Half Marathon Man
Adlai Stevenson was a distinguished statesman and two-time Democratic presidential nominee. He lost the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections to the popular war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. He mounted a third attempt to secure the Democratic nomination for president in 1960, but he faced an even tougher challenge in the young and charismatic John F. Kennedy, who easily won the Democratic nomination and went on to win the presidential election that year. Someone once asked Stevenson how it felt to lose, and he said “I was reminded of a story that a fellow townsman of ours used to tell – Abraham Lincoln. They asked him how he felt once after an unsuccessful election. He said he felt like a little boy who had stubbed his toe in the dark. He said that he was too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh.”
It must have been a tough ten-year period for Adlai Stevenson filed with periods of hope and anticipation which ultimately ended in defeat. I know the feeling. For me, it was a ten-year attempt to break the four-hour barrier in the marathon. There were 15 attempts between 1989 and 1999. There were five attempts at the Twin Cities Marathon. There were plane trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Jacksonville, Sacramento, and New York, and return trips with mixed feelings of accomplishment and disappointment.
Only one half of one percent of the U.S. population has completed a marathon, and I have completed 15. Those who followed my journey would often say to me, “At least you finished.” However, this was no consolation to me. Those who are frequent marathoners know what I am talking about.
I was a good half-marathoner though, and I usually broke two hours in my early years of running. I ran my best half in Mora, MN in 1990 on a hilly course in 1:45. Based on those results, I should have broken four hours in the marathon that year. My problem year after year though was GI discomfort as I reached the 20-mile mark that forced me to walk the next six miles.
That period was the cardio and carb era when we were taught to maximize our mileage and our intake of carbohydrates. I believe that this strategy contributed to my GI distress. If I knew and practiced then what I know and practice now about strength training and balanced diet, I for sure would not have experienced GI distress, and I would have broken four hours in several of my marathon attempts, but the opportunity passed me by.
Back in fifth grade, my good friend Mark Schlosberg said to me, “Michael, you are not the strongest or the fastest (among our group of friends), but you have the most endurance.” These words have had prophetic significance to me over the years, and they still ring true to me today evidenced by the fact that I am still working out regularly and teaching others how to enjoy the benefits of staying active.
Adlai Stevenson never attained the presidency, but he served in many governmental roles including Governor of Illinois and U.S. Secretary to the United Nations, which is not too shabby of a political legacy. Half marathons may not be as glamorous as full marathons, and I have completed 64 of them, so I guess being a half marathon man is pretty good too.