Podcast Episode 44: How I Cut My Marathon Time In Half: Reflections From My Personal Journey - Data Driven Design
  • Podcast Episode 44: How I Cut My Marathon Time In Half

    Reflecting On My Personal Journey

    20 Minute Podcast

How I Cut My Marathon Time In Half: Reflections From My Personal Journey

By: Paul Hickey, Founder and Lead Strategist

In 2006, my beautiful wife Kate (sorry, I always refer to her that way, but she is a beautiful person, so I can’t NOT refer to her that way 🙂 said that she wanted to run a marathon. It was on her “bucket list.”

I was totally out of shape – like 55+ pounds overweight. Seriously. I had no business training for a marathon. But I was only 25 years old, and definitely need to get off my ass and do something physical. I was a hard worker – at work for the Detroit Pistons – but long hours at the arena and traveling with the team were my excuse for eating buckets of Thai food, Pizza and totally letting myself go physically.

I’d sleep in until sometimes 9 a.m. on workdays, again, because of the late nights at the arena. I rewarded myself with junk food for “working so hard” at my job, and let’s be honest, it’s fun having an “eating buddy,” and I was definitely Kate’s eating buddy.

It’s all good. I have no regrets, but man, I never should have let that happen to myself. Still, always ambitious, I decided I’d run the marathon with Kate. So I actually trained, and was pretty dedicated. There was only one problem. My friend, Nate Murphy – always in impeccable shape (a former College Swimmer at Oakland University) distinctly told me – “Hix, this will be great. If you actually follow the marathon training schedule, you’ll be able to eat WHATEVER YOU WANT and still lose weight.”

I freaking took him up on this offer, man. And in the process of training for the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October 2006, I put on probably an extra 15 pounds due to my increased junk food eating. Again, always “rewarding” myself for my efforts. I finished, but in a horrible time of 6 hours and 17 minutes – right before the finish line was torn down at Ford Field in Detroit.

Reflection #1: The importance of eating right. Many of you can relate, because many of you have also wanted to lose weight, and been successful, then put the weight back on.

For those of you who lost it again, and/or kept it off, you know there’s no secret sauce. The key is simple – eating right. Eating whole foods, not eating past 7 p.m., eating correct portions. NOT calorie counting or carb counting or shortcutting with fake diet foods or supplements.

For almost 10 years since that first marathon, I struggled with shortcuts, and felt horrible about my physical appearance.

On January 1, 2016, I got fed up – PISSED at myself. Jealous of all my tall, skinny, fit friends. I realized I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I was fat, lazy (physically), and envious. I hated that feeling.

I knew I had to change, and change fast. At 34, going on 35, it would only get harder to lose weight and keep it off.

I replaced Egg McMuffins with Yogurt Parfaits, Fried Rice with Quinoa, and Pizza with Fish, Lunchmeat and Veggies, and I was off to the races – hitting the gym every day, and getting up at 4 and 5 a.m. to do so.

This worked, big time. A challenge then turned into fun, which turned into a hobby. This is an important concept – stick with me.

At first, people were confused, worried, scared for me. This was different to everyone around me – especially those that love me most. I kept going, head’s down. It wasn’t about them. It was about me. I knew that if I could make these changes in my life, I’d be happier – and they would be some of the beneficiaries of my newfound happiness.

Reflection #2: Do it for you. The first time around, I did it for Kate – because she was doing it. Kind of funny to think that my pathetic first marathon time of 6 hours and 17 minutes was “for Kate.”

The finish line at Ford Field in Detroit in 2006.

The irony is that Kate could have likely finished that marathon in about 4 hours but she stuck with my fat lazy ass and helped me finish – walking most of the way and encouraging me. She really ended up doing it for me. So thank you Sweets, for that.

Kate and I in 2006.

Her selflessness aside, I did it for the wrong reasons the first time around. I wasn’t fully committed, and I wasn’t very successful. This time around, I did it for myself. And I was able to keep leveling up. From losing 35 pounds in 2016, keeping it off and continuing to push myself to better and better half marathon times in 2017, it became easier and more and more enjoyable to live this healthy lifestyle.

And not coincidentally, this mindset manifested in better business perspective, patience, effort, leadership and learning of new skills to drive my company forward as well.

And of course, focus. Focus is huge. Running a marathon, much like running a business, is all about mindset. I knew I’d break four hours. It was a done deal in my brain, and even though I set Personal Records in the 13.1 (half marathon) and 20 miles during my 26.2 in Nashville in 2018, it got challenging in miles 21-25.

I wanted to walk. I wanted to stop completely, but I kept pushing, and I made it in 3:56.

As a 36-year old, I crushed my previous time by two hours and 21 minutes. That’s freaking crazy.

Reflection #3: Pain Management. Man, this one was valuable. About six weeks before the marathon, I started to feel some serious tightening and sharp pain in my left Achilles. Like, to the point where I thought it would snap. I Googled it, found out that it was Achilles tendonitis, a well-known running injury among those who train consistently going uphill and for speed. Check, and check, for me.

Much like the Plantar Fasciitis I suffered through in 2017, this was legit pain. I started my own pain management program that consisted of rest, icing, heating, ankle braces, stretching, etc.

Then went to the chiropractor, got some more amazing tips, but the main one that helped was technique.

I was running on my toes. This was putting all the pressure on my Achilles. Running flatfooted, and using my quad muscles to push off and give me more burst, was the key.

I changed my running style completely with about four weeks to go before the big race. This wasn’t easy to change my muscle memory, and it caused some expected minor pain in other areas of my body, but it was great for my speed, for my mindset, and for my recovery.

Learning Pain Management meant learning the real meaning and application of patience, not forcing it, trusting the process, recovering and truly improving. HUGE.

Reflection #4: Life Is The Marathon. Why did I do another full Marathon? I’d already clearly won, right?

The finish line in 2018.

It was more than just wanting to prove that I could do better than the ridiculous 6:17 time. It was more than just wanting to show people I could do a full after doing five half-marathons in between my last marathon and fat phases.

It was because I needed to be challenged – to learn, grow and have it be fun again. Because – again, cheesy but true – if I stay stagnant, I get worse not better.

This overall mindset helps me in life, in athletics and in business.

No matter your time, keep setting your goals higher and put in the work, push yourself to achieve them. Don’t do it for others, or because of others, do it for yourself. Realize that each accomplishment is just one more part of the journey/marathon.

And this, my friends, is why I will keep doing it.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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