I’m running NYC to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a cause near and dear to our family. My wife, Crystal, lost her identical twin sister, Christina, to suicide at age 15, more than 20 years ago.
Crystal now serves on the board of directors of the Virginia chapter of AFSP, helping organize fundraising walks and link groups providing front-line services to each other to try to reduce the numbers that we lose each year to suicide.
It’s an honor for me to be able to do something that I have come to love, distance running, to this worthy cause.
For me to be able to represent AFSP and its suicide-prevention mission on the grandest stage of them all, New York, is a dream come true.
I say that, and I have to concede that marathon running was the furthest thing from my mind as recently as two years ago, when I weighed in at a hefty 280 pounds, and could barely run to the end of my driveway,
In the course of losing 100 pounds over a seven-month period in 2014, I took up running, starting by barely completing a mile, no timer anywhere nearby, then advancing to three miles, then five.
On my birthday in June, I decided to do a 10-mile run during a week in the Outer Banks, just to see if I could do it. I downloaded a running app to track the mileage, and finished in just over two hours, 30 minutes, 15 minutes per mile.
I thought I was doing a one-off, but something clicked with me. I ran a 5K race that fall, and won my age group, at a 7:47-per-mile pace. My doctor, also a runner, told me that day about an upcoming 10-miler, and I finished that one in an 8:25-per-mile pace.
I saw that Richmond had a marathon that ran in November, and with a year to prepare set my sights on the capital city.
Despite suffering a slight groin pull the week of Richmond, I finished in 3:39:29. The groin pull worsened during the race, and I wasn’t able to run for six weeks after the race, but I got back out on the road on Jan. 1 with 13 weeks to prepare for Charlottesville.
The hilly Charlottesville course was a huge challenge, but though my time was 10 minutes off what I ran in Richmond, I left thinking, knowing, that I had improved dramatically from Richmond.
The total ascent of 1,456 feet is nearly three times the 495-foot total ascent at Richmond. I ran the times for the two through a time converter that takes ascent and other factors into account, and the times are basically the same.
Considering the shortened training time, the fact that that shorter running window was mainly in the winter months, and that my schedule was off in the month of March due to work (following around the UVA basketball team in the postseason), I feel like I’m ready to take a step forward in the next 31 weeks.
That’s how long I have to get ready for NYC.
So as is fitting for a guy who woke up one day two years ago and decided to lose 100 pounds, decided to run a mile, then three, then five, then 10, then a marathon, I’m saying I’ll run NYC in 3:15:00.
It’s an absurd goal, but whatever.
Support Chris Graham’s New York City Marathon fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. More information on how you can be a part of the effort: click here.