra mental motivation to just keep going! See you all in a few weeks!
Posted by Karin on 2011-10-21 11:34:32
We will be in Rhode Island during the marathon, but we will be cheering you on from the East Coast!! It's quite an accomplishment Bill! I know Gwendolyn is so proud of her Daddy and how hard you work for her every day. Because she doesn't have the chance to take a breather and stop battling SMA, I know you are going to power though this marathon with all the confindence you need! You are going to do GREAT! We WISH we were going to be here to high five you when it starts to get tough, just know that we will be sending you good vibes from afar! : ) GO TEAM GSF!!!
Posted by Terri Anton on 2011-10-21 14:31:35
You continue to inspire those of us around you. Good Luck and know that Beb-e-ssentials is behind you and your efforts all the way!!! Can't wait to hear how race day goes........... GO GSF!!!!!
Posted by Penny on 2011-10-22 10:51:29
Bill, you will be, as I'm sure you already know, amazed by how much you can endure when you believe in the cause. I did the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2006 with a lot of pain and a lot of bleeding blisters inside of blisters. My training had been like that throughout but you know, I couldn't stop on the day of the walk. I kept thinking of the people who can't stop; they have no choice. I couldn't let my little bit of pain and misery stop me if they could endure and go through what they go through to continue living. You will be amazed what you can do but more than anything else you'll be amazed what you can do for Gwendolyn and others on the day of the marathon. Take time to enjoy the feat and remind yourself throughout the run why you are out there and the people you are touching and the people you are reaching out to that know nothing about SMA. I'm proud of you.
Posted by Michele on 2011-10-22 13:22:24

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