WOW! I’m still a little high from the entire weekend. I’m also a little bummed… 

The race was definitely epic! The costume was right on and I forgot I was running the first 12 miles. This is the joy I get from running. It’s also pretty funny- I now have so much energy. I would have kept going if they would have let me. I could not have had this much fun running a year ago… The difference between this year and last year’s Rock and Roll has me blown away. My weight is within 10 pounds, but the difference in my stamina, endurance, breathing, technique, attitude, etc is completely different!

The whole weekend was different too. Last year was our 1st big race and we had no idea what we were getting in to. We didn’t know anyone last year so we stuck together and didn’t really enjoy the atmosphere of the race as much as we should have- just each other’s company. We were brand new to the running culture and felt like outsiders. I now know there is not such thing as an outsider. The running community has welcomed Nikki and I with open arms and it has been awesome!

I have met so many people through running and it is awesome! The even better part- we all have different stories, and we all understand we are different. I believe this in turn helps us in supporting each other. I have accomplished so much in the last couple years and my story is tiny compared to many people’s journey.

The Race-

I couldn’t sleep due to the excitement. For some reason I always feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve just waiting to know what is going to happen in the morning. It was well after midnight when I finally went to sleep. A little after 3:30 I made myself go back to sleep and around 4:10 I was up. I couldn’t stop moving. It drives Nikki a little crazy that I just wake up with non stop energy, like a little kid.

It started out a beautiful morning with a sunrise over the capital. I ran into some fellow runners I’ve been waiting to meet and I got to see again. After a long search though, I still haven’t found a few people I’d really like to meet. I hoped in a coral somewhere around 8-10 and went. Told myself to have as much fun as possible and let’s finish around 2:15 or so. 2:10 is what I finished the 1st half of the Revel 26.2 in and I figured the down hill gave me a huge boost. I didn’t want to be disappointed with my time and ruin the race. I really should know better than to set my goals too low…

As we inched forward I got the excitement and as the MC called out my costume I knew today was going to be fun! I shot out of the coral like a cannon. I had to have run the 1st mile in 7 1/2 minutes. I was pumped! I weaved in and out of people and started to see the race support. I saw the smiles on kids’ faces when I gave them a high five. I got more excited as I went. Mile 3 I sprinted up the hill. I was in the zone and felt great. There are only 2 things that can happen about now. I can continue on my crazy fast pace and crash or succeed. So I turned my watch over and stopped looking at it. I told myself not to look at it again until mile 10.

I just ran. Back and forth across the course I would seek out people that came to watch us. It was great to watch the smiles on peoples face as they fed off my smile. Everything was perfect. I couldn’t help but smile. I haven’t felt this physically good in weeks. NO pain, anywhere. No pain meds, no knee brace or strap. It was great! Then about mile 8…

I started to notice the scenery looking familiar, like I had run there before. I came around a corner and noticed a familiar tree and then tears started strolling down my eyes. It was where I lost it during the Colfax Marathon. At first I had no conscious thought about what was going on… It took me a 1/4 a mile to recognize where I was and what had just happened. I felt all the emotion of the marathon just rushing back. It was like I had felt everything just yesterday. Then I began to get a little disappointed. Why didn’t I just run the full marathon? I had lowered my standards and given up on my goal of 3 marathons this summer… I began to get really disappointed in myself. What if? rolled through my head… I’m so happy course support came back super fast. I came around a corner and there were people everywhere! It couldn’t have come at a better time, when I needed it most. I looked at my watch and realized I had slowed down a bunch.

There were now people everywhere and a view of a Denver park that was great! I felt myself speed up a again. The kids and parents would point and smile. It made them feel good. It made me feel GREAT! I couldn’t help but smile more. My legs felt awesome. I wasn’t even out of breath, at all. I looked at my watch again and at mile 11 I felt like I was at mile 2. I saw the opportunity to finish in under 2 hours. This could be my stepping stone to a sub 4 hour marathon I thought. What a confidence boost this would be. So I stepped it up. I felt like I was watching my watch closer than the road. I started to feel tired. Then I realized why. My focus was on the wrong thing. I went back to the crowd watching, high fives and having fun. It was such a weird experience. The more fun I had the faster I went and the less energy I used. It was one of the funniest times I’ve ever had.

I hit mile 12 and sprinted. I put my head up and ran with everything I had left in the tank. There were people everywhere who were cheering us on! It was a mile I wish I could run over and over again. There is always so much emotion going through my head in the last mile. I want to run as fast as I can and I always want to know that I gave everything I had with no regrets. I crossed the finish line with everything and all my emotion just came right to the surface. I let out a huge exciting yell. I hoped with everything I had that I beat the 2 hour mark.

As much emotion and adrenaline as I had running through my body I couldn’t stand still. I walked up and down the finish line pacing waiting for Nikki and trying to see anyone else that I knew cross the finish line. If you’ve never stood and watched people finish- spend 10 minutes next time and just watch people come down the final stretch. Watch people give everything they have. Watch the smiles, tears, joy, disappointment. Watch people’s eyes and faces as they have just finished their first or second race or their hundredth. It was an experience that I will never ever forget.

The coolest thing I have ever seen was the 2 ladies I watched cross the finish line together. One was deaf and in a wheel chair who did the whole race so her friend could finish her first race! They were both so excited. The tears of joy and accomplishment that ran down their face was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. It was the 1st 13.1 for both of them One lady can’t run and the other is not a “typical” runner. It was awesome to take their picture and just see the watch them enjoy their celebration. To me, this is what running is about.

The atmosphere was great. I gave out so many high fives it was unbelievable! 🙂 I didn’t want it to end, but I have so much more to look forward to as I meet new people and we can travel to more and more races. The joy of meeting new people and sharing stories, advice, accomplishments is so much better than sitting at home by myself watching reruns. All the time, effort, pleasure, pain and early mornings far outweighs the alternative. If you ever want to feel like you instantly know someone- have a genuine conversation with a fellow runner. (Just don’t expect it to be a short conversation 😉

Published by Gary Stotler

Gary Stotler is a father, running, fitness, weight loss and personal development addict. Formally 400 pounds, Gary has naturally lost 200 pounds, created a coaching & speaking business and has become a 100 mile ultra-runner. Holding a degree in Psychology & Sociology, certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer, mindset & behavioral modification coaching, a certification in DISC personality assessment coaching and he is a certified speaker, coach & mentor with the John Maxwell Team. Gary firmly believes, if we take One Step at a Time, nothing is impossible. He is determined to let his actions show people what is possible and hopes to help you shake up your thoughts, change your actions and create your future.

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