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Keeping the pace--ARA news: running inspired.

Sometimes we simply go out for a run and just keep going. The breeze feels good, your thoughts dwell on carefree days and you are basically comfortable. Then there are the runs that transcend reality. You climb the road up a mountain because you want to do it--just once.

Running a marathon without a base of marathon training may not qualify as a transcendental moment but on October 30, that's exactly what I did. I was not inspired by the distance; I had already completed 16 marathons with the requisite mileage and training and, in fact, had beaten my brains out to run two Bostons. Instead, this go-round, inspiration was a public leader who was simply out for another 26.2 run.

Over two and a half years ago, Governor Mike Huckabee weighed 280 pounds. His marathon involved climbing the stairs at the state capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas. Many of us have read his story, but it's worth repeating. He got scared and made a life-changing decision to get physically active and change his eating habits. The Governor did not like the prognostication of his physician who predicted he had a mere 10 years left on the playing field of life. He started walking but was not satisfied with the slow pace, so he began to run. Governor Huckabee changed all his eating habits and adopted a daily diet of fruits, vegetables and proteins. Out were fried foods and sweet desserts. The pounds started coming off and soon he was 110 pounds lighter. He took up a bet to run a 5K, finished, and then accepted another challenge to run a marathon. In March 2005, the former 280-pound self-described coach potato ran a very respectable 4:38 at the Little Rock Marathon. For many first time marathoners, the first is the last. This was not the case for the Governor.

I met Governor Huckabee at the 3rd American Running Honors Gala in June 2005. He agreed to come and be honored for his inspiration to youth fitness. His daughter Sarah, who attended the event, mentioned that she was signed up to run her first marathon in the fall, the 30th Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). Consequently, MCM Race Director Rick Nealis and I did a double-team approach to encourage Governor Huckabee to join his daughter and do the "Al Gore thing" (run a marathon with your daughter(s)). As the October race date loomed, the Governor mentioned that his daughter had become injured and he would run solo. When asked if he'd want company for the first 10 to 13 miles, his reply was "He'd be honored." I did a double-take. But that's how he is. Governor Huckabee is genuinely honored to run with committed long-time runners. Not until I thought about the past 40 years of his life did I grasp his sincerity and self-deprecating way. He was thrilled to be on a marathon starting line.

Race weekend arrived. Our annual sports medicine symposium at the MCM was underway and one of our AMAA members, Dr. Jeff Ross from Houston, mentioned that wanted to meet Governor Huckabee. By Saturday night, Jeff had not only met the Governor but plans were set for him to join us in the marathon.

During the run, Governor Huckabee explained to me and Dr. Ross how he has maintained his weight loss and level of fitness--he follows a strict training plan each week and brings his own food to special events to avoid the "bad food."

Governor Huckabee's plan for race day included running for 10 minutes and walking for one and his thought was just to keep going until the finish line was in sight. I, too, kept going on that bright sunny marathon day, although I had no business running more than half-way. Maybe it's male bravado or peer pressure, but I did not want to disappoint an inspiring runner. Governor Huckabee ran a PR of 4:37 and proved to himself that he, indeed, is a runner just like all the other competitors who showed up that day. Dr. Ross finished right behind the Governor. For me, well, I did a lot of walking and consumption of every food and drink offered in the last 10 miles (yes, the hashers were out there). It got me to the finish line in just under five hours.

(Editor's Note: Together, Jeff Ross and Dave Watt have finished over 40 marathons. The 30th MCM will have its own special place in their marathon memories.)
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Author:Watt, Dave
Publication:Running & FitNews
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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