If you’d have told me last spring that I’d be running monthly half marathons by the end of 2020 I’d have said “you’re nuts!” But given the events of 2020, I shouldn’t be surprised that that’s how things have shaken out.
Back in November I was busy photographing an ad campaign featuring some of the incredible athletes who’d signed up for the Love Run Half Marathon to raise funds for Legacy of Hope — helping their Emergency Patient Support Network to continue its critically important support for cancer patients in Philly. I’d photographed many incredible individuals for Legacy of Hope over the past couple of years, but given my recent re-entry to the world of running, I was particularly inspired by these athletes—their grit, dedication, generosity, and accomplishments. I’d mentioned this to Mike Rowe, CEO at Legacy of Hope. He wasted no time planting the seed: “Hey Bryan, you should sign up for the Love Run.”
With a bit of encouragement from Mike, I accepted the challenge and immediately got more serious about training for my first race. It was the beginning of December and my longest run at that juncture was 11.57 miles at about a 10 minute mile. I ran my first 13.1 miler on 12/23/20, clocking in at 2:19:37, 10:37 mile pace; I’m lucky I didn’t injure myself on that run. I did it totally off the cuff, with ZERO planning—running with nothing in my stomach, and no hydration or nutrition during the run. I sure as hell felt it afterwards, and realized I still had much to learn.
After proving to myself that I could hit the 13.1 mile mark, my goals became clear—complete the Love Run in less than 2 hours, and, in the months heading up to race day, book up on training, nutrition, and recovery. My sub-2 goal gave me a game plan for moving forward. I would train more methodically by logging 18-22 miles a week, working on getting my pace faster than 9:09 per mile, and logging one half marathon run per month, until race day.
Then, early in the winter, I learned that Love Run organizers announced that the race was bumped from 3/28/21 to sometime this Fall —thanks COVID 😕. Part of me was disappointed; part of me (my inner wimp) was pleased, since this would give me many more months of training to hit that sub-two goal; and part of me (my inner taskmaster) said “NOPE! You set the goal to do the Love Run in under two hours on 3/28; you’ve been training effectively for it. You’re going to run your half on race day! No crowds, no runners to chase, no race day adrenaline, just you.”
Today is 3/28/21 and I’m happy to report that my training efforts paid off. I set out from West Philly at 7am and crossed the 13.1 mile mark near the Rocky Steps 1:59:02 later — running the last six miles in pouring rain for added dramatic effect.
I’m sharing this long winded post not so much to toot my own horn—although this 57 year old is proud of himself—but more to highlight how important it is for us to challenge ourselves; to get out of our comfort zone so that we can grow, be it physically, mentally or both.
Last May, I was sucking wind so hard after running three blocks up Spruce street that I thought I was going have a heart attack. 13+ minute miles abounded; the thought of running sub nines seemed absurd. Persistence and discipline changed this mindset, perhaps for the simple fact that running offered me something that I could control in the world where everything else was going inside out, upside down and going haywire. Whatever the root of my discipline, I’m grateful to have tapped into and maintained it; now that I have my sub-two-hour half marathon in the bag, I’m eyeing a new (official) Love Run goal for the Fall. I’m thinking 1:50:00 or faster, since I’ll be able to tap into race-day adrenalin. Time will tell. In the meantime, you can find me shooting photos and logging the miles.
Special thanks to Mike Rowe from Legacy of Hope, my hardcore marathoner niece Jessica Roper, Meghan McVeigh Maciolek, Gina Mancuso Bryant of Core Fitness, the Earn Your Break crew, BMR Philly and the guys at Swaggahouse Run Club for your guidance, inspiration and support!