|Granny and Pops|
I started the conversation by explaining how my running career has gone through several stages and then presented my goals for the future. In order to properly explain to Pops my goals, I first talked about my running history. My marathon races can easily be grouped based on what my life circumstances were during that period of racing. This includes the Early Years, College Career, Making Hay, being Milked Dry, and Chasing Goals. Seeing as I just ran my 100th marathon this weekend I will share some of my running history with you.
|Finishing my first marathon with Kevin Pollock.|
After high school it was off to start my college career. Running in college had been a goal of mine since I was in 8th grade. My expectations as to what being a college athlete involved was not fulfilled at Goshen College. I anticipated having to battle hard each day in practice with other motivated runners, while being coached by coaches whom supported your current and long term running goals. Now I am not saying that competing at Goshen College was not beneficial to my running success, because it obviously was as I was able to improve a tremendous amount. I am purely stating there were some bumps in the road during these four years. I do not think the coaches were fully prepared for such a motivated athlete. My freshman year track coach laughed at my running goals. Those laughs were similar to how my guidance counselor responded when I told her my two goals for college were to run fast enough to make a career out of running and find a wife. One of my coaches even quit stating he was disappointed in how hard the team worked. I often wonder if he is aware how I am running now.
|Can you find Melissa and I in the banner?|
I entered college with a 2:56 marathon personal best but dropped that 22 minutes the spring of my freshman year when I ran a 2:34:11 at the 2002 Boston Marathon. That marathon medal is yours now Pops, I put it in the casket as a gift for all your support. Remember how you allowed your bride, Granny, to go with me to Boston. We returned in the middle of the night with you still waiting up. Giving that medal to you was the least I could do to one of my biggest fan. During college my main focus was running well in the marathon at the NAIA National Track Championships. My marathon running was limited due to the college schedule. I would typically run 1 or 2 marathons per year, but kept focused on the larger goals in my career. I ended up being a 4-time NAIA All-American prior to graduating from Goshen College in 2005. I left college with a 2:29:44 marathon personal best and with a pretty marathon running girlfriend named Melissa Lehman. We got married in 2007.
|Miles enjoying some hay.|
I took my physical education college degree and headed straight to the fields, it was time to start making hay. From graduating in 2005 until the fall of 2009 I worked as a full time farmer with my dad and older brother. Our family farm has been around since 1843 and I felt a since of pride to contribute to its history and success. During the years I worked on the farm we raised beef cattle, soybeans, corn, and a ton of hay. Summers consisted of extremely long hours of hot and itchy work. My main responsibility in the hay operation was to mow all the hay. We were making close to 600 acres of hay, which meant a lot of long hours mowing. My workouts would be hit and miss during the summer. I just did not have enough energy and time to train successfully. Sure I would run a few quality marathons each year but lacked consistency. I typically averaged 7-10 marathons per year during this time, winning a few and running terribly in some others. Pops and I would often reflect on his response to me winning the Johnstown Marathon in 2005. It was fun sharing him the story of winning my first marathon after college. Pops told me, "That will be hard to top." He was never one to give out compliments. The longer I farmed the less I focused on training. My joy for running started to wane because I was not improving.
|My father in law 6 weeks after his accident.|
|Cows even kick marathon champions.|
|I would rather run in Carharts then be cold!!|
Pops knew all that already as he has been active in running progress. From there I laid out my plans for the four years that Melissa would be doing her schooling. I told him that I wanted to work as hard at running as he did at farming. Darkness and foul weather never stopped Pops from getting work done, I was going to adopt that mindset. The goals were simple. I stated to Pops that I wanted to end my running career knowing that I put forth the best effort possible to be the best I could be. I wanted to be remembered as one of the best marathon runners in the area and possibly the state. The plan was to push as hard as possible to make an income running so that I could support my family while Melissa does her schooling. I have ran 36 marathons since Pops passed away, winning several of them, and breaking a handful of course records. Since I have focused more on training my race times have dropped and my enjoyment of running has return. If I were granted the pleasure of talking to him again I know how the conversation would go. He would ask how my father in law was doing, he would ask how the farm was doing, we would talk about trees, and he would be excited to hear about my running. I doubt he would compliment me for doing well, but I know he would be proud.
This weekends Maryville Marathon was just another step on my journey to provide the best I could for my family. The race was hot, hilly, and windy, without much strong competition. Early in the race I ran with the lead half marathon runner, established a large lead over the competition, and then cruised for the last several miles. I ended up finishing in 2:38:18. It is my slowest marathon this year and one of the slowest since we moved away from the dairy farm. I was not worried about chasing a time goal. It felt good to run a relaxed pace, reflect on how far I have come, and how I want to fulfill a promise to Pops to be one of the 3 best Gillette's of all time. Pops and Miles being the other two.
Several people have asked me what I have learned in my first 100 marathons. That would be too hard to quantify. Sure I learned things like how long a marathon really is, how to properly train and recover in order to do them fast and frequently, and how awesome it is to have friends all over the country due to my running. I have also found there are basically four types of runners, these are elite runners who have a major endorsement deals and are chasing Olympic Games, stunt runners who create some gimmick to generate publicity for themselves, new runners who are full of excitement, and frequent marathoners like me who push themselves in races nearly weekly. That stuff is neat and all but the main thing I learned was how to be a man. I could have crumbled when doubters said I was racing too frequently. Watching Pops while growing up and then milking cows for my father in law taught me that life is not about yourself. I do not run for Justin Gillette. I run to provide for my family. That my friends is the secret to fast recovery.