On Sunday, October 13, faculty member, Brian Gilbert, ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in an effort to raise funds and awareness for Team World Vision, an organization that works with children families, and communities in Africa to help them gain access to some of life’s most essential resources. While the race didn’t necessarily go as planned, he explains what kept him going and why it’s important to persevere through adversity.
Why did you choose to run the marathon?
The marathon has always had a mythical quality in my mind. It marked the moment when I transitioned from being a person who runs for fitness into a RUNNER! There is a quote another runner once told me, “there are only two types of people in the world: those who have run a marathon and those who haven’t.” I decided to run the marathon to test myself to see if I was physically and mentally capable of forcing myself to sustain discomfort, pain, and doubt to achieve a personal goal. The marathon became for me the ultimate test of what I could endure and what I was capable of, if I dedicated every ounce of myself to a single cause.
Did you run in support of a charity?
I ran to raise awareness for Team World Vision. World Vision is an organization that works with children, families, and communities in Africa to help them gain access to some of life’s most essential resources including: water, sanitation, food security and agriculture, education, health care, and economic opportunity.
By working alongside families, World Vision helps to empower communities to become self-sustaining. When World Vision leaves an area, the community is able to stand on its own.
Did you previously consider yourself a runner?
I was not a runner in high school or college. In fact, I always hated running! I began running in 2012 after a friend asked a small group of us to run a 10K with him and his wife the morning of their wedding. I went for my first run on January 24th and was only able to complete 1.84 miles before I had to stop.
I quickly began consuming every bit of information I could find about running and runners. I became obsessed with ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes for his ability to push the body beyond its physical limits, marathoner Alberto Salazar for his commitment training, and U.S. Olympian Steve Prefontaine for his runner’s spirit. I decided I needed a physical test to push my training and ran my first half-marathon 4 months after I started running in May of 2012. In an attempt to push my limits further I registered for 2012 Chicago Marathon. I trained well beyond my physical limits throughout the summer and was forced to withdraw from the race after my doctor found a tear in my left MCL 6 days prior to the race. While I was initially very dejected, I learned a valuable lesson about finding an appropriate balance between dedication and personal well-being.
What was training like?
Training for the marathon was an extremely physically and mentally difficult experience. I began training exclusively for the race in June 2013. Weekly training consisted of 40 – 50 miles of running, stretching, yoga, strength training, and nutritional changes.
The hardest part of the training process is the personal dedication required to maintaining your training on days when you don’t feel well, have other obligations, or simply don’t feel like running. However, the personal satisfaction I would feel after completing a run, particularly on days it was hard to get out of the door, was the driving force behind the entire training process.
What did the run teach you about hard work and perseverance?
Running the marathon taught me we are capable of achieving anything if we are willing to sacrifice enough of ourselves to achieve the goal. Throughout my training I had focused not only on finishing but on completing the race in under 4 hours. Every run and every training session throughout the summer was dedicated to this goal. When my left hip started to tighten around mile 17 all I could think about was all of the hours I spent training to run a certain pace.
But I never felt as dejected as when I ended up in the medical tent at mile 19. As I laid on the ground my thoughts were consumed with all of the hours I had spent in training. I stared at my watch and I could see my goal time slipping further and further away from me. In that moment I wanted to pull off my bib and withdraw from the race.
I laid there for a few more minutes and then pulled a picture of my wife and daughter out of my pocket and thought about all of the hours I lost with them throughout my training. In that moment I realized I had to find a way to get back up and get across the finish line. The medic in the tent was able to stretch out my hip enough to get me mobile and I made my way back on to the course. I slowly ran my way the remaining 7.2 miles and crossed the finish line 1 hour and 20 minutes after my target time. But my time no longer mattered, I finished! I pushed myself through discomfort, pain, and doubt to achieve my goal. And in the end, that was the real reason I decided to run!