"Sucker For Punishment" by Tim Cook, Houston, TX

In late March of 2000, I was approached by a coworker who wanted to know about Boone (I grew up there and graduated from App in '90). He stated that he was looking for retirement property in the area and that (incidentally) he was going to run the GMM. Recalling the childhood memories of exhausted bodies at miIe 21, I told him he was going to get more than he bargained for (ie, you're crazy!). At the time, I was fairly burned out on running and was averaging less than 20 miles/week. I had run 3 marathons in '94-95' and decided that one sub-3:00:00 performance was enough long-distance satisfaction for a lifetime. That very day, while I was running my paltry 4-miler, a little voice said to me, "You need to run that race." Call it ego, call it insanity, but within a week I started ramping up my mileage. Keep in mind that this was in Houston, flat as a pancake and just heading into a miserably hot summer. Also, I was starting out with negligible base mileage and only 13 weeks before race day! The ONLY way I knew how to prepare for the hills was to run on the treadmill with the incline cranked up as high as I could stand. So, I did 8-21 mile uphill runs inside, broken up with 5-6 milers outside in the heat. Several hundred excruciatingly boring miles later, I found myself at the start line at Kidd Brewer. The next 3:32 went by like a dream. I started running at what I thought was an 8:30 pace - it was actually 7:30. I saw friendly children and adults holding out cups of Gatorade as I retraced the steps of my youth: Rivers Street, my old school bus route on Poplar Grove and Shull's Mill, and the winding vistas along 221. Finally, when I rounded the track at McRae Meadow, the sense of homecoming was complete when my family, friends, and several thousand strangers cheered my premature arrival. Yes, the race was tough, but the mountains didn't break me as I feared they might. I actually chatted with another runner for 4-5 miles as we wound our way up 221. (The patent absurdity of having a lengthy casual conversation under those grueling conditions is just now hitting me!) Given the compressed timeframe and adverse conditions under which I trained, I am astounded by the results. One thing is for certain: ANYONE who finishes that race has guts that the vast majority of marathoners can't hope to match.