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David Freeze: Gotta Run

Stuart Perkins joins the sub-3 hour marathon club

Back in December, I wrote about a small group of local runners who ran the Jacksonville Marathon and Half Marathon. One of those marathoners was Stuart Perkins, a long-time friend from previously working together. Stuart and I talked New York Yankees, education and my running. From those and other discussions over the years, I was especially glad to be on hand to witness Stuart’s first sub-3-hour marathon.

Only 15 men and one woman have broken the 3-hour barrier and called Rowan County home. Stuart’s time of 2:59:03 didn’t come easy. Here’s how he did it.

Stuart said, “I decided to get into running after my father died. I didn’t take care of myself and wanted to not lose time with my wife and children later. In late 2011, I stopped eating fast food, processed foods, drinking soda, and worked on quitting smoking. I started walking on a treadmill daily until I thought I could run slowly. Walking and running became a cheap way of getting exercise.”

In the spring of 2012, Stuart’s wife Kim asked him to do a 5K with her. He hesitantly agreed even though he was still smoking and not sure of running 3.1 miles. After crossing the finish line at the TWAM 5K, he immediately wanted to do better. Quitting smoking and proper training led to a love affair with long distance running. Stuart said, “I have an infatuation with pushing myself to the limit, enduring pain, and seeing what I am capable of achieving.”

“Running has been a life-changer for me. It has revitalized my life and provided a place where I can feel like a kid again through finding inspirational goals. I am more fit mentally and physically now than I’ve ever been. It has brought so much joy, consistency, and freedom to my life. Running has taught me that my life is my journey. I’m in competition with no one. My journey is about being the best me I can be. I have learned that I win when I give 100% effort, put in work, and when I improve myself. I can win a race, but still not beat my personal best time. Therefore, I lost because I failed to improve. It’s all about that consistent improvement.

My heart lies in inspiring others. When I race, I make a point to wave to or high-five the kids along the course. I want to inspire them so that one day too they may too be touched by the joy that running gives me. My own children’s eyes are watching me. I hope they see that through hard work, determination, consistency and having a positive mental attitude, nothing is impossible. I hope that my achievements might inspire others.”

Stuart’s recent interest in triathlons came because of a desire to be a more complete endurance athlete through working the entire body. By working different areas each day, his body has responded well while his running has improved.

Stuart added, “I was inspired by an Ironman athlete. After my first marathon in 2013, I learned how tough marathons really were and crossed the finished line tired, in pain, and totally malnourished. I looked so bad that my mom wanted to take me to the hospital. I went back to my hotel, showered, and jumped into the elevator to go check out. As the elevator door was closing, a gentleman jumped in the elevator and asked if I had just run the marathon. As I looked at him to answer, I couldn’t help but notice his red jacket with an “I” symbol and “Finisher.” He explained that it was an Ironman finisher jacket. He explained that it included a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, and THEN a marathon! I couldn’t believe someone could possibly do all that. As I stood there more tired than I have ever been, I couldn’t imagine swimming and cycling before doing what I had just done. I thought the guy was a superhero, and I wanted one of those jackets! I hope to earn the right to wear one in September of 2018.”

Stuart’s long-range plan begins with running a spring half marathon with his wife, Kim. The rest of 2018 will be dedicated to triathlon. There will be plenty of running, but his focus for the year will be to improve cycling. In 2019, Stuart plans to go back to a heavier running workload in preparation for the Boston Marathon that April. For fall, he’s looking at either doing the NYC or Chicago Marathon. Long- term running goals include completion of all 6 of the major marathons, to run a marathon in every US state while hopefully improving times along the way.

Look for upcoming running events at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

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