Ever wonder who’s standing next to you in your corral at the start line, or cheering you on when you’re about to give up during a race? We’ll be featuring guest bloggers that have a passion for Rock ‘n’ Roll and inspire us by their dedication and commitment to the sport of running. You may recognize their faces, but the purpose of these posts is to put a face behind the name to better understand their journey to self-discovery.
Today’s post comes to us from guest contributor, George Melichar, marathoner, Team Refuel athlete for Got Chocolate Milk, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Ambassador. Read about his path to self-discovery to the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans start line and how it changed his life for the better.
In September 2009, I retired from my career in the commodities trade at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and moved to New Orleans to be part of recovery efforts in the Gulf South. Once settled in the French Quarter, I began volunteering at recovering school districts and provided art clubs for students without art programs. Helping others brought me great satisfaction, but something was still missing from my life. At 270 lbs and a master at hiding my weight, I decided enough was enough and committed to getting healthy. I started power walking the St. Charles streetcar tracks and gradually worked my way up to running to see more of Orleans Parish. I trained and learned from fellow runners, who encouraged me to sign up for my first 5K. I will never forget the overwhelming disappointment and emotion I felt that day when I could not finish the race (DNF’d). This disappointment made me even more determined to make a positive change in my life. The next day I grabbed a pad of paper and drew a line down the middle. On one side I wrote the things I didn’t like about myself and on the other side I wrote who I wanted to be. I took the first step by calling my closest friends and family (“the board of directors” in my life), asking for their support. Next on the list: signing up for Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon. I took every bit of negative energy, doubt, and fear I felt from my past failure, and focused this emotion into my training. The result was a purpose, a smile, the beginning of my inner personality matching my outer personality.
During my training I had the opportunity to meet Joe Myers at the Hard Rock Cafe’ in New Orleans, who confided in me about his wife Jeri’s strength as a breast cancer survivor. Her will to get better inspired me to believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Race weekend finally arrived and I headed to packet pick-up at the expo. I was nervous, but at the same time inspired by the excitement of all the runners around me. On an impulsive whim I decided to upgrade my bib from the half marathon to a full marathon, not truly understanding what I was getting myself into. I remember approaching the start line race morning with a buzz in my step, nerves flying high. I felt comforted when I saw my running friend Michelle Johnson assigned to the same corral which was a nice distraction before the race. The on-course energy pulsed through my veins as I ran, and I felt even more motivated to push through the pain with the live jazz bands and local community cheering me on. When I started struggling on Esplanade Street to City Park, runners next to me saw my difficulty and cheered me on. When I finally crossed the finish line emotion took over, and I could feel the tears building in my eyes. I had come so far from that first 5K, and I knew this was just the beginning to my new life.
The sport of running has provided me with an authentic experience that ROCKS! Not only am I surrounded by a running community, but a family and social network with a passion and zest for life. Running is not a manicured experience, but a global sharing of goals. I am inspired and energized by the runners I meet, the sights I see, and the community of fans that cheer me on as I accomplish my goal. Life is a journey and this is how I started celebrating my run.