The 13.1 guy

I have often said I would never be one of those people. You know the ones; the guy with the 13.1 oval on their car. It turns out that I now may just be one.

My running pal Paula and I at the Akron Half Marathon starting line

At the Akron Marathon Expo I made a snap decision to buy a half marathon 13.1 oval. It was still unknown if I would cross the finish line. The next day I was a finisher; slow and steady but a finisher. It was surprising how much I enjoyed the race. I was fortunate to run with my good friend Paula who kept me laughing and positive. The spectators were phenomenal with cheers, music, and signs. It was an A++ experience. Here are some things I learned from running my first half marathon.

  1. Things that seem unachievable are much more achievable than I realized.
    I started the year struggling to cross the finish lines of 5Ks. In early summer I ran my first 10K and did a pretty respectable job. As the summer wore on, my runs crept up past three miles to five miles. My final month of runs averaged six to seven miles. I was blind to the progress I made over the summer. I need to be more aware of the progress I make every day.
  2. The past is the past. The future is now.
    Three summers ago I began running at the urging of my best friend Chuck, an accomplished marathoner. I struggled to keep pace with other runners. I have never been an athlete, but I kept charging ahead (slowly). Looking back, I know that my sedentary past was dictating my future. As hard as it is, I need to shed the past to run into the future.
  3. I don’t have to have that perfect runner’s body.
    I am over a hundred pounds lighter than I was six years ago. I am a short guy carrying a few extra pounds. I do not possess those long skinny runner legs. Runners have intimidated me for the past three years. I have felt out of place among them. Looking back, I realize these people never judged me. They cheered me on and made me feel better about myself. I now know each of us runs our own race at our own pace and don’t judge others.
  4. Runners at the back of the pack are as much a winner as those at the front of the pack.
    Early in my running, I came across books by John “The Penguin” Bingham. His running philosophy recognizes people finishing at the back of the pack are running for respect, their health and their wellbeing is right on track. His books, blog posts and tweets continue to inspire and drive me forward. I hope all runners share his philosophy that the people crossing the finish line last are just as big a winner as the first guys to cross the finish line.
  5. Tom, the FINISHER at the Akron Half Marathon finish line!

    A single guy crossing the finish line can motivate others.
    I spent my life being very sedentary. I had a heart attack and triple coronary bypass. Six years ago I had bariatric surgery and transformed my life. I adopted an active life of cycling, hiking, snowshoeing and running. I don’t see myself as a poster child but hope my story motivates people to follow and surpass my footsteps. Change happened gradually. I had to make a concerted effort to make it happen. I hope that others will trade the couch for a bike, hiking boots or running shoes.

  6. I like running.
    I could never imagine saying that prior to this race. Running fit naturally into my new life. It was unexpected, unwelcome at times and inconvenient. It made me hurt. I was angry at myself. I kept moving and things changed. I met great people. I experienced the excitement of running. I am a happier person. I challenge you to go out and try something you never dreamed you could achieve. It need not be running. Keep plugging away. Never give up. It might just turn into love.

I am now the guy with a 13.1 oval on my back car window. I earned it and am proud to display that accomplishment.

Tom Bilcze

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