When you are a former NFL wide receiver with 10 seasons in the league, your life has been measured by your hands and short bursts of acceleration. But on a bitterly cold Saturday morning in our nation’s capital, Donté Stallworth let his fast-twitch muscles rest and ran his first half marathon.
What was the experience like?
“There was a hill at about Mile 6. Oh man, that hill was brutal. It was so brutal,” Stallworth said shortly after the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington D.C. Half Marathon.” As I’m climbing the hill, I’m thinking to myself, ‘I have a whole second half of this (race). It’s not even halftime yet, and I haven’t made it up this hill.’”
Stallworth, 36, survived the ascent and made it to the finish line in an unofficial 2 hours, 11 minutes.
“It was tough,” he said.
Since retiring from the NFL after the 2012 season, Stallworth has remained remarkably fit. At 6 feet, he weighs 202 pounds, five pounds above his playing weight.
“There’s one thing I always tell guys after they retire (from the NFL),” said Stallworth. “There’s nothing you’re going to do in life, nothing’s going to give you the same pleasure of stepping between the white lines with the lights on. Don’t look for it. It doesn’t exist.”
But elite athletes love a challenge, so Stallworth accepted the 13.1-mile test. He downloaded an 8- to 9-week training program app that featured cross training, including sprinting and boot-camp workouts. But he admits he only seriously began training the last three weeks. His longest training run was nine miles. “Which I can see is not good enough,” he said.
His time goal was 1 hour, 45 minutes. “I didn’t get close to that. I’m laughing, but I’m not real happy about it. I’m (ticked) off.”
Stallworth grew up in Sacramento, played at Tennessee, was a first-round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints, played for six NFL organizations, caught 321 passes for 4,837 yards, including passes thrown by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
Post retirement, he lives and works in D.C., for a consulting firm that deals with counter terrorism issues.“As crazy as it is,” he said, “I love this city.” Stallworth laughed and wept during the half marathon.
He got a kick out of a sign he said read “When you get to the finish line there are waffles waiting for you.” Recalled Stallworth, “I’m thinking, ‘I hope that’s the truth because I love pecan waffles.’”
A sign reading “If Trump can run and win so can you” made him smile.
Tears streaked down his cheeks during the wear blue: run to remember climb which was lined with American flags, plus pictures of men and women who have died at war.
“Those people were fighting for our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Stallworth. “I choked up. It was very sad, very humbling. At the same time, it kept me pushing.”
He said he would like to run two more half marathons before considering the 26.2-mile challenge and has his sights set on Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in November.
“I’ll train better and that’ll let me know if I can step up my game to the marathon,” he said. “I’d like to run a marathon.”