My story isn’t exactly a couch-to-marathon story. It would be cool if it was.

It all started in June of 2011. I felt very unwell. I had been living a very sedentary lifestyle and hadn’t been eating properly at all. I was in poor shape and really feeling it. I knew that I had to make a change, so I got off my duff and started  by hiking the M trail a couple times each week and trying to eat better. It went pretty well. Over that summer, I lost weight, gained fitness and started to feel better. But as fall and winter approached, I knew that the trail would be getting muddy and then icy and that I would be less enthusiastic about hiking it. I knew I needed to find a new activity and started considering my options.

As it would happen, a dear friend of mine who had run a couple of marathons had been trying to talk me into running for a while. At first I wasn’t the least bit interested. I was not a runner. In my mind, running was something difficult and unpleasant. But my friend persisted, and over time I became more open to the idea. Finally, my friend said something to me that really struck me. He told me that I should try out the Galloway run/walk/run method. He said that as much fun as he had running, the Galloway people were the only people out there having more fun than him. I’d seen my friend run and knew that he loved it, so this really made an impression.

In November of 2011, I decided to try out the Galloway method by going on a Beer Run On the advice of another runner friend, I looked around on the Run Wild Missoula website and found an email address for the Back of the Pack and got in touch to make sure that there would be BOPers at the Beer Run. The response astonished me. I heard back from Pam Gardiner and Bruce Randall in short order. They seemed incredibly friendly and welcoming. At first, Pam wasn’t sure if she would make it, but Bruce would be there. In the journal I was keeping at the time, I noted that I was very impressed with the response I got.

The next night, I met up with the BOPers at Double Front Chicken for the Beer Run. Pam gave me a BOP handkerchief and a very warm welcome. Everyone I met that night was  friendly and seemed  happy. I was nervous as we left Double Front and headed off toward the river trail. I wasn’t a runner and never had been. I was worried about how slow I would be, and how difficult running would be. The BOPers set their interval timers for 30 seconds run and 30 seconds walk and off we went. I think I knew before I finished the first mile  that I’d stumbled into something amazing.

The Galloway run/walk/run method was immediately a great fit for me. The short stretch of running, followed by a walk break, was perfect for me both physically and mentally. I was exercising, but I wasn’t overdoing it. It wasn’t hard or unpleasant. It was easy and fun! I was thrilled and excited, and most of all, hooked. Those three miles went by in a flash, and we were back at Double Front, having dinner and chatting with other runners. I had a great night, and I learned how encouraging and welcoming Missoula’s running community is. I never would have expected to feel so at home with a bunch of near strangers, but I really did.

Going back over my journal entries from that time, it’s really interesting to see just how quickly and dramatically my attitude changed. On November 29th, I made three journal entries about my plans to go to the beer run. The first one was pretty negative. I fully expected my experience to be terrible. The second entry just said that I’d finally put on the running shoes I’d purchased months before, and they fit nicely. And the third post was about getting in touch with the BOP and being made to feel so welcomed. The night of the Beer Run I got home pretty late, so my journal entry for that day just mentions that the run was easy and that I met a lot of super nice people. The next journal entry, though, really surprises me even now. The day after the beer run, I began to obsess over whether to train for the full or half marathon.

In the course of three days, I went from thinking that running was going to suck, to obsessing over the choice between 13.1 and 26.2 miles.

Eventually I decided that I would start out training for the full marathon. I was pretty sure that I would reach a point where it became too much for me and I’d have to drop back to the half marathon. But starting out training for the full made sense to me. And I never did have to drop back.

I followed the Galloway program  faithfully. I didn’t enter a single race during my training. I only missed one or two classes and was able to make up those runs on my own. Early on, I had been doing a lot of stretching and yoga, but Jeff Galloway isn’t a big fan of stretching, and after a while I got out of the habit. The one thing I did do was get a foam roller to deal with some minor IT Band tightness.

When marathon day finally arrived, I was ready. I’d already run the full distance, as the Galloway method prescribes, so I knew I could do it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the heat, so along with my running buddies, I decided to run a slow, easy race. It was fantastic. If anyone had tried to tell me that I’d have a great time running 26.2 miles, I would have thought they were nuts. But I did. If you’re interested, you can read about how much fun I had here and here

After the marathon, I kept right on running. Sometimes I ran alone. Sometimes I ran with other BOPers, but I kept running. And now, here I am training for another marathon and trying to help other people by being a pace group leader for the Galloway class.

Going to the beer run that night in November 2011 changed my life. I found a form of exercise that I love to do, and a whole bunch of awesome people who are really fun to go run/walking with. I even run races now,  though I still don’t bother to run fast. My goal is to keep on run/walk/running for as long as I can. I’m happy to cheer on other runners as they pass me. The view from the back isn’t bad at all, and it can be a lot of fun. The runners at the back of the pack are there to have fun while getting exercise. They are happy, friendly, supportive people and I’m deeply thankful to be one of them.

If you think you might be interested in trying out the run/walk/run method you can join any number of Run Wild Missoula events, including the monthly Beer Runs or the Saturday Morning Breakfast runs. Get in touch with the Back of the Pack ahead of time to make sure someone will be there, and that they’ll know to look for you.

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