I have the tendency to not train too well for races. 2013's Akron Marathon was the pinnacle of my lack of attention to training detail. Jokes are made about the "Thomas Costello Training Plan": paying money to sign up for a race, and then hoping for the best. Akron was the first major example of trying this plan, and I would repeat this training plan for the Canton HOF Half in 2014 and both the 2015 and 2016 Columbus Half marathons. Something about 2017 was different. There was a renewed sense of a mission, and a $26 marathon (if you aren't in the running community, this is CHEAP)! That mission was clean water and hygiene resources, through Lifewater International. I had run for Active:Water/Lifewater a few times prior to 2017, and the last time fund-raising was attempted was the 2016 Ohio 70.3 Half Ironman; where I had my first ever DNT, DNS, DNF (did not train, start, or finish). You can go through the back issues of my blog to read more about the history, but I started running because of Active:Water's mission. Honestly, I felt like I was letting down a calling to not share the message and save lives. So, with all this history bottled up inside of me, I started my training. Like the Minnesota Pee-Wee D-5 hockey team, I was rough around the edges. Humor was used as a coping mechanism, my skill was nowhere near the competition, and I was fighting off some regrets from the past. To make a long story short: training went much better than I could have expected. I actually trained! Running actual miles! My distance times rivaled where I was 5 years ago when I ran a somewhat successful Chicago marathon. The miles were being logged, and confidence was building. The fund-raising was going well too.
My usual fund-raising plan is to inundate people with social media posts. This strategy stuck around in 2017, but other ideas crept into my head. 4+ years ago, with my work team, an idea struck me, but never came to pass: we could raise money for a cause and the bearded volunteers on the team would shave their facial hair into something funny (or completely off). Lack of interest squashed it back then, but the idea had a resurgence when a neighboring team in my new office held a "shave it or save it" contest with a bearded gentlemen on their team. It reminded me of what had once been, with a twist! Shave it or Save it would be a focal point of my fund-raising plan. Quick backstory, I stopped shaving in September of 2014, when my family and I moved back to NE Ohio from Richmond, VA. Second part to the backstory: my wife hated my beard/mustache because of the feel of it. I knew right away that there'd be a field general for the shave it side in Mrs. Costello.
|Bearded Training. Stretching is Important!|
During the span of training, other ideas would come to me while I was running. First, one day I thought it would be cool to connect my love of soccer with the mission of clean water. Maybe running to the home opener for Columbus Crew SC would get some attention? I first had to consult with my training plan to see if the miles would work. I lived 13 miles from the stadium, and the home opener was on the weekend of my 13 mile distance run!!! All of the graphic design prowess I could muster got me a graphic to share, but I'm paranoid and was afraid that even the likeness of the team's stadium would get me in trouble. Also, if I ran to the game in a Crew SC shirt, and dropped dead, would the team be liable (I work in insurance...)?!? I contacted the only front office contact that I had seen on Twitter about what I could and could not use in my advertising, with the first line of the email containing something along the lines of "I AM NOT ASKING FOR MONEY" (I didn't use caps in the original email, but it makes the blog post more exciting). You'd believe the shock I felt when not only were they fine with the idea, but they wanted to help me promote it!! A few short weeks later I'd be at the stadium, being interviewed by a staff member for their website (Click here to read the article). The run went great and there was around $400 donated in the days leading to, and the day of, the run to the fre. Second, retweets and shares for donations. I put out to everyone that if they shared a Facebook post I wrote, or retweeted a tweet, $1 would be donated to Lifewater International. This year was the first year that the fun was back in fund-raising. Ideas pop into my head but I wasn't always acting on it. Like I said, something about 2017 was different!
The last few weeks before the race the giving slowed down. Fund-raising, like marathon training, is about perseverance and patience with the process. One donation came in the last 3 weeks, and there was a gap of about $400 between what was given and the completely arbitrary, I-don't-know-why-I-chose-it, $1,500 goal. I'd like to say that I knew it was no big deal and that the donations would come in, but that'd make me a dirty liar. I got down on myself, and thought it would never happen (not great at the whole patience thing). The whole time "save it" was winning by a solid $100. That was until about 36 hours before race-day...
My wife is a tactical genius. She hasn't admitted it yet, but I'm sure she had her army of beard haters waiting in the bunker until they saw the white hairs of my beard. One $120 donation came in. Minutes later (seriously), another $120. Then $15 here, $25 there, another $15, a 3rd $120 (NOT A COINCIDENCE AT ALL). Plus many more. The tides swung from a $100 "save it" lead to a $400+ "shave it" lead. When it was all said and done, at a pre-race dinner with our friends, family, and fellow runners, the beard was shaved off live on the Facebooks.
I kept a groovy, 90's military style, mustache for the marathon. Technically, I never said the mustache was part of the shave it or save it. So training went great, fund-raising went better, and all that was left was the pee-wee finals against Coach Riley and the Hawks (aka finishing the marathon).
For a week leading to race day, the weather forecast had chances of rain and a high of 88-ish. As days passed, the rain cleared off my weather.com app but the temperatures stayed the same. Race morning arrived and the 7 o'clock start was forecasted at 60 with a noon temp at 80+. With 15 minutes till the start, it was announced that the highway getting into the city was backed up, due to an accident, so they would delay the start an additional 15 minutes. Which, honestly, is not that big of a deal, but I was hoping to start as early as possible. One positive that day was that I wouldn't have to run the marathon alone. For the first chunk of the race (about a 7 mile chunk) I ran with Mr. Daren Wendell (aka family man, all around good guy, Lifewater all-star, and the guy who ran 100 marathons in 100 days from San Diego to New York City (no biggie)).
|From Left to Right: Daren and Creepy Guy from 90s Time Travel|
My training up to race day had me completing 20 miles at a relatively fast (fast for me) clip. Going into Sunday, I was hoping to make it to 20 and then fight through the last 6. The fight started around mile 12. At races that have multiple distances, there's a spot where half marathoners break off from marathoners, and relay runners, to the finish line. It's AWFULLY enticing to finish your race 13 miles early, on a smoldering hot day (smoldering hot in terms of the Ohio, April, definition of smoldering. Add to that the fact that all the training was completed in the winter/early spring and conditioning wasn't fantastic for me), but I persisted. I didn't want to persist but I thought about the people who sent in donations. I thought about the people being helped through Lifewater international. I thought of my dead beard hairs in the church's dumpster. I had to finish the race for them. My plan at the turn around point of the race was a run/fast walk. I would run as far as I could and then walk as fast as I could till I felt good enough to keep going. Micro-focus was the name of the game: I can survive the next second. Then it turned into the next 5 seconds. Then I told myself, out loud, run to the next mile marker. Then, run to the next stop light. Then, run to the next water stop. When runners asked me what my time goal was (because thats what us runners do), I shared that I didn't really have one, and I wanted to finish. Real talk time, I wanted to finish in under 5 hours. I'm not a math wiz, but around mile 19 I hadn't seen a clock anywhere, and had no clue how close I was to the 6 hour cut off. Now I just wanted to finish before I got picked up (see above where I said I'm paranoid). Right before mile 21 I saw that I was at the 4 hour mark. That was a huge relief. At that point, I started to talk to other people who were in the struggle with me. I talked to a nice couple from Youngstown, some RWB team runners (Red, White, and Blue) who ran with flags, and met a runner who I had talked to before online (@andrewrunsalot). Andrew had completed the half marathon and THEN volunteered on mile 22ish! He had a plate of orange slices and watermelon. The fireman-stache was a dead giveaway that I was the guy who shaved his beard for the race. Meeting him, the others, and eating an orange slice, gave me a renewed sense of purpose. For the last 5 miles I shared about Lifewater international with about ten people (turns out the stache was a great icebreaker). One of those ten even asked me about it because of the Team Active:Water shirt. Winning!
As I inched closer and closer to the finish, I saw Daren. He was about a mile behind me. I reached mile marker 26 and stopped. No PRs were being met and the time wasn't important: this marathon was a way to share the Lifewater mission. What better way to finish the race than with the person who God used to share the water crisis and the motivation to help stop it? While I waited for Daren, a woman asked me about my shirt and if I knew a guy named Daren Wendell. She went to high school with Daren, the youth pastor from our church in Canton, and the head pastor of our church in Pickerington. What're the chances?! Daren turned the corner to the 26th mile maker, and we Chattahoocheed our way across the finish line.
I can't promise that I'll write much more in this blog, because, ya know, life. I'm going to keep signing up for races. Keep up with actual training for races. Most importantly, I'll keep using it as a platform to share the mission. Over the next year or so I'd like to go back to some ideas I've had in the past and plant the seed to see if it grows.