Freeze column: Runner a good example

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
Of course we all know January is the time for resolutions. Many of us pick this time to set our sights on something that we know is good for us. It is true that by setting a goal, preferably a specific one, the chances of following the resolution improve.
Every January, I get the opportunity to work with beginning runners or runners who want to reach a particular distance goal. Both types are fun for me, but here is one story that stands out.
I met Mike Mangum a little over five years ago. He is especially skilled with mechanical issues, specializing in heating and air conditioning. Mike just knows how to fix things, and since I have known him, there hasn’t been much that he couldn’t fix. Mike has been fixing things, some of them really big, at the YMCAs for quite a while. The best part is that more times than not, he doesn’t charge for his work.
Mike’s biggest challenge was fixing himself. He was gaining weight, up to 250 pounds in early 2008. A friend had said to Mike, “You couldn’t run a 5K!” Mike decided that he could in fact run a 5K, but he had lots of work to do. Resolution 2008: Run a 5K.
Mike took the Salisbury Rowan Runners/Salisbury Parks and Recreation Beginning Runners Class. Early in his training, he couldn’t run a quarter of a mile. Night after night he ran and gradually increased the distance.
Mike didn’t go out and buy nice running clothes or expensive shoes. He ran in what he had, and got his shoes from the unclaimed “lost and found” at the Salisbury Y. Those shoes were usually cross-training shoes, not specifically meant for running. I had to have several heart-to-heart discussions with him about his shoes, but finally Mike actually bought his own new pair. A good runner has to have the right shoes for his body style, foot strike and much more.
Mike’s biggest goal was to become a runner, and he was working hard at it. He ran home from church and to his Thanksgiving celebration. Mike took zumba several times a week and kept running, gradually whittling down his body size. He continued his training and finished the China Grove Main Street Challenge 5K in June of 2008.
Times in his early races were slow, but the main goal that year was to finish. Mike said, “I was a 240 pound running machine!”
Mike was hooked on running and zumba and his body continued to respond. People started to say things like, “Mike, are you OK? You are losing weight!” Mike just grinned and went about his business. But a new dream was emerging. Mike kept running and racing, and really enjoyed it. Resolution 2009: Get fit and get faster.
His racing was measured by steady improvements. His 5K times went under 30 minutes, then less than 28, down to 26, until he ran his second China Grove 5K in less than 22 minutes.
But could there be something really big for 2010? Resolution 2010: Run a marathon. 26.2 miles! Mike had decided that he wanted to run a marathon, and I thought to myself that he had lots to do in preparation.
Mike trained hard, and made a few mistakes. One very hot summer afternoon, he wanted to do his long run of 18 miles in the 90-degree heat. He continued to prefer the “lost and found” shoes. Diet and hydration required some serious work. Throughout the summer, everything was coming together. In October, Mike decided to run the Jacksonville Bank Marathon in Florida on Dec. 19.
The stage was set and Mike was committed to his goal. He went to Jacksonville alone because his wife Melissa got sick as they were ready to leave. After resting properly and eating well, his goal was finally here.
Mike ran the marathon as he was advised: “Just run it, don’t worry about the time very much, and remember the experience!” Good advice for first time marathoners. He lined up in the back and gradually worked his way through many of the 882 competitors to finish in 456th place. Total time was 3 hours, 58 minutes and 13 seconds.
His only regrets were not bringing gloves for his very cold hands and not knowing what the pace signs meant.
Most people would think that is enough. Not for Mike, who is now at 203 pounds. Resolution 2011: Run a second marathon and run it faster. He will be at the Myrtle Beach Bi-Lo Marathon on Feb. 19. Mike makes resolutions work. He’s a good example for the rest of us.