From Torn ACL to Half Marathon

I used to run.

That’s me “flying” through the air for an interception in a flag football game. At this exact moment in time, I had visions of dancing in the end zone like my childhood idol, Deion Sanders. A split second later I landed, planted my foot to head downfield, and the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in my right knee ceased to exist. As I said, I used to run!

A few months later I underwent reconstructive surgery and struggled through my rehab regimen. For the next five years, I talked about what I was going to do. I was going to run. I was going to lose weight. I was going to get active again. All I was doing was drinking Coke, eating snacks, watching TV, and getting larger.

At some point and with no identifiable catalyst, I decided to change. Not only my physical self but an overall life reboot. I resolved to keep a list of ideas and desired accomplishments in a small notebook. (If you don’t keep a journal, start TODAY. It will change your life.) One of the first items I jotted down was “run a half marathon.” I have zero desire to run a full marathon, but a half marathon appealed to me as a veteran of 5Ks and 10Ks. (MANY years ago!)

I took the initial step for the half marathon that locked me into preparing and completing the half. I located, registered, and PAID for the race. Once I spent the money, it was a done deal. I was going to run a half marathon!

What was my next step? I had no idea how to train for a half marathon. I needed help to formulate a plan of attack.

Thank you, GOOGLE! One search and I found the training plans, methods, and mindset of Mr. Hal Higdon. Mr. Higdon provides a wealth of FREE information. He also has a wide variety of material that you can purchase to enhance your running knowledge. I, of course, chose the basic half marathon training program, Novice 1. I didn’t have the recommended running base to start this program, but I said what the heck. I had dedicated myself to conquering challenges without excuse.

That first 3-mile “run” was a nightmare! Run, walk, jog, crawl, stumble…..I incorporated every mode of human propulsion into that attempt. But, from that day forward I never missed a workout. I NEVER missed a rest day!

I began to look forward to a long run on a quiet Saturday morning. I discovered an isolated area where I can run with minimal traffic. It’s a secluded place where I rarely encounter another person. As a recovering lazy person, I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment after a challenging run.

One thing about my runs, I *HAD* to be able to listen to music or podcasts. I also had to deal with my car keys. Having keys bounce around in your pocket as you run is quite annoying. I tried to leave my keys “hidden” near my car. I was too paranoid to trust the hidden-key method. Also, it was tiresome to hold my phone to connect the headphone wire to the jack. Changes were necessary for my equipment setup.

Three items transformed my jangling jaunts into efficient excursions:

Samsung Gear S2 Smart Watch — I was 100% opposed to smart watches. I thought they were the most useless invention ever. So, of course, I received one for Christmas. And I didn’t touch it for six months! Later, I was looking for a GPS device and a solution to my music issue. I realized the S2 had all the answers.

  • I was able to transfer MP3 files to the S2.
  • I could connect the S2 to Bluetooth headphones.
  • Link S2 to phone for GPS signal.
  • Install the MapMyRun app to track route and distance.
  • Email and other alerts from the phone, *IF* you desire.

I now have wireless music and the ability to track my runs. AMAZING!

PowerBeats Bluetooth Headphones — I tried many different wired headphones to connect to my phone. There was no comfortable way for me to use the wired headphones and carry my phone. When I learned that the Gear S2 connected to Bluetooth headphones, I bought the cheapest set available. Big mistake. Various Bluetooth headphones brands had failed me, so I purchased the Powerbeats Headphones. I swore I would never buy this expensive item. But I can say with full confidence that these are the best headphones on the market. I’ve had them for over a year now with zero problems.

  • Reliable Bluetooth connection to S2.
  • 12 hours of battery life.
  • Quick charging capabilities.
  • Incredible sound quality.
  • Durable through miles of runs.

FlipBelt — Once I had the tunes blasting, I needed somewhere to keep my keys and my phone. The Gear S2 requires my phone for GPS, so the phone was a necessity. I tried holding the phone, putting it in my pocket, and using an armband. None of these options worked for me. Everything was uncomfortable. I performed some research and came across the FlipBelt. I decided the price was right and the reviews were decent enough to purchase one and hope it solved my problems. Once I received the product, I put my keys and my phone in my FlipBelt for every run. There is zero bouncing, jiggling, or jangling. Everything stays firm, compact, and comfortable against your wait. Best of all, no one sees it. It fits so well; I often forget I am even wearing it after a run. I will wear it around until I shower and only then realize it’s still around my waist. Every runner needs to purchase a FlipBelt *IMMEDIATELY*.

Once I assembled the equipment that suits my running and personality, I found my stride and began to enjoy the running, the sweating, and the pain!

Part of my training program was to run a 5K and a 10K. I had not run a race in a while, so I was nervous. But, thanks to my training, I was a veteran of 6-mile runs. I could complete a 5K!

I found a 5K in Virginia Beach sponsored by Road Rage Events. It was a well-organized race at a beautiful ocean side location. They provided great food and awarded cool medals to all finishers.

I later ran a 10K sponsored by a worthy organization, America’s Vet Dogs. A great race held on beautiful Kent Island in Maryland. If you like dogs, this is the race for you. Surprisingly, I won my age group in this race. I can now say I earned one medal for winning and not for completion!

After the 10K, there were three weeks until the half marathon. The schedule only called for two weeks, but I added in another week of training, replicating week 8.

Finally, it was time for the half marathon. I didn’t eat meat all week. I love meat! But, I didn’t want any, ahem, bathroom issues on Saturday morning. On Thursday, I had a nice carbo loading meal featuring brown rice. On Friday, very light meals all day, lots of water, and no happy hour! Also on Friday, no food after 6:00 PM. I wanted my system to be clean and ready to run on Saturday morning. I was in bed by 9:00 PM as I had a 4:00 AM wake up call.

I ate half a bagel with a little peanut butter when I woke up. I hit the road and headed for the race location. It was a beautiful drive to St. Michael’s, Maryland, and I was ready to run!

Before I knew it, I parked, warmed up, and it was GO time. For me, the first 10 miles were no problem. I plodded along, always accepting the water at the multitude of stations along the way. Miles 10 through 12, I began to feel the burn. I switched from Adam Carolla podcasts to my Guns-N-Roses 30-minute music mix. I kept telling myself, “When this mix is over, you can call yourself a finisher of a half-marathon!”

That mantra and my music helped for miles 10 through 12. At mile 12, I began to question why I put myself through this nightmare. I was hurting, my body fatigued, and I started to feel a small stitch in my side. I settled in with a group, and we came down finisher alley together. I received the medal as I crossed the finish line. I searched for a place to pass out as I guzzled my complimentary Gatorade.

I won’t lie, it was painful. But it was a good pain. A feeling of accomplishment somewhere in the depths of my reconstructed knee. I gave myself a little time to recover and hobbled over to a great breakfast spot.

One of my best friends lives on a boat moored in the Chesapeake Bay. After breakfast, I drove to his marina and napped for about 8 hours. I woke up, eventually got my knees moving enough to walk, and headed over to a dockside bar for food and live music.

Sitting on the dock. Eating a giant, flame-grilled cheeseburger. Drinking an ice cold beverage. Listening to a great 80s cover band. Knowing I accomplished one of my goals gave me a feeling about myself that I don’t feel often. I was proud. It was fleeting, but I felt it for a moment!

You have to write down your goals! It makes you accountable to yourself!! By keeping a journal of ideas and goals, I have accomplished the following after a period of severe laziness:

  • Completed a Master’s Degree in Information Systems Security.
  • Earned the Certified Information Systems Security Specialist certification.
  • Published my first ebook on my BBQ method for pulled pork. ( More books on the way. )
  • Completed a Road Rage Event 5K.
  • Completed an America’s Vet Dogs 10K.
  • Completed a grueling and miserable and rewarding, Bishop Events, 5 miles run on VA Beach.
  • Planted the seeds for a BBQ enterprise that is a bit out of the norm. (more soon!)

I will keep running, and I will keep writing down my ideas and goals. I am running a Coast Guard Cutter 10K and a 5K on the same day in August.I will participate in the Army 10 Miler in October. I will run the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run in November. To prepare for these events, I am starting over with the novice, half marathon plan by Hal Higdon. The maximum long run of 10 miles is right about where this old and surgically repaired body belongs!

Get a notebook for YOURSELF and write some things down that you would like to accomplish. Don’t wait until a Monday to start following up on ideas, dreams, and goals. Take a small step today. Run 3 miles in preparation for 13.1 miles. Start saving money for your future. Follow a passion. Get out there and live life. It will be OVER before you know it!



I used to run.  And now, I run again!

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