By now, the news that former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar has been removed from his role as a broadcaster for Cleveland Browns preseason telecasts has spread throughout the city. For those of you who aren’t football fans or Clevelanders, this probably doesn’t mean much to you. However, for many of us, this is a sad development.

Kosar is the ultimate Clevelander. He’s the ultimate underdog. Despite lacking many of the physical gifts possessed by most top quarterbacks in NFL history, Kosar quarterbacked the Browns to 3 AFC Championship Games. I’m too young to remember The Drive and The Fumble, but I do remember listening to the third AFC Championship Game in the grocery store. Throughout his career, Kosar relied on courage, intelligence, toughness, and guts to get through. No wonder Clevelanders love the guy; he’s just like all of us!

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Bernie down at good ole Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I miss that place! (Source)

One of the best articles that I have ever read was about Bernie Kosar’s life after football. Here’s a great excerpt from the article:

“He was the weakest kid on the team. He was mortified when his statuesque competition, Vinny Testaverde, walked onto campus and bench-pressed 325 pounds a bunch of times. Kosar got 185 up just once, with arms shaking. So he went to coach Howard Schnellenberger and, sweating and trying not to tremble, told him he was going to transfer. And now he quotes the old pipe-smoking coach and applies those lessons from nearly three decades ago to today: ‘Son, I’m not going to lie. It doesn’t look good for you. But wherever you go in life, there’s competition. The guys who run home to mommy tend to be quitters their whole life.’

Kosar won. Won huge. Won the job and the national championship in a flabbergasting upset of Nebraska to begin Miami’s unprecedented football run through the next two decades.”

For the folks training for the full marathon, the most intense parts of training are nearly over. Many of you have run your 20 milers this weekend and are proceeding into a time of tapering before race day.

Those of us running the half marathon, the 10K, and the 5K are entering into a different type of training. Our training is getting harder, not easier. The midweek runs are getting slightly longer and the weekend long runs are getting longer. For those of you who are running a half marathon, 10K, or 5K for the first time, you may well be setting new distance PRs each week!

For some of you, these runs may be building your confidence. Others may be starting to doubt themselves as they encounter difficulty with the longer distances.

You’re not alone. Training for this year’s half marathon has been a very unique experience for me.

Last year, my training focused solely on distance. I was setting new distance PRs each week. Each long weekend training run was a joyful, euphoric experience because each week brought a new accomplishment and continued wonderment that I had been able to run farther than I had ever imagined in less than a year of running. My goal for last year’s half marathon was to finish it without stopping to walk, and I barely paid attention to my time.

This year, my focus has solely been on time. My current half marathon PR is 1:59:10, and my goal for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon is to improve upon my time. Rather naively, I thought that this year’s training would be easier than last year’s training given that I have two half marathons and a full marathon under my belt.

Wrong.

This year’s half marathon training has been very intense. The last mile of each run tends to be a glorious experience as I find myself consistently being able to post mile splits well below my goal pace, but many of the earlier miles have been absolutely brutal. During these times, I’ve begun to doubt myself and I’ve started wondering how I’ll be able to sustain this pace on race day. Fortunately, my body hasn’t let me down yet. Although I’ve found myself feeling exhausted quite early in my runs, my body consistently continues to hang in there and maintain the speed that I need even when every step feels like I’m running in quicksand with weights around my legs.

Easter Sunday’s long run was the roughest long run of this training season. I had 8 miles lined up to do. I didn’t fuel properly beforehand, and I ran with a time crunch. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than heading out for a long run knowing that I am on an extremely tight schedule and that I won’t be able to rest when I get home.

About 2.5 miles into the run, I felt myself getting hungry and losing steam. Feeling this way around mile 5 or 6 is one thing, but feeling this way with three-fourths of the run left to go is pretty demoralizing. I was really angry with myself for not fueling properly and for not heading out for my run earlier in the day, and I was also regretting the decision not to bring along my Nathan water belt for the run. My mental turmoil combined with my physical pain to make each and every step pretty difficult.

Part of me wanted to take some walking breaks. I knew that I was relatively ahead of my goal pace, and I figured that talking a walking break halfway through the run wouldn’t be the end of the world. Part of me also thought about looping back and cutting my 8 miler into a 5 miler and doing 3 more miles on Monday.

As I was thinking these thoughts, I entered a part of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail on which I had run during the hardest run of my life, which was a 15 miler during marathon training last August. I thought about all of the hard work that I had put in over the past year and about all of the other times when I had felt pushed to the limit and still kept going. I told myself that I didn’t quit then and I owed it to myself and all of those who support me not to quit now, and that quitting just isn’t an option if I want to keep gaining and improving in the future. Being Easter, I also thought about Jesus’ resurrection and reminded myself that I wouldn’t have ever had the confidence to believe that I could be a runner without the great gift of salvation and forgiveness offered by Jesus.

Once I got to the halfway point, I turned around and began to feel a bit more wind in my sails. Even when I did my full marathon, I have found that conquering the halfway point of any run gives me an added boost of adrenaline, so I took it and literally ran with it! I kept checking my mile splits, and although I felt that I was running extremely slowly, I was still miraculously posting sub-9 minute miles. This helped too.

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I took this picture last year when the temperature was approximately 90 degrees. Running in that weather helped build the character that got me through this run!

My adrenaline started to wear off around mile 6, but once I slogged through that and made it to mile 7, I started to feel encouraged again and I managed to finish off my last file on a strong note. No matter how tired I am, I always force myself to end my long run with a sprint to the finish!

When I checked my watch, I saw that I had finished the 8 miles in 1:08:57 – an 8:37 min\mile pace!

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I was completely shocked!

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What’s the moral of the story, folks? Don’t quit.

What if Bernie Kosar had quit back when he was at the University of Miami? One of the greatest underdog stories in Cleveland history would never have been written. Cleveland would have missed out on many great years of football success, and all of us whose bodies don’t fit the stereotype of an athlete wouldn’t have someone to look to in order for a reminder that anyone with guts, determination, and courage can be successful in the athletic world.

Unless you’re injured, your run will always get better. Force yourself to make it through those middle miles, and once you hit the last few miles of your run, your body and your spirit will respond accordingly knowing that greatness is just a few steps away. Maybe you’re not Bernie Kosar, but you never know who you’re inspiring. Besides, what’s worse – temporary pain during training or the pain that comes from not achieving your goals that remains with you long after the last runner has left the course?

We have less than a month until race day. Now is not the time to cut corners with your training. You’ll forget the pain of training, but you’ll never forget the glories of race day morning!