Garys September Quotes and Trivia Gems – Perseverance

Gary's Gems for September- Perseverance

What running has taught me about perseverance.

In the last three issues of my quotes and trivia gems, I reflected on the world-altering events of 1969. In this issue, I want to pull the focus in a bit and share with you my own life-altering event that comes to mind every September.

See Gary run.

It was the eighties. I was in my twenties. I was overweight.

I am the progeny of a very athletic couple. My mother was an Olympic Torch runner at the Montreal 1976 games.  My father, all five foot six of him, won the Quebec Hurdles Championship at sixteen.  They were both competitive. I wanted to connect with them by sharing their passion for sports. I was also motivated by my wish to lose my “baby fat”.

Life is a marathon not a sprint.

So I started running. Well, I actually started walking then gradually progressed to a jog, then to a full run. I was running everyday within a year and I dropped sixty pounds on the track. (They still may be there.)

After my second year, I moved from the track to the streets.  I was ready to tackle a full marathon.

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Marathon runners Perseverance

I wasn’t sure I could run the full 42 kilometers (26.2 miles). But I heeded expert advice and paced myself during the early part of the run to conserve my energy for when it mattered most. It worked!

To my relief and to the confusion of runners who were in front of me for most of the time, I sailed past them and crossed my first finish line. I won my confidence that day and found my sport! (…and lost four toenails due to bruising.)

In September 1985, I ran my best time ever in the Marathon internationale de Montréal. I crossed the finish line in just 3 hours and 43 seconds.  43 seconds behind my goal of 3 hours. To put this in perspective, the best ever professional time was 2:03:38. I was just an hour behind the best professional marathon runner in the world. This motivated me more than ever to improve and take things up a notch.

I realized my dream the following year when I was accepted to run in the New York City Marathon.  With a route covering all five boroughs, and with only 25,000 runner placements, the New York City run beats its Boston rival by a mile for the most fun! It had taken me five years of persistence to make the cut.  I was so determined to break my goal of running it in 3 hours,  I supercharged my training.

Gary Montreal Marathon Award


What I did for love.

I didn’t make it to the NYC marathon.

A right knee cartilage injury just two months before the race pulled the rug from under me and broke my heart.

To suddenly lose my ability to pursue my dream was a loss on the level of losing a limb or a loved one. It was such a part of my identity, without it, who was I? I went through the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance.

It took years before I could watch runners doing what I had invested so much heart into. With time, I’m able to watch and experience their run vicariously.  I can appreciate the sacrifices they made to get there as I can my own that took me so far. And I remember those years with great pride and fondness for the very special bond they created between me and my parents.

I may not have gotten my NYC Marathon medal, but I got something in return that will never tarnish, my confidence. I can do anything I put my mind to. My body on the other hand… 🙂

Marathon Trivia

Pheidippides, 1st marathon runner

The first marathon is said to come from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to report the battlefield victory over the Persians.  It’s said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly exclaiming victory just before collapsing and dying.

The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events held at the first Summer Olympic Games in Athens Greece in 1896. The distance did not become standardized until 1921.  Each year there are over 800 marathons run world-wide.

Of the top marathon athletes of all time, three are from Kenya and two from Ethiopia.  While the marathon originated in Greece and the first Olympic marathon won by a Greek. Spyridon Louis, the laurels have since been passed on to many Kenyans and Ethiopians.

Did you know that the oldest marathoner, Fauja Singh?  He was 100 years old when he ran his last marathon in 2013. The  youngest marathoner,  Budhia Singh, was reportedly just 3 and a half years old.  Had I known how much I would enjoy it, I too would have started out much younger. Not that young, though.

It takes discipline and perseverance to be successful, be it in a marathon or in your own life.

This is this month’s theme.

The most important lesson learned from my aborted running career was that if wanted something bad enough, I could do whatever it took to achieve it. Whether it was running in +30 C or -30 C degree weather, or after a late night I could count on muscle memory and routine to keep me running to my goal.

This following quote speaks to me and anyone who pursues their dream regardless of how impossible it may seem to be.

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. – Emmitt Smith


Here are a couple fun videos that will show you…

The mental and physical stages you experience while running a marathon and why humans are uniquely equipped to run long distances.

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In case you missed last month’s Gems, you can check it out here: Gary’s Quotes and Trivia Gems for August. 

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