Erin’s Day — Covenant Health Marathon 5K

Incoming inspiration. You’ve been warned.

For those that may not know this already, my wife Erin started her own fitness journey last year. Yeah, she wanted to lose weight (who doesn’t?) but she was finally ready to tackle some other obstacles in her life including her physical fitness and her overall mood. With the exception of a handful of indulgences she’s always eaten fairly well, so the focus was primarily on cleaning up those loose nutrition ends and getting her to be more mobile.

Simple, right?

The vast majority of people that decide to leave their sedentary lifestyles behind and go full-on into their new lives fail miserably within weeks if not days. Like it or not, no matter your motivation, the odds are stacked against you in those early stages. And those early stages last a long time. Months, in fact. Your dedication has to be armor-plated and you have to be unceasingly forgiving of yourself.

Erin was coming from said sedentary lifestyle and had the same fire and motivation we all have when we’ve “had enough.” She was still new to the fitness game and needed help figuring out where to start and how to get there.

She also wanted to learn how to run.

If you clicked on the above link or if you know me and Erin at all, you’ll know what she has a prosthetic leg and has never been able to properly run for sport. To say the least, Erin’s odds of failure were much worse than yours.

With a lot of persistence, much back-and-forth with the insurance company and the help of a determined prosthetist, Erin was able to get a more athletic prosthesis. After a bit of tinkering to get the fit just right, Erin had more spring in her step than she’d ever had. She was ready to run.

We started her on Couch-to-5K late last year. As many of you know, that’s how I got my start running and it involved starting and failing the program three or four times. Much like the millions of failures I mentioned above, I simply lacked the legit drive to complete the program. Fortunately for Erin, she had a coach — a cheerleader — in me. Unfortunately for me, however, if she failed/quit, it was all on me.

Fast forward to April, 1, 2017. Erin and I stood near the vertical sign welcoming visitors to downtown Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park. Her parents were with us and Erin was calling me “slut” for stretching my hips and hamstrings in my running shorts. We were but a spec in a large group of people that were all there to participate in one of the four races put on by Covenant Health Knoxville. Sunday, April 2, would be the date of the famous full and half marathons and Saturday night was the Kids’ one-mile Fun Run followed by the sold-out 5K. Judging by our orange bibs, we were there for the 5K. This shit was happening. My wife was about to be a 5K runner.

Due to some unfortunate setbacks thanks to allergies and a couple of righteous sinus infections, we agreed to interval out this run. We’d also not been training in a very difficult location and I knew from running this route the two years prior that this route was not an easy one. I was sure she could do it as long as we properly paced ourselves. I also had told her to not worry about finishing at a certain time — your first 5K should be fun and a great starting point, after all. Regardless, she set a goal time of 45 minutes but promised to not be upset if she didn’t hit it. Honestly, I believed she could.

I’ll let her cover the specifics of her race experience but from the coach’s side I heard a bit of grumbling. The start of the race was mostly uphill and involved the inevitable rush around all the walkers that line up in the front. She finished her first mile at a faster pace than she’d ever done it before. That was rad, but that also meant she was exhausted. We walked.

She spent the next few minutes convinced she was doing poorly, even apologizing to me for it. I gave her a few positive words and she received a little liquid encouragement in the form of a water station just past the first mile marker. Despite feeling so rough after the incredibly fast start, she pressed on, ever determined to finish what she’d started. And although she was sure she wasn’t doing well, I noticed my Runtastic app said we were keeping a 16m/mile pace, even with the walking intervals. I was pleased.

The last mile of the race was the easiest with the most downhill runs. The sun had mostly gone down during this time and it wasn’t long before we could see Neyland Stadium, home of our mid-field finish line. A surge of adrenaline goes through the body when you see that place after putting in so much work. She definitely felt it, too, and we agreed to full-on sprint the last 60 yards once we got on the field. So we did.

We crossed the finish line together and I was so overwhelmed with pride and love for my lovely lady. Not going to lie, I nearly cried when I finished my first half marathon. I almost did it again that night. Who cares what the finish time was — I was standing in Neyland Stadium with my arms around the love of my life that had just put her heart into achieving something she never thought possible.

Her official chip time was 49:44, 4:44 over her goal time. Already not bad if you ask me, but it’s incredible when you find out her previous PR for 3.1 was 53:48.

My girl is a 5K finisher, y’all, and I’ve never been more proud of anyone in my life.

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