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 Brian Kelley, author of Pavement Runner. Marathoner, #BostonStrong Run organizer, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Ambassador. Read how volunteering lured him to the start line and made him one of the best running bloggers around.
One night while working on a chemistry experiment, a lightning bolt came crashing through a window, spilling a tray of chemicals all over me. Dazed, I shook it off and decided to go home. I tried to flag down a taxi but it wouldn’t stop. As it sped off, I decided to chase after it managing to catch up with extraordinary ease. Over the next few days I noticed changes in my reflexes, most notably my SUPERHUMAN speed.
That would be pretty cool if that’s how it all started. Unfortunately, that’s the origin story of comic hero Barry Allen, otherwise known as The Flash. My story is a little less dramatic, but hopefully equally entertaining. In high school I didn’t run track or cross-country, and didn’t have any interest in running at all. I was on the basketball and football team playing hard at practice and warming the bench during most games. I wasn’t quick or what you might call “fast,” but I was at the front of the pack during running drills and didn’t tire easily. I guess that’s what I would later come to understand as “endurance.”
In 2005, my friend signed up for her first marathon. I had no interest in doing any kind of distance running, but agreed to help her fundraise by volunteering at aid stations to show my support. I was in awe of how happy these runners seemed, smiling and laughing as they ran off. It was at this moment that the long-distance running seed was planted.
The following year my friend decided to run another marathon. This time I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity, especially with the lure of running 26.2 miles through Florence, Italy! Never having run beyond 3 consecutive miles, I embarked on a 6-month training program that would change my life forever. I ran and walked, failed and succeeded multiple times over learning more about myself every day. 6 months later, I was en-route to Florence about to experience my very first marathon. With great ambitions and high hopes at the start line I was ready to conquer the course. I kept a good pace until mile 18, then suddenly hit “the wall”, and I hit it hard. Cramping and exhausted with each and every step I was ready to shut down. My friend noticed me wavering, and provided words of encouragement until we reached the finish line together. Although it took over 5 hours to complete the grueling 26.2 miles, I was determined to improve. It was both amazing and miserable at the same time, a feeling that I have never experienced before. I was hooked.
The running bug got the best of me, and over the next few years I added several marathons and ultra marathons (50K) to my list. To keep friends and family up-to-date on my training and events, I started a blog with the alias, Pavement Runner. As social media grew, I discovered there were many other runners out there with the bug just like me. I started following other running blogs and interacted with people through Facebook and Twitter. It’s amazing how supportive the running community can be through the ups, downs and everything in-between. I may have learned a lot over the past 7 years on how to become a more efficient runner, but the funny thing about running is that just when you think you have it all figured out, a race will knock you right on your butt and snap you back to reality.
In the world of running, there is one constant truth: there is always a runner out there willing to help you. Whether it is to share something that they have learned along the way or to simply run next to you on a long weekend run or race day, there is always someone there. This is what immediately made me fall in love with the sport of running. From my very first marathon to the way the running world came together after the 2013 Boston Marathon, the community will always be there with open arms, myself included.