& not just because he’s married to me! For those who haven’t met him, the man in this picture is my husband of 8 years, Jim Knost (although he does get called “Mr. Neal” on occasion, which amuses both of us greatly.) He’s a serious runner who has been doing marathons for 30 years & has run countless other races of varying lengths, everything from 5Ks to ultramarathons (events of more than the standard 26.2 mile marathon length.) This picture was taken at the 40-mile mark during the 2008 JFK 50-Miler. Jim turned 50 that fall & had long planned to celebrate by running the JFK, & run it he did, despite frigid temperatures – I believe the high was around 30 degrees that day – he not only crossed the finish line, he actually had a good experience. Still, he told me he never needed to run that race again; he’d marked his “big” birthday & was satisfied. Running isn’t Jim’s only passion in life; he also loves performing in both musical & “straight” theater, & then there are things like one’s day job & relationships to consider. Training for an ultramarathon takes a considerable amount of time & effort that one might want or need to devote to other pursuits.
Fast forward to spring 2011, when out of the blue, Jim announced that he was considering running the JFK again this year. I teased him at first – “What was that about never needing to run JFK again?” – but I was actually thrilled to hear him say that. Jim is an architect by profession, so as you can imagine, we’ve had some tough financial times in the last 2-3 years. I knew that having a goal of this sort would be of tremendous help to him during his ongoing job search. Besides, the man truly loves to run, so I said “Go for it!” And so he did, putting in long hours of running, mostly outdoors. We have a gym membership & both participate in various classes as well as using some of the fitness machines, but really, the treadmill is a poor substitute for the road, so we don’t usually go that route unless the weather is hideous.
Last Friday, Jim set out for Hagerstown, the community that hosts the race, in the early afternoon. I stayed in Baltimore because I had work, book club, holiday shopping, & a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party on my own schedule. We kept in touch via text message & phone, & by Saturday evening, I was beside myself because he hadn’t been in touch to let me know how the race had gone. Had he been injured or gotten sick? Did he bail out for some reason? Highly unlikely, but sometimes even the highest-level runners drop out of a race if they’re unwell or don’t feel they can finish. He’d been hoping to finish in roughly 10 hours, which meant he should have crossed the finish line around 5pm. At 7:25, I still hadn’t had any news, so I texted him: “Call your wife!!!”
24 minutes later, he did; apparently there was some sort of a shuttle bus mix-up, so he had just gotten back to his car, where he’d stashed his cell phone. He’d finished the race in 10.5 hours, half an hour faster than his 2008 time. Not only was the weather warmer this year, he felt better prepared, so I’m not surprised that he moved a bit more quickly this go-round. He spent Saturday night in Hagerstown & returned home early Sunday afternoon; we ran errands during the day & had a fabulous celebratory meal at b bistro that evening. I think I ate as much as he did, even though my weekend runs only totaled 20 miles. Oops!
What possesses someone to run 50 miles? In Jim’s case, the culprit is his lifelong love of running. As an boy, he’d often run home from school, even in winter boots & a parka, just to see how fast he could go. When he was a bit older, he got some real running shoes & joined his high school track team, & a few years into his college career, he decided that majoring in architecture & singing with various groups just wasn’t giving him a crazy enough schedule, so he took up running marathons. He even inspired me to “do” the Baltimore Marathon in 2004 – I can’t say I “ran” the whole thing as there was a fair amount of walking on my part, but I did cross the finish line, where Jim, who had been done for quite some time, was waiting to drive me home. A hot bath, leftover pizza, & very affectionate cats awaited me. (I don’t remember what Jim’s post-race meal was, only that I made very, very short work of the aforementioned pizza, & I called dibs on the tub because it was my first marathon.)
Despite my snail’s-pace finishing time of 6 hours, 9 minutes, & 42 seconds, I was proud of my Baltimore Marathon efforts because up to that point, I had never attempted anything so physically challenging. I’m completely useless at any sport that involves a ball – yes, even table tennis – so I grew up being the “last one picked” in PE class & thought I was destined to be a couch potato until college, when I began working out regularly & discovered, much to my delight, that walking, weight machines, & aerobics would offset my food & wine consumption (at least to an extent!) & were humiliation-free. Win! I was running a bit by the time Jim & I began dating in 2001, & over the years, he has encouraged me to increase my mileage as I’ve felt willing & able. I’ll probably never be nearly as fast as he is, but for my purposes, I think I do well enough. Some year, if the Baltimore Marathon date doesn’t conflict with another important activity (like an opera rehearsal, as it did this year & several years past) I may attempt to run 26.2 miles in one day again. Or not. Jim still says he doesn’t need to run another 50-miler, but he mentions triathalons fairly often. Not something I aspire to do, but if he can find one in an attractive enough locale (South Beach?) I’ll go along for the trip.
Would I have gotten more serious about running on my own? Probably, but it certainly helps to have a spouse who works out regularly, supports my fitness goals, & sets the bar awfully high for himself. Who inspires you? A friend or family member? A famous person (perhaps a classical musician?) Please post your comments &/or stories here!fitness, inspiration, running, workout