Monday, November 3, 2014

Member's Post: Age is Just a Number by Michael Lemmons

My name is Michael Lemmons and I am 51 years old. I moved to Charlotte seven years ago to begin a life with my new bride, Kim. I was active in the gym and was in relatively good shape going into my late forties. I did not run and had not run since I was in high school in 1981. I had only run my senior year and was fortunate enough to have the skills to run a 1:52 in the 800 meters that year. I chose to go to college and work versus continuing what had been a great start to a running career at a young age. Running to me was not an option in my normal pursuit of physical well-being at my age. We had moved into a new neighborhood in Charlotte in 2009 when a young couple across the street shared that they had run the 2008 Thunder Road Marathon. I immediately went home and told my wife that I wanted to add the Boston Marathon to my bucket list. She thought maybe a 5k would be more appropriate but I felt that my drive and passion would help me achieve this goal. The following paragraphs detail the journey of my quest to run the Boston Marathon and the amazing events that have occurred during that journey.

The first time I went out for a run in my neighborhood, I struggled to run a 9-minute mile. The funny thing was that I couldn’t wait to run again. I realized that the “Runners High” was real and I experienced it every time I ran. I trained myself for 8 weeks to run the Thunder Road Marathon in December 2009. I ran a 3:53 and was very disappointed that I did not make my qualifying time of 3:30. I joined the Charlotte Running Club in January 2010 and continued to train and improve my time. I started paying attention to the race times of Bill Shires and Billy Shue. Not that Billy was close to my age but he had this passion for racing like my own and had showed me kindness early on in my quest to get faster. Bill Shires was a legend and showed that racing in your 40’s was easy and his times showed it. I ran my first 8k, Elizabeth Ave, in 35:17 which was good enough for 2nd in my age group. I was so excited and now had the racing bug. I spent that summer and the fall running 10ks and half marathons while continuing my quest to qualify for Boston.

I finally qualified for Boston while pacing a fellow runner in the Myrtle Beach Marathon with a 3:28 in February of 2011. I ran the Corporate Cup half marathon right after that winning 2nd in age group, and then proceeded straight to the Tobacco Road Marathon hoping to improve my Boston qualifier time. Unfortunately, I cracked my heel and tore most of my tendons in my left foot and had to drop out of that race at mile 12. I was determined to continue my trek and did just that after rehab by running and placing in the Ortho Carolina 10k and the Thunder Road Half Marathon that same year.

I was three weeks away from the 2012 Boston Marathon when I slipped and fell on a set of concrete stairs uptown while helping someone and broke my back. I spent four months swimming in a pool hoping to recover and return to racing. I came back in the summer and ran a 5k or a 10k every month winning my age group or Masters in every race. This was also a time to reflect on all my efforts and struggles and I believe that running at this age was not a bad thing but a chance to relive my youth. I was able to get into Boston for 2013 and one month before the race, I fell while running up a set of stairs barefooted and broke my right foot. That was a bad year for Boston and another disappointing miss of a bucket-list goal. Everyone I knew was now rooting for me but also encouraging me to stay away from stairs. LOL!! I came back from the injury and continued to race every month in half marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, easily winning my age group and moving into the Top 3 overall. I tore my hamstring at mile 2 while running in the Susan Koman 5k in October of 2013 and still finished 8th overall. This injury kicked me out of the Savannah Marathon and put me on the sidelines until the end of January 2014.

I returned to training in February 2014 and was rewarded with a 2nd place Masters finish in the Elizabeth Ave 8k. I decided to run the Raleigh Rock and Roll marathon as a Boston qualifier and once again accidently injured my foot a week before the race. I went through rehab and came back to a 1st place Masters win in the Run Ballantyne 5k in May of 2014. I decided to move my Boston goal a little further down the bucket list as my hopes of getting there injury free were starting to wane. I set a new goal of going to the USATF Masters National Championship in July 2014 and compete in the 800 meters. I trained myself for less than 2 months and went to Wake Forest only to find that I was overwhelmed with the amount of talent at this event. The field was made up of former Olympians and college track stars who had all come prepared with coaches and their respective track clubs. I came in seeded with a 2:05 qualifying run which advanced me to the finals. I showed up to race the finals with an allergy attack and struggled to finish with a 2:13. Despite my disappointment with a 2:13 as my 2:05 would have won the Gold, it was good enough for a 7th place overall out of 24 of the best 50-year-olds in the nation. This also qualified me to advance to the World Championships, which will be held in Lyon, France in July 2015.

Since this race, I have won 1st place overall in two local 5k’s and recently cruised to a 1st place overall finish in the Inaugural Carowinds Half Marathon on October 5th beating the 2nd place finisher by a whopping 10 minutes. In the last 5 years, I have placed in 24 races ranging from 5k's to half marathons all while running in my late 40’s and early 50’s. I am inspired by other runners who have a passion to seek results from their efforts. My wife just took up running at the beginning of this year and has already placed in two of the five races she entered and she is 40 years old. I have a fellow running club member Jennifer who took up running at the age of 39 and has also placed in numerous races over the last 12 months. They both stated that their inspiration to run at this age came from seeing the results of my efforts.

The greatest thing besides winning at age 51 is the health benefits. I look at my lab results from annual physicals as a PR over my prior years and they have improved dramatically. I am in better shape overall than I have been in the last 20 years. I am proud to be a part of the Charlotte Running Club and thank each of its members and leadership for giving me goals to chase after. I am very excited to report that as I get older, I am getting faster and still have not peaked. I have shared my journey, not to brag, but to encourage every person over the age of 40 to look deep within and find that desire to relive your youth and go race like you have always wanted to.

Age is just a number and the only way to get results is to make the effort.

Michael Lemmons - Charlotte Running Club Member since 2010

4 comments:

  1. Bless your heart, three consecutive injuries just before Boston. Your determination is admirable. So is your speed. We saw you at the Carowinds Half (volunteers) earlier this year and were amazed at how far ahead of everyone else you were.

    Best of luck for Boston '15!

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  2. Other than being so prone to injury, this reads incredibly braggadocious and serves only to stroke your ego by telling everyone how many races you've run and place.

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    1. He's just telling his story like any other runner does. Every running story is amazing to tell and hear, whether it's about you running a sub 3 hour marathon or running your first 5K. I think it's great for him to share his story with us.

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  3. I agree! When I'm that old, I would like to fast.....and humble.

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