Before I decided to run a marathon, I thought that running was one of the most dreadful activities a person could ever do. I loathed running. Always being a bigger guy playing football growing up, I was always a lineman.

In fact, I was always the slowest on the team. Fast forward to high school, after numerous knee and body injuries, I stopped playing. I continued to work out here and there, but I never quite got the same high I got from plowing another person over.

When I went to college, I was the biggest I had ever been, and I was in a pretty low place, needless to say. I may have been a big, strong man, but I never got any looks from the ladies. I envied the runners on campus. They had the prettiest girls on campus, and they seemed so happy. This is where my running journey began.

I was slow. VERY slow. I had no clue what I was doing. I couldn’t even make it a half mile without feeling like I was dying. I remembered feeling frustrated with myself the first few days. It did not take long, however, to discover one of the most important things about myself that I never thought I would discover: I LOVED running!

I fell in love with the science and art of running, and I began to research extensively about running. Some of the benefits I read early on included weight loss, stress reduction, and improved immune systems and bodily functions.

It did not take very long for me to experience these things to be true. In less than a week, I was already feeling happier. I slept incredibly better, and I found myself jumping out of bed. Growing up, this was not the case. I bet my mom wished I discovered running a decade sooner so she wouldn’t have had to fight me getting up in the mornings.

I was addicted! Like a fish that finally discovered water, I was hooked. My distances quickly started to increase, and my mile times got faster and faster. I started to find a community in running. Before I knew it, I was one of those runners that I envied in school. I was running anywhere from 5-7 miles at a time. But this wasn’t the end of my journey.

I remembered finding myself getting stagnant. Don’t misunderstand me: I still loved to run. I was soaring and addicted, but that competitive football player in me wasn’t quite satisfied. I needed something more. That was when I made the discovery of marathons.

I always thought that marathon runners were insane. Who would run 26.2 miles voluntarily; not to mention, in many of these races, people actually pay to run. The more I ran, the more I slowly began to understand why people run marathons. A marathon is the Mt. Everest of running. It is like the Superbowl for a runner, but you can run it numerous times in a lifetime. I finally dared to do it, but my journey was not easy.

Soreness began to take on a whole new meaning. Training for a marathon is brutal. 26 miles is an insane distance to train for, so naturally the training is also insane. I was well aware of the dangers of running at such high distances.

From shin splints and heart problems, to arthritis and even the rare occasion of death, I was still determined to make it. The marathon is the be all and end all of running, and it was the only thing that matched dominating in football all those years ago. It was the ultimate feat, and it was worth the risks.

Well, I wouldn’t have been able to write this if I didn’t make it. I did make it. In fact, I finished in the top half of the field. The ultimate accomplishment for a runner and the ultimate feeling of contentment, finishing a marathon was by far the best thing I have ever done in life.

I’m proud to have been able to finish, and it was magical. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling the last 100 yards of the straight path to the finish line. I collapsed in tears of joy as I crossed that finish line: I did it.

These days, I still run. I don’t know if I will ever run another one, but I know I can. After having run a marathon, one thing is for certain: I can do anything I set my mind to.

I encourage everyone to consider running a marathon. They will never regret making the decision to chase after that finish line and accomplish the seemingly impossible 26 mile run, and I am completely confident that their life will be changed forever.

James Bergman is a football lover and ukulelist. He has promised himself to complete at least one marathon each year.

The article is contributed by members of the community. All stories are based on real life personal experiences or actual events encountered by the authors and related parties. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Editing by RunSociety

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