In 2008, for the first time in my adult life, I had only 1 job and I was finished with my degree. Before that I would work 2 or 3 jobs at a time and also attend college part time at night. Now I had A LOT of free time and about 40 extra pounds I wanted to get rid of. Also, in 2008, my grandmother was going to be 98 years old. I was 35. The thought hit me that if I have the potential to live anywhere near as long as my grandmother then I needed to get in shape and start living a healthier lifestyle. Perfect timing, I received a flyer in the mail from Team in Training (TNT). TNT is a program that trains individuals to complete endurance events while they raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I went to a meeting and signed up to run the Dallas Half in Oct 2008. Training began in May, and I was nervous. I didn’t know if I could make it the scheduled 2 miles on the first day. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but I made it. Liesel Streich was a mentor on the team my first season. Along with Liesel, there were a couple of other people on the team that really had an impact on me and my future as a runner. One was the Captain, Don Armstrong, and the other was the Coach, Manuel Rodriguez.
After about 3 weeks Manuel called me and asked me if I wanted to go run a 5K with him on Memorial Day. I felt so honored that the coach was calling me personally to invite me to run a race. I did it, my first 5k. Again, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it! My goal was to run the whole way and I did, very, very slowly, but I did it!
Manuel and I after the finish of the Madrid Marathon in Spain 2012
A couple of weeks later I was running 6 miles during our Saturday morning training run. My first 6 miles EVER! It was hot and I was tired. From about mile 4 to mile 5 I was having an internal struggle with my body and my brain. I was just about to give up. I didn’t think I could run any more. Perfect timing again, Don Armstrong came running up behind me and asked, “mind if I run with you for a while?” I said, “Sure”, like I was doing him a favor, but the whole time in my head I was thinking “well crap, I can’t quit now!” We made it the last mile and I didn’t quit. Then a couple weeks later, I was running 8 miles for the first time ever. I didn’t know if I could make it. I ran about 4 miles and make it to the water stop and Liesel was there waiting for me to run the last 4 with me. I could not believe how supportive everyone was. I didn’t even know these people just a few weeks earlier and there they all were helping me and supporting me through this new and scary marathon training program! I decided to take full advantage of the coaching while I had it and followed the schedule for the full marathon training instead of the half and I’m glad I did. A couple of months into the training, I decided to switch my event to the Inaugural Rock n Roll San Antonio Full Marathon in November. Well, I finished my first marathon and Liesel and Don were there at the finish line to congratulate me. Manuel was out on the course running with various people and encouraging me along the way. When I began I thought I would run 1 marathon and then I could go back to just living life whatever that was. But I found out that TNT was going to do a marathon in Rome, Italy the next season in 2009. So I signed up again and also became a mentor for the team. Once again, Liesel & Don were at the finish line waiting for me after they had finished the race.
Liesel, Don and me at the finish of the Rome Marathon 2009
As pay back for me making Liesel go to Rome, she made me run an Ultra Marathon, yep, I ran a 50K that’s 31 miles and I can say I’ve done it and I don’t ever have to do it again!
Liesel and I after finishing the 50K Ultra Marathon 2009
Ok, surely that is all, now I can go back to my boring life right? Well no, I met Albert Chavira while training for Rome. He is a cycle coach for TNT. He talked a few of us into joining the TNT cycle team for 2010. My grandmother was going to be 100 year old that year and what better way to honor that than to ride a bike 100 miles around Lake Tahoe. I was not the best cycle participant; I think my long ride was 60 miles spread out over 2 days! YIKES! I made it to mile 70 something and I was exhausted. I still had 4 miles left of the last big long climb up a hill named Spooner. At the water stop I literally got off my bike and sat down on the curb. I told Albert, “I don’t think I can climb anymore”. What I wanted to happen was for the SAG wagon to take me up the 4 miles and then I could ride the rest of the way on my own. Albert’s reply was, “OK, get a drink and get something to eat and then get back on your bike, your grandmother is going to be 100 not 96”. I may have said a couple of bad words, but I got back on my bike and I made it the entire 100 miles and I am so happy that I did! I would have been so disappointed to have to tell everyone I was 4 miles short of my goal. And yes once again Liesel was there at the finish line after complete the ride herself. (She had already gone back the room showered, had something to eat and time to relax! )
Me sitting on the curb in Lake Tahoe at mile 70 something 2010!
Since joining TNT and becoming a runner, my life has changed dramatically. Since 2008 I have gone from walking my dogs about a mile a day and being 40 something pounds overweight to completing:
1 Ultra Marathon
3 Full Marathons
16 Half Marathons
1 100 Mile Bike Ride
5 sprint triathlons! And I didn’t even know how to swim at first!
John “The Pinguin” Bingum has said, “I am not a runner, I am a long distance endurance athlete” and that is how I view myself now. If I can do this anyone can! I am not the fastest or the strongest, but I give it my all and I have concurred so many of my fears! I’ve gone places I never imagined I would ever get to see and met some amazing people. I have completed 1 event per year with TNT since 2008. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
Liesel, Albert, Don, and me having fun at Manuel’s daughter’s wedding 2013