My life changed on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. I could have never known at the time, but it was the first in a long series of events that would completely alter my journey. Around seven in the morning, my sister woke up both my brother and me, asking if we were interested in running the Turkey Trot 5k, which after a night out drinking with old friends in Milwaukee sounded like the last thing I could handle. Backing out of the race, however, was a sign of weakness that I should have known my siblings would exploit. Pouncing on the opportunity, the Family Turkey Trot Challenge would be held the next Thanksgiving, giving us all a year to train and come to the starting line in top form.
For some background, I was a good athlete in high school; I wasn’t just fast, I could fly, and I have the records to prove it. Unfortunately for me, though, I was about 50 pounds heavier than I was in high school, and two years of life on Wall Street had taken its toll on my athleticism. I would need that year to prepare.
I moved to Tulsa in March and made it a goal to start training three times a week just to get back into shape. Day one started with a major realization: I cannot do what I used to. About a mile into my first run, which started as a sprint, then a jog and then some walking, I thought I was about to have a heart attack. That was a wakeup call; I had to walk home.
After a month of working my way back into running form, I decided to test myself and see how fast I could run one mile. I went all out and got through it in 6:48, which I thought deserved a phone call home to my mom to brag. She was happy for me and told me she was not surprised to hear I was running faster, but that I was always the short distance runner in the family. While I may win in a 5k, I could never beat my sister, who had just run her first marathon a week earlier, in a distance race. My mom knew what she was doing: nothing like a little sibling rivalry to get me motivated. Almost immediately, I registered for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon and challenged my sister to a head to head race, throwing down the gauntlet for the Family Marathon Challenge. Oh, and the race was in October, more than a month before the Turkey Trot Challenge – now I really had my work cut out for me.
The summer months in Oklahoma can be brutal for training, but I got into the routine of waking up early to get my miles in before the heat takes its effect. As fall rolled around, I knew that I could go the distance and prepared myself mentally to do whatever it took to get across that finish line. It became more of a psychological training exercise than it was physical, as I knew I would never be able to run like I used to. Imagining myself crossing that line and celebrating the accomplishment with my family is ultimately what motivated me. More than anything, I was excited to do something with my sister and share in the glory together.
Race day came before I knew it, and a brisk Wisconsin morning meant perfect weather for our run. My sister and I set off together and planned to stick with each other as long as possible. The route went through my old neighborhood, and we knew there would be many spots along the course where family and friends would be waiting to cheer us on. At about mile 14, I knew I would not be able to hang for the remaining miles, and pulled up. I made it my goal to not walk during entire race – mostly because I did not know where my support groups would be along the race and they could not see me walk under any circumstance. I was running a marathon.
My mother was right. I could not beat my sister in a distance race, yet, but I still had my chance to redeem myself during the Turkey Trot and claim the family crown. After my sister’s marathon victory, the family bets were heavily in her favor come Thanksgiving Day. Right at the starting gun, though, my brother took off at about a 5:45min/mi pace, and I knew that if he held that I could not keep up, so I stayed on his shoulder as long as I could. About a mile and a half in, he began to fade and I made my move as we passed another runner and never looked back. I was the Family Turkey Trot Challenge Champion.
I wish I could say that the sibling rivalry had been settled, but that race only fueled more challenges. Since then, we have all run several marathons and are now moving on to bigger and more challenging events. The discipline and commitment it takes to prepare for our events are that much more rewarding when we can celebrate at the finish line, and I cannot imagine where I would be today without the motivation of my brother and sister. I cannot wait to race with them this year.