Andrew Connell

Personal Accomplishment - I Finished my First Half-Marathon Yesterday

This is one of those note-to-self type posts... it has nothing to do with SharePoint or technology... it's something I just had to write. Even though I ran track in high school, I have not liked running as an exercise... in fact I hated it. A few years ago I watched my wife cross the finish line of the National Breast Cancer Marathon (she did the half-marathon) and become overwhelmed with emotion. As I watched her talk to a good friend of mine who finished about the same time I sat there thinking to myself "I want to experience that." It's no secret that what we do professionally is a sedentary & not terribly healthy lifestyle. For so many years I've just said there behind my desk and didn't do any exercise... no working out, no running. I noticed my friend Benny was looking a lot more fit... he didn't have the spare tire that I recalled from the last time I saw him. When I asked what he did, he simply said "started running." I could stand to lose a few pounds. Not only that but I have genetically high cholesterol and cardio is a great natural thing to...

This is one of those note-to-self type posts… it has nothing to do with SharePoint or technology… it’s something I just had to write.

Even though I ran track in high school, I have not liked running as an exercise… in fact I hated it. A few years ago I watched my wife cross the finish line of the National Breast Cancer Marathon (she did the half-marathon) and become overwhelmed with emotion. As I watched her talk to a good friend of mine who finished about the same time I sat there thinking to myself “I want to experience that.” It’s no secret that what we do professionally is a sedentary & not terribly healthy lifestyle. For so many years I’ve just said there behind my desk and didn’t do any exercise… no working out, no running. I noticed my friend Benny was looking a lot more fit… he didn’t have the spare tire that I recalled from the last time I saw him. When I asked what he did, he simply said “started running.” I could stand to lose a few pounds. Not only that but I have genetically high cholesterol and cardio is a great natural thing to add to that issue. I also suffered from lower back issues. Someone I worked with, who’s also a good friend (Marshall) would tell me how he used to see a chiropractor regularly but hadn’t after he started running (he’s also a triathlete & Ironman which I always thought was way beyond me).

So I started thinking… maybe I should give this a shot. At about the same time another friend online (Rob) was doing the Couch to 5K program. No offense to Rob, but I thought “if he can do it, I know I can do it.” So I told my wife that I’d do the entire Couch to 5K program and run my first 5K. Not until I was done would I say “this isn’t for me” and stop… but I had to see it through. I had a few false starts due to some back issues, but in the summer of 2011 I started up. I got a lot of help from friends along the way. One student in a class I taught in Boson (Paul) was very helpful after a rough outing one morning. Long story short, I got through it, ran my first 5K late that summer and wanted another challenge. One of the best parts: on week’s I’d run, I noticed my back didn’t hurt! I noticed on days I ran I was able to get so much more accomplished as I wasn’t easily distracted and my focus was laser sharp. That’s what I need… input/output, cause & effect, black & white… I need that to keep going & push on.

Growing up I watched my mom and friends run in the Gate River Run , a 15K / 9 mile run in my hometown that draws over 23,000 runners. I told myself I had to it before I was 40. So I registered for the race and started training… and in March 2012, I ran it for the first time. It was such a sense of personal accomplishment that I hadn’t experienced before… but it left me hungry: with various training runs and the river run, I was impressing myself with what I was doing. No one helps you when you’re out there… sure you get tons of advice which is super helpful… but it’s all you. I thought “I just ran 9 miles… a half-marathon is only 4 more miles… I can do this!”

So I planned to run the Donna Half-Marathon (what we call the National Breast Cancer Marathon locally because a local TV personality and 3-time survivor started the event) in early 2013. Late in the summer I started working out twice a week with a personal trainer (Rita) at the local YMCA. We focused on strength and core work… nothing specific for running, but I started to see my pace times start to fall. I finished the Gate River Run with a 10:44 pace… my pace was down to around 10:00 - 10:15 minutes / mile. Suddenly on a two-week business trip to Scandinavia I ran four times and saw my pace plummet to low 9-minute miles! Better yet, when I got back to Florida, my times stayed that way! I was blowing myself away with what I was accomplishing! I couldn’t wait until the Donna Half!

Along the way I had a pretty bad injury with my Achilles / calf that was real painful. My history with something like this would be a quit or use it as an excuse. My wife actually privately thought “damn, I lost him.” But with the help of some folks on a Facebook group I’m on and the people at a local running company, I worked through it, kept training, and literally one day it disappeared. Last week a good friend (CJ) posted something on his Facebook wall that mentioned me as a bit of inspiration for him to start running again. That’s how it started for me and it was really cool to see that I was able to pay it forward to someone else.

Yesterday was the half-marathon. It was very cold… low 30F’s for the entire race and windy. One mile of the run was on the beach… the last 3-4 miles were on a highway & causeway across the Intercostal Waterway where it was blowing like crazy. I had been battling tight hip flexors but figured out how to stretch them out before & during the race. Before the race I was very loose… but a 30 minute delay while standing in the corral screwed that up as it was packed, you couldn’t stretch, and it was damn cold. Long story short, I didn’t have the race I wanted to have… my time was a LOT slower (10:16 min/mile pace according to my watch) than I thought and was hoping it would be (below 9:30 min/mile pace). BUT, I finished it and I’m pumped.

I can’t wait to run the Gate River Run in a few weeks for the 2nd time and my next half and knock a full minute off my pace from last year. I have to run the Donna again next year… I can’t wait to conquer my time next year! I owe a lot to many people from thanks to inspiration. From my friends Benny, Marshall, Rob, Paul, all the folks on the SPRunners Facebook group, the people at Jacksonville Running Company , my neighbors Brian & Mandy and most importantly to my wife.

Now I officially feel like a runner and I love it and can’t wait to push myself to the next challenge.

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to delivering industry-leading on-demand video training to professional developers. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.