Goal Set. Goal Achieved: Montecito Half MarathonJuly 18, 2011 by Bill Strong
What an incredible experience -- I finished the Montecito-Summerland Half Marathon on Saturday in just under 2 hours!
On Saturday, my great friend and fellow Team GSF SB Marathon runner, Mike Paskin, our friend, Steve Fergusson, my awesome trainer, Mike Claytor, and I conquered the first annual Montecito-Summerland Half Marathon. For me, it was my first organized race - ever! I selected it mostly due to its timing in my training program -- about four months out from the Santa Barbara Marathon -- and its close proximity to Santa Barbara and our home. It was by no means easy -- but I finished. And in just under 2 hours which was my personal goal. I am nursing a pretty bad heel/Achilles injury from the race, but hopefully I'll be back to training for the Santa Barbara Marathon in no time!
In hindsight, I think my friend Mike Paskin was right -- this was probably not the wisest choice for my first event The course was absolutely brutal -- 1,000+ foot elevation change -- with the first 6.55 miles up, up, straight up into the hills of Montecito and the final 6.55 miles straight down, down, down the same route back to Summerland. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but definitely not the "gentle rolling course" that the event website had advertised. But I made it through. We all made it through. We all ran together for about the first 3 miles and Mike Claytor ran with me the entire race -- a life saver and huge motivator for me. And I can honestly say that I RAN the entire race despite several times on the incline sections that my body and mind battled to convince me to stop to take a breather -- I'm probably most proud of that.
To be honest, there were several times during the race that I struggled -- from memory I'd say the ridiculous hills from mile 4 to 6 were both physically and mentally challenging for me, the extreme prolonged downhill section of miles 6.5 to 10.5 was tough as I'd never done that before and my body was spent from the relentless uphill sections, and the final section was mentally challenging as I'd never run that distance or time before. Mike Claytor was invaluable in keeping me focused and pushing through. My Pandora playlist helped along the way. But it was interesting -- in those extreme times when I wanted to slow down or stop, my mind automatically drifted to thoughts of Gwendolyn and Victoria and our family, to the many kids valiantly battling SMA, to the far too many children taken much too soon by this brutal disease, and to the families and friends and communities that are impacted by an SMA diagnosis. It was like having an army of incredibly motivating people sitting on my shoulders telling me I can do it. Not to give up. And that gave me strength to dig deep and push on. Then, at mile 10.5, just when I needed it most, I looked up to see Victoria, Gwendolyn, my mom, and several of our friends standing on the corner cheering me on. Gwendolyn was holding a sign that read - "My Daddy Is Running So One Day I Can Too". Needless to say, that turbo-boost of inspiration carried me through the final 2.6 miles to the finish line.
After I saw Gwendolyn and crew I knew I was on the home stretch and I was going to be VERY close to my 2 hour goal -- the digital lady RunKeeper announcer kept reminding me of that in my earphones every 5 minutes Mike Claytor turned to me right after we saw Gwendolyn and gave me some added encouragement to push through and finish strong. My final 0.5 mile was one of the fastest I ran all day and I crossed the finish line in 1:59:51. I was spent. It was almost surreal. But I was ecstatic and proud of myself.
Thank you so much to Mike Paskin, Steve Fergusson, and Mike Claytor for taking time out of your lives and agreeing to run with me on Saturday. I can't thank you enough and your support was awesome! I just hope we're still friends after convincing you to run that crazy course with me Victoria and Gwendolyn, your love, support, positivity, enthusiasm, and encouragement are what keep me going. I love you both so much! To mom, you are the best and thank you for always being there for me and for us. And to all of my friends who called or emailed or texted or facebooked before and after the race, thank you for all the well wishes, notes of support, and genuine positivity towards Team GSF SB Marathon. It means the world to me and makes me certain of the army that will get me through the full marathon come November!
It's hard to believe but we're already less than 4 months out from the Santa Barbara Marathon and Team GSF is taking shape. My training has been just what I had hoped - challenging, healthy, therapeutic. The list of people signing up for the SB Marathon relay, the half or the full marathon as a Team GSF runner is growing. And while each of the runners involved are doing this for ourselves, there is something unbelievably profound about the fiber of Team GSF. We've all decided to turn our training and racing and personal challenges into something bigger than ourselves. We're running for those who can't. We're running because we know we are fortunate that we can. We're running to honor those taken from this world by a terminal disease most have never heard of. We're running to fight. We're running to do something. We're running to change the future of SMA! And we will. One person, one stride, one dollar at a time! It all starts with o.n.e. And that's always been our mantra at theGSF.
If you are interested in being part of Team GSF, please email me at bill@GwendolynStrongFoundation.org. Or if you can’t join us in Santa Barbara, you can still dedicate your 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Triathlon, Ultra Marathon, etc. to raising awareness and funding for SMA. Over $40,000 has been raised by Team GSF members already. It’s super simple, super fun, super effective, and super rewarding! As my friend Stephen says, “We run for those who can’t.” And as Gwendolyn's sign read, "[We're] running so one day I can, too."
13.1 miles accomplished. Now the push to the Santa Barbara Marathon in November!