Couch Potato to Marathon in 2 1/2 Months

From guest author, Tom Reaves. If you’d like to be a guest author, email your idea or post to the editor.


You would think that being active duty in the military, a service member would be in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In my branch, a physical fitness test is performed twice a year. In order to pass the test, a member is required to do a few push-ups, a few sit-ups and run 1 ½ miles. The passing requirements, are not very difficult. As long as you pass, you can get away with a minimal amount of physical therapy.

Having said that, I have gone from being a “Couch Potato” to running a marathon in 2 ½ months. I don’t know why I had this desire to run or even how I got started running. I didn’t even like running. Every day I told myself, “I was going to quit. There was no reason to run. Why am I doing this?” I do know I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment. In January, I purchased a new pair of running shoes, an iPod Nano, and the Nike+ system and I was on my way. January 4th, I ran 3 miles. By the 10th, I BARELY finished 5 miles.

Before I go on, I have to say “Do Not try this at home!” I went against almost every piece of advice I got and still got the job done. “They” say not to increase your long run more than 10% each week. In two weeks I went from a 5 mile run to a 12 mile run.

February 21st: I ran a 13.5 miles in 2 hours and 10 minutes within a month and a half of starting. At the end of February, I took a week off to let some massive blisters on my foot heal. Jumping right back into it, I ran an average of 9 miles every other day for the next week before taking another week.

March 18th: 4 days before the race and my longest run yet, 14 miles. “They” say the last week before a marathon you should take it easy. “They” also say that if you can run about 15 to 18 miles then you can do a marathon. I never met that goal either.

March 21st: Expo Registration. I walked up to register for the race with the application. The volunteer started to going through entry requirements and the schedule with me. He asked if I knew how the D-ring timing chip worked. My response was “No this is my first race.” “Oh, you first marathon, Huh.” “No, my first race!” He looked at me like I was had just said something totally insane. Fact is, I guess it was a little insane. I had been running for 2 ½ months and now I was about to run 26.2 miles at one time. He asked me if I knew I was signing up for the Full marathon. I assured him I was in the right line. He started giving me advice on how to finish. “Stop and walk through all water and energy gels tables.” I’m sure it was great advice. Maybe that is another one of those pieces of advice that “They” say to do. I don’t know about you, but when I stop running, the last thing I want to do is start running again.

March 22nd: Race day. I got there extra early. I wanted to get a parking spot near the finish line. If I run 26 miles, the last thing I want to do is walk another mile to my car to drive home. Since I had this extra time, I walked to the start and finish line. The start line to make sure of where I needed to be when the race started; and the finish line, just in case I never saw it again.

The temperature was 35 degrees at the start. It was colder than I had ever run in before. What to wear…I knew it would get warmer as the day goes on, so should I layer up and shed as I go along or just grin and bare it? I went with the latter. Shorts, t-shirt, and another long sleeve running shirt I got at the Expo made it a little chilly, but with all the excitement, I barely noticed.

This race thing was awesome. It was more like a block party than a race. People running in tutus, kilts, big green afros, and superhero capes. I have to say that over 3000 people all with the same goal, makes for a real sense of camaraderie. I wasn’t running with anyone, but I was by no means running alone. I talked to a few people along the way.

“Coach,” as I called him, was an 8 race veteran. This was his third time in this marathon. His goal was the same as mine…4 hours and 30 minutes. He talked me through the course telling me where the hills were, where he has had problems and other pieces of advice. His method of running was to walk for 30 seconds at every mile and walk through every water stop. It seemed to work for him at the beginning. Coach left me around the 8 mile mark. I knew he was doing great. Unfortunately, I ended up passing him around mile 20 and I never saw him again. I know he finished, but he didn’t make his goal this time.

My boss has run in 3 other marathons, however, they were 10 to 15 years earlier. I had been talking to him about this event for the past couple of months. Trying to get any advice and an edge on making it through in one piece. He too had the same time goal. I never saw him, but looking at the results, he was ahead of me by 4 minutes at 7 miles and 9 minutes at the halfway split. I had narrowed it back to 5 minutes at the 18.1 mile timing split. “If you can run 15 miles, you can do it. It is all about heart after that,” he told me. He was right about it taking heart. I hit my wall at 23 miles and it was only heart that got me through the next 3.2 without walking. I was just focused on picking my foot up and putting it back down again. I was watching every crack with care hoping I wouldn’t stumble one quarter of a mile away from the finish line. I came around the last turn and there it was. The goal I had been running for 4 ½ hours to see. The crowed was cheering, the announcer would call out our name as we crossed the timer 40 feet from the finish line. “Tom Reaves is about to finish his first marathon” I heard. I was almost there. I crossed the finish line afraid to take another step and I had done it. Was this for real? Was it possible I finished without walking? I wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. With the prayers and support of my friends and family, it was over.

So why did I write this? To scoff in the face everyone who gives friendly advice? To say that “They” are wrong or don’t know what they are talking about? No not at all. I couldn’t have made it without the advice of others. I just wanted to say, I accomplished my goal of running a marathon in 4 hours 33 minutes and 2 seconds. If I can do that in 2 ½ months without a real training plan, there is no telling what you can do. Just get outside, run and have fun!

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