Running and hiking are my two biggest passions in life. They’ve done more for me than keep me physically healthy. They’ve also kept me mentally heathy and spiritually fulfilled. They’ve given me purpose, drive, and a desire to get out of my comfort zone. They’ve led me to a heathy outdoors lifestyle packed with countless adventures to new places, new races, and meeting new faces. Running and hiking are my life.
So, naturally I love trails. Wilderness trails, urban trails, rail trails, any trail that allows me to move freely outside experiencing the world around me; while also allowing my mind to turn inward to discover a little bit more about myself. I thrive best when I move—and move I love to do, especially on long runs and hikes. I’m not about going fast (those days are in the past), although I still like to challenge myself on how much ground I can cover within a certain timespan.
I started running marathons when I was 28. It was a way for me to stay focused and positive while I dealt with a period of hurt, depression, and rejection. Becoming a marathon runner with all of its dedication and training required to get there gave me great self-confidence. Qualifying and running the Boston Marathon gave me great satisfaction; confirming what’s possible when you’re determined, dedicated, focused, and committed.
Three decades plus later I became compelled to recapture the glory I felt qualifying and running in the Boston Marathon. It was after emerging from the dark days of the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021; and after starting treatments for an auto-immune condition (PMR) that rekindled my desire to go for Boston again. As racing events began to open up again, I excitingly entered a bunch. Some encouraging half marathon results gave me hope that I may still have it. I targeted the 2022 North Olympic Discovery Marathon (NODM) on the Olympic Peninsula as my Boston Qualifier.
Why this race? It’s a great one for a Boston Qualifier. A one way journey nearly all on rail trail across some pretty scenic terrain. It’s put on by a dedicated group of people who care for their participants, the communities the trail passes through, and the trail that the race takes place on—the 130 mile Port Townsend to La Push, Olympic Discovery Trail. The race has contributed thousands of dollars toward the trail’s development. More than 90 miles of it are currently in place. I’ve watched its remarkable growth over the past three decades. And I’ve watched the incredible growth of the NODM from its inception (I went for a recon run with the race’s founder, Larry Little way back in the day) to its current status as a major event on the Peninsula incorporating a half marathon, 10K, 5K, and relay, bringing so many diverse folks and interests together to make it a success.
I targeted the 2022 race, its 20th annual and then trained with my eye on the prize. I ran a pretty decent marathon time on a tough course the month before—my first marathon in six years and thought that my goal was attainable. But life happens as it always does. My son contracted Covid at his school one week before the race. I quarantined myself from my son and wife who also tested positive, hoping that I could thwart the most contagious form of this dreaded virus to date. Two days in and I was still negative and running. On day three the virus got me. My NODM plans were over. I was devastated. But, you have to move on—adjust-and go forward. If the pandemic taught us anything—you build resilience through adaption. The race director Victoria Jones kindly rolled over my entry to 2023. I now had another year to train.
Thankfully my bout with Covid wasn’t too harsh and I was hiking and running again within two weeks. I started marathoning again too, and my times kept improving—until February of this year when I got sick at the Mesa (Arizona) Marathon. It was setback. But hey I’ll bounce back—which I did and then got injured by tearing a muscle in my right hamstring. This of course set me way back with many weeks of running missed and a slow recovery that doesn’t abide by your schedule. When the 2023 NODM came about I was running pain free, but still not strong and still worried that I would agitate my hamstring again.
That’s when you just have to adapt a new mode of thinking—there will be no Boston qualifier on this race. I won’t even try to get anywhere close. I need to fully recover and be able to run hard and strong again. I have plenty of time to do that. While running a race has its finish line as the destination—running in general for me is a journey. And I was going to enjoy the journey on this run without the pressure to perform at a certain level.
The race stated from the beautiful 7 Cedars Hotel on the Jamestown S’Klallam Reservation. I was booked at the hotel and loved the location (as well as the amenities and décor) and couldn’t have spent the night any closer to the start line. There would be no panic parking or long privy lines pre-race for me—just roll out of my room to the start line.
I had previously run this marathon back in 2014 on a hot day. That would not be the case this time, it was unseasonably cold. A head wind made it colder. It would be the first marathon I’ve done in years in which I didn’t pour water over my head at each water stop. Overheating was not an issue.
We were off on the paved rail trail through Sequim Bay State Park and then through the city of Sequim. We crossed the Dungeness River on a beautiful trestle and traversed woodlands and fields granting beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains. And while the run is primarily on a rail trail, it still had some challenging spots where it did not follow the original rail grade. This included steep drops into and ascents out of gullies where original trestles were missing.
Along the way I passed and was passed by fellow marathoners. Each one of running our own race and for our own reasons and causes. Some runners display them. They’re running for Jesus, to beat cancer, to celebrate a milestone or a healthy transformation. Some are running as part of a team or a collective goal like completing a marathon in all 50 states. And then there’s me running for Team Potato, proudly wearing my team jersey attracting comments and making more than a few participants hunger for a baked potato or crispy French fries upon completion. On this race I had a conversation with an intrigued runner on where Washington ranked in potato production in the country. Number two I quickly rolled off—and responsible for 25% of the country’s total. Oh boy I quickly realized, I’ve become a potato geek!
After a long descent at Mile 21 you reach the Strait of Juan de Fuca shoreline and immediately are recharged by its beauty. I zoned in on the crashing surf as I made my way to the finish line. And upon crossing it, my face as usual displayed anguish—but my inner feelings were that of pure joy and contentment. I finished another marathon! I pushed my body once again and was able to do something that most people will never do—never even consider doing—never know the feeling you get from accomplishing something that upon initial thoughts seems impossible. And while I had no Boston qualifier moment, I did have a revelation knowing that far too often I lament what I can’t do when I should be celebrating what I can do. So I celebrated completing another marathon—and at an age when many of my peers give up on seeing what they are still capable of doing.
I made my way to the post-race food station and commenced with my liquid recovery diet consisting of water, Gatorade, soup, chocolate milk, all washed down with a draft beer! The celebratory big meal would come a little later after my post-race nap. By that time I am ravenous, looking to replace some of the 3,500 calories I burned during the run. You can bet potatoes were part of my celebration dinner. While I certainly welcome some complex carbohydrate replenishment; potatoes also contain protein, vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. All good for helping my leg muscles recover. And recovery is important if I am to remain injury free and continue pushing my body to meet new physical fitness goals.
Big Thanks to the Washington State Potato Commission for sponsoring me. I am proud to be a member of Team Potato and to showcase the nutritional value and performance enhancement of potatoes as I attempt to run a marathon in all 50 states and begin my journey to run a 100K (62 miles) race to celebrate turning 62! I’ve got a long journey and many miles to go—and lots of potatoes to consume along the way.