Well I did it again… I paid to run 26 miles. The first marathon I ran I was so overwhelmed with emotion I think I forgot to enjoy it. This one, I enjoyed every moment and I’m still smiling and dwelling on every second of the race and after. My pleasure has been overshadowed by some unfortunate events at the Revel Rockies. I have been devastated for the people that trained their tails off just to be denied a race. I don’t know how yet, but I will make it up to as many of them as possible.

The good news- I absolutely crushed this race! I think this is one reason I am so happy. I was worried about being undertrained. I thought I might have focused on long distances too much and didn’t have enough focus on conditioning and following through. Well, I did ok. I didn’t hit a wall this time. I wasn’t tired this time. I ran the entire race without headphones, this was an accomplishment in itself for me! Most people think I’m a little off my rocker any way, but if you heard what’s in going on in my head- you’d send me straight to a mental institution. Not to mention all the runners that I had to have driven crazy the last 8 miles. I was passing people right and left. Mile 18 is when we started going uphill. I was trained for it, I could tell most people hadn’t. I had nothing to occupy me except for the pretty view (which I thoroughly enjoyed every second of). So I tried to encourage people while passing them. I said something to almost every runner I passed for about 5 miles. It made some smile, some laugh, some said good job back and some scowled at me. Sorry, it kept me occupied and I hope it helped some people finish the race stronger.

I was in my zone for the race. Mentally I was completely prepared! This was no longer my 1st marathon so I knew I would finish, it was now about how fast. My goal was 4:45. This was a good pace I knew I could do the whole time and taking into consideration that it was mostly downhill- walk in the park. I wanted to keep my pace around 10:45-11:00/mile. During my training runs down the mountain this is about what I would run after crawling uphill for 10-13 miles… I knew I could do it and it would leave me with energy to finish strong.

Before everything got started I was texting Nikki back and forth, getting ready to go and handing out good lucks before we started. Then I get a text- “the half marathon is cancelled…” Before I could respond the gun went off and the marathon started. I spent the 1st mile just thinking about it. How awful it was for Nikki to have her race cancelled. Why? What had happened? I went over and over in my head how she would feel. How would all the other people feel? They had all trained so hard and it was just taken away from them. I knew I had to put it on the backburner or I would wear myself out from overthinking. So I just decided to “get lost”. I have learned this over the days and months of long distance training. It’s a place where nothing matters but the run ahead. It kind of feels like a self-hypnosis of complete positive thoughts and thinking, dreaming and feeling myself accomplishing my goal. About mile 3 I hit my zone. I forgot about the world and just started to look around. I was in my happy place- running in the middle of a beautiful mountain.

I looked down about mile 6 and realized I was about to break my fastest 10k at just under 1 hour. I thought to myself, I’m going way too fast. I’m going to crash sometime soon. You have to preserve energy. There’s still 20 miles left in this thing. So as I started to pull back I wondered what would happen if I didn’t slow down? How fast could I really run this thing? What’s the worst case scenario? I have to start walking to catch my breath and recover? The best thing about running the 31 miles for my birthday is no one was there to make fun of me for walking. It wasn’t for time. I learned to enjoy the scenery around me, take some pictures and just get back to the enjoyment that I find in running. I enjoyed it and overcame some mental hurdles that day. Mental hurdles that made me a new person, hurdles that have forever changed my thought process and made me a better person.

So I said fuck it- and I ran. I didn’t even look at my watch for miles. I felt it vibrate every mile I passed and it felt like I was standing still, but my watch just kept counting away. I was cruising and hadn’t even broke a sweat when I passed mile 11. This is when I knew I was going to beat my goal. I started thinking about the 4:25 time and wondering if I could do it. Would it be possible to break a 4 and a half hour marathon? This is when I decided to push myself harder than I ever have. I no longer cared if someone had to drag me across the finish line. I was going to find out what I am made of and I was willing to give up finishing the race to find out.

I crossed the half mark at about 2 hours and 10 minutes. This was my fastest half marathon by 30 minutes, ever. As I passed the water station I was begging the volunteers for information on the half. Did it start? Was it really cancelled? What happen? All while drinking and moving forward. Finally one of the ladies said with excitement, “yes! They started!!!” Wow! What a relief, I no longer felt guilt. I no longer had to worry about what was going on. It was out of my control either way, but I no longer had to think about the devastation on Nikki’s face when I crossed the finish line. I got to run the race for me again.

Right after the half way point there was a huge hill. This is where I really found out how well I trained. I started passing people like they were standing still. I heard many people express their negative thoughts that they thought this race was supposed to be downhill. What was Revel thinking saying this was a downhill course? I heard one person say. I had to run faster- I can’t stand the negativity. I knew I couldn’t say anything so I just had to get away from them. I cruised through 13 and then 14 and on to 15. I kept waiting to hit my wall, I always hit a wall at mile 14. But this time was different. I feel like I was just dropped off at mile 19. Somewhere I got some Gatorade, water and a half a banana. It was the best tasting banana I’ve ever had!

At mile 20 I expected to just die. Just waiting my watch hit 21. I kept waiting and waiting. Then I saw a mountain! This was it, this is what I had trained for. I watched people walking up hills and walking back down. I felt like I was running up and sprinting down the other side. I just kept moving, I had so much energy! I was clapping for people as I passed them. I’d start shouting out of excitement as I was crushing the hills. Each hill made me feel like I was more alive than ever. Then I saw it. A river that flowed down the mountain right next to the road. I can’t tell you how symbolic that is for me. I love the sound of water splashing down. Watching a river reminds me of my journey. A river doesn’t create its path by power. It creates it by persistence. One drop of water won’t create a river. But put a million drops together and watch them move mountains.

I passed the water station at mile 24 and started to feel a little tired. I walked and had some water and kept on going as I started yelling excitement and clapping and high fiving the volunteers. This was it! I was 2 miles away and my watch was right on this time. I knew I was going to finish around 4:30, I just didn’t know on which side. There was a hill almost immediately and my legs started to feel like jello. No worries, I’ve done this before and I was prepared. I started repeating my favorite affirmation “My heart and my mind will carry my body when my limbs are too weak. My heart and my mind will carry my body when my limbs are too weak. Because who am I? I am a CHAMPION!” I repeated this until I saw the final hill about mile 25.5. This was it! I was ready to be done and I knew at this point I had given this thing everything I had, but I needed to push harder than I have ever pushed before.

I passed Red Rocks and got to enjoy a quick peek over the entrance and saw how beautiful it really is. Then, I saw the turn and heard the announcer. I knew it was almost over. I was a little disappointed for a minute. I was having so much fun and having the best run of my life. But instinct kicked in and I sped up. I let gravity carry me down the last part of the hill and let my legs move just enough to keep me standing up. I could feel my pace get faster and faster- then I came around the corner and got glimpse of the finish line. I started moving as fast as I could. My body said I can’t but my mind just took over. My head was held high. Tears began to move down my face and I just knew I had to stay under control for just a little longer. Other than some emotional moments throughout, I had kept my emotions in tact this time.

I could see the whole portal now! I saw all the people around me cheering for us as we finished. I wanted to stop and take it in but I couldn’t stop. I sped up as fast as I could and ran with all my heart. As I stepped across the line I saw Nikki. I put my head down and someone put a medal around my neck- then I heard a sweet female voice say “hey! That’s my job!” I remember removing the medal from my neck and bending over to let her put it on. Then I fell into her shoulder and lost control of all my emotions. I was mentally and physically exhausted and got to experience one of the most positive moments of my life. For 5 seconds or 10 minutes it felt like there was no one else in the world except for the 2 of us. I got to fall in love with my wife all over again.


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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