Welcome to my new blog! I’ve been considering starting a blog for quite some time now. I just never really thought I had anything to say. Probably still don’t. But, I think that’s what’s great about blogging. And lucky for me, any idiot with a keyboard can do it! So, buckle in folks, it’s gonna be a rocky ride.
For those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself. I am Matt Snell. I’m a 34, soon to be 35, year old PE teacher and Tennis coach in Southern Illinois. I am married to a woman, named Joy, who is WAY too good for me. But, please, don’t tell her that. I still have her tricked. We have 3 amazing fur babies named Archie, Baxter and Mace. 2 dogs and a cat, respectively.
My story starts about 5 years ago in a diner after my first LONG night of drinking in a long time with 2 of my best friends and their wives (or soon to be). That was the night that Luke and Adam changed my life.
At the time, I was a single 29 year old who was very content with the life he was leading. I had a good job, good friends, a small apartment and small bills to go along with it. I could work all day, and party all night, and get up and do it again the next day with no worries. My weekends were like “The Hangover” more often than they were like “Bad Teacher”.
At one point, I traveled around the country with another of my best friends watching baseball games and drinking in most of the major cities in the eastern half of the US, and even in Toronto! (can be seen at http://www.freewebs.com/greatbaseballtrip).
That’s me, on the left at the beginning of the trip.
A year later, in October of 2007, I decided to watch a ballgame at a bar with a friend. Over a couple hours, I had 4 beers and drove home. This was a relatively lame night of drinking by my then current standards. I was pulled over and arrested for DUI. I don’t want this to sound like I was on a downward spiral. I wasn’t. But things obviously weren’t as great as my immature self thought they were.
Shortly thereafter I bought and started riding a bike. I rode for exercise while I still had my license. Then, I rode for transportation once it was taken away. The DUI smacked me in the face. It got my head out of my ass. But, it was Luke and Adam who changed my life.
You see, Luke and Adam had recently (within the last year or two) gotten into running. They were still beginners to intermediates, but were training for long distances like Half Marathons and Marathons, even Ultra Marathons. I capitalize these words because they are proper nouns. They are words that are to be respected, sometimes even feared.
That night in early March of 2008 was my first night of drinking again since my arrest. We didn’t get too crazy. We had a designated driver, of course. (I will never take that risk again, I nearly lost my job that I love so dearly) But, after the bars closed, we went to a little diner in my hometown that’s open late and we ate. And as the night started to wind down, Luke and Adam issued a challenge. I had (of course) been bragging about my new found love for riding my bike. They suggested I step it up a notch. The challenge was to run the “Steamboat Classic” road race in Peoria in June of that year. Even in my fairly drunken state, I was coherent enough to know that I could NEVER run that far. There was NO way it was even possible for a guy who weighed 230 lbs, and had only recently gotten THAT light by riding his bike everywhere he went. They harped. They picked. They encouraged. I relented.
Training started right away. The following Monday, I rode my bike to the local high school track and I ran 2 laps around. That’s half a mile. It took me somewhere between 9 and 10 minutes. This was going to be harder than I had even imagined. I almost gave up right then and there. But, there was Adam with a text message: “The first mile is always the hardest.”
I started reading. Magazines, books, internet. All of it made it sound so easy. I pushed on. 2 days later. 2 more laps. 8 minutes. More reading. More text messages.
Over the following weeks and months, it did become easier. I got faster. I expected more of myself, and demanded it. I’d walk into my (our) crappy apartment dripping with sweat after a mile. 14 minute miles dropped to 12 minute miles. A mile climbed to 2, and to 3, and eventually by the middle of May to 4 and a half miles. I was running (jogging) 4 or 5 days a week. The race was 2 weeks away and every other day I was running 1 mile around the nearby middle school. And on the other day I was running a 4.5 mile course in 42 – 45 minutes. With 2 weeks left I set a goal. I wanted to finish that 4 mile race in 36:00, or close to it.
The night before the race was a good friend’s wedding. Luke was there. I spent the night at his house after the wedding. I had 3 beers, and tried to go to sleep on his basement couch around 11:00pm. The last time I checked the clock, it said 2:something. I was off to the race by 6 am.
Luckily for me the adrenaline kicked in, and I was off and running. Luke’s wife ran as well, so Luke was there to cheer us on, as was his Mother-in-Law. The first 3 miles were hard. Mile 4 was mostly downhill. And, on the last downhill, there were Luke and his Mother-in-Law screaming my name. Now, if you’ve ever raced with a lot of spectators, you know the cheering is very motivational. But when you hear YOUR name….for the FIRST time… it’s a whole new level. That last 3/10 of a mile probably took me about 15 seconds! My final time was 36:04. Since then, I’ve ran probably 50 or so races. That’s the only race time I have memorized. All my PR’s are written down in a book. 36:04 is seared into my brain. No, I didn’t BEAT my goal, but I was 1 second per mile away from it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of a race finish.
Luke and Adam were very supportive before, during and after the race. But there were those bastards again, not 12 hours later, celebrating my finish with me with a cold beer over dinner, challenging me to a Half Marathon. Challenge accepted. Challenge defeated.
It’s been 5 years since I started running because of my best friends. It has changed my life. I’ve accomplished a lot of things I would have never thought possible. In the first year I ran a 4 mile race and a half marathon. Last year, I completed my first full Marathon as well as doing something I think was pretty cool: I ran a 5k, 10k, 15k, Half Marathon, and a full Marathon and an obstacle race in the same year. I also put in 1,000 miles during the calendar year.
This year I have a new goal. And that’s what this blog is about. I’ve challenged myself to run 13 13’s in 13! I have scheduled these races mainly in my home state of Illinois, with a couple in Missouri, one in Little Rock, AR, one in Paducah, KY, and the 13th race at the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon. But, this blog will be dedicated to those races: the perks, the courses, the expos, the bibs, the beers, and of course the MEDALS! (I don’t care what those “hardcore” runners think about Half Marathoners getting medals, I LOVE it.)
So, follow me along. Hopefully, I’ll give you some insight into some great races that you may enjoy. Maybe I’ll entertain you. Maybe we’ll inspire each other. Maybe I’ll give up and just decide to be a weenie couch potato the rest of my life. But, hopefully this is just the next challenge that I can conquer to lead me to my next challenge!
My beautiful wife and I on our honeymoon.
Running is why we are married….