Some of my fondest memories from high school involve my experiences as a statistician for the St. Ignatius football and basketball teams. Three friends and I kept statistics for the football and basketball teams during our last three years of high school. In addition to having the privilege to see many current NFL and NBA players in action during their high school years, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Ohio when the team played away games in Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Toledo, and elsewhere. We played at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame during my junior year, and I always recall sitting in the press box watching Ignatius and Canton McKinley play one of the most memorable high school football games in Ohio high school sports history every August while I’m watching the Hall of Fame Game.

Another fond memory from my junior year occurred when our basketball team shocked everyone and made a run to the state championship game. We rode on the team bus for basketball and since we provided stats to the coaches at halftime we would sit in the locker room and observe as the coaches broke down the game plan. I’ll never forget our coach’s speech before the regional championship game. One of the lines that has stuck with me for years is, “You’ve worked much harder all season long than them and you want it more than they do. They didn’t get up at 6:00 A.M. to lift weights like you guys did.”

I drew upon the inspiration from that memory during my training over the past two weeks. During the last week of January, I was grateful to have been able to get in three solid runs (2 inside and 1 outside) as they provided much-needed relief during a very stressful and busy week. Last week, the near-constant bad weather almost forced me into a zero week. Fortunately, I had a one-hour window on Saturday during which I squeezed in a great run.

However, I have had a LOT of trouble staying motivated at various times during my runs. My “weaker self”—the voice of doubt in my head that kept me on the couch for so many years—repeatedly tells me, “Your training schedule doesn’t even formally begin until later in February. You don’t even need to be doing this right now. Why don’t you just take it easy?”

I’ll admit that I often consider stopping and rationalizing my choice as protecting my health for the future. Every time I entertain this idea, my coach’s words from 15 years ago ring out in my head and my “stronger self” takes over, and I keep doggedly pushing onward towards the finish line.

As a statistician, I wasn’t required to attend practice, but I was still well aware of the hard work that the players and coaches invested each and every day all year long. During the offseason, I’m willing to bet that many of the players didn’t realize that each and every practice and workout was bringing them one step closer to a state championship while they were in the midst of the activity. However, each and every practice and workout was a small stepping stone towards an end goal.

Running alone at night during a frigid Cleveland winter can be a somewhat isolating exercise. Seeing other runners helps me know that I’m not the only crazy one out there, but I oftentimes feel like Frodo in Lord of the Rings as I journey through the Cleveland landscape. As I run through Tremont, I often see happy couples and other assorted people heading out for dinner and drinks on weekend evenings, and I wonder if they think I’m crazy as I run past them covered in sweat and gasping for air. (Heck, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy!)

This is the view from the end of West 10th Street. I’ve seen this view on almost every run that I’ve done since June 2012, but it never gets old. Cleveland’s skyline looks even more beautiful at night when I’m running!

Far too easily I forget that each and every run is a building block for my future. I wouldn’t be able to have ever crossed the finish line in any race in which I have run if I hadn’t put in the hours of training, eating healthily, stretching, sleeping, and doing everything else that is needed to be a successful runner. Training for a race of any distance isn’t like cramming for a test—one can’t train intensely for a short period of time and expect that to compensate for a lack of a sustained, long-term training schedule.

The Cleveland Marathon is over 90 days away. That’s a long time!

My weaker self—the self that formerly laughed at the running accomplishments of others as I sat on the couch in poor health—tells me, “You can already run over half of the 13.1 miles and you’re far ahead of where Hal Higdon wants you to be at the start of his half marathon training schedule. Chill out and take it easy. And by the way, live a little. Take advantage of all of those fast food restaurants out there by Tri-C. A few stops at Arby’s won’t kill you. Sheila won’t ever find out.”

My stronger self—the self who reminds me that anything is possible with faith and trust in God, hard work, and discipline—tells me, “This time is a gift. Use it to build up a strong base and to continue to work towards a healthy weight. Great things lie ahead for you in 2013 and beyond. You’re not just preparing for the half marathon. You’re getting ready for a great lifetime of running. Running those 13.1 miles in May is going to be a great accomplishment, but you’re going to do much more than that before the year is over.”

Although doing so can be hard, I’m going to listen to my stronger self. Ever since I started listening to my stronger self on New Year’s Day in 2012 when I made the decision to start losing weight, my life has been filled with victory and triumph. Doing so hasn’t always been easy, but I know it’s worth it. On the days when you’re tempted to run to the couch, television, and refrigerator instead of the gym and the sidewalks, I urge you listen to your stronger self too! When we stride proudly across the finish line on May 19, we will be glad that we did.