Each of us has a small handful because only a small handful actually exisits. Some we take for granted. Others we cherish. I'm talking about the rare person(s) in our lives that truly lives with 100% goodness in their hearts. They are put on this earth not to be self-serving, but to serve. They live with passion and COMpassion, energy, joy and enthusiasm. They inadvertently serve as a positive and inspirational force for others just by "being."
My dear friend Karl is one of those people. In his naive and enthusiastic way, he's made such a positive impact in my life. He is the reason I started running, even before I moved to Texas nine years ago.
During college in the early 90s, I interned in the Promotions department at a radio station in Lancaster, Ohio (suburb of Columbus). It still happens to be one of the best and most memorable times of my life! That is where I met Karl and his youthful energy. He was the Production Director, in charge of writing, voicing and producing many of the commercials you would hear on the air. Karl's quirkiness led him to the Promotions office every day at precisely 1:00pm where the Karl "It's 1 o'clock time to eat" dance would commence. This is where I first learned the anal retentiveness and importance of food from an athlete's perspective. You see, Karl was a runner and the rest of us were not. We couldn't relate and didn't even attempt to. For God's sakes, we worked in radio where the alcohol and food were free and partying was as regular as sleeping (if not MORE regular). Needless to say, if you've ever seen most radio personalities in person, you definitely know that "fitness" isn't in the job description when announcing the new Kenny Chesney song.
Everyday at 1pm, we would march into our conference room, turn on "Days of Our Lives" and make fun of Karl as he ate his Fantastic Foods Veggie Soup, Bananas and Power Bars (the ORIGINAL Power Bars since nothing else existed at the time). What's even more humorous is that on many days, Karl had run to work from home--about 7 miles away in a neighborhood called "Hideaway Hills." I stress the hills. He showered at the random shower located at the base of our radio tower and proceeded to carry that energy throughout the day. We, on the other hand, could only muster enough energy to make fun of his strange behavior. Why on earth would you run to and from work when you have a perfectly good car??? Don't get me wrong, Karly Warly Farly Schmarly could party with the rest of us. This man loves his Guiness. It was what he did when he wasn't drinking that made all of the difference.
In 1996, Karl began a journey that inspired me to start running. Through the local chapter of "Team in Training," Karl trained for and ran a marathon on behalf of his buddy Glenn Miller, Jr. Glenn was a young boy suffering from Leukemia. Team in Training was in its infancy stages back then, not nearly the fundraising force it is now. One Marathon wasn't enough for Karl and for reasons that none of us can relate to, he set out to run 52 Marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for Team in Training. Did he complete this task? You bet he did. His decision to do this was rather abrupt even though he had been planning it for a while. Potential Sponsors and friends were surprised, supportive and even skeptical that such a feat could truly be accomplished by a guy in his mid 40s. It's been almost 10 years and I'm proud to announce that his book about this epic journey has just been released and available for purchase!!
Mine is on order and I personally can't wait to read what I heard about and experienced along the way as a friend and former co-worker. None of us really and truly knew what he was going through. We certainly didn't understand why. It is this journey that propelled me into mine. My first Half-Marathon in Columbus was finished wearing one of his t-shirts to support his cause.
Since then, Karl and I have raced at the Vineman Ironman 70.3 Race together and he literally saved my life during the 2003 Columbus Marathon when I was severely dehydrated and hallucinating at Mile 24. He ran alongside of me---all the way to the Finish Line and into the Med Tent after my collassal collapse so that he could make sure I was o.k.
Everytime I'm home in Ohio, we make a point of running together. It's our way of catching up on each other's lives. He still inspires me and I know he's proud of my accomplishments.
I urge everyone to order a copy of this book! You, too, will be inspired by unselfish goodness. We're always searching for literature on how to become a better runner. This book will inspire us to not only become better runners, but better people.
Karl in Sonoma, CA the day after Vineman 70.3. Let the celebration begin!
Karl in his favorite position--flanked by two women! This was taken the day after the Vineman Half-Ironman and we were officially touring the wineries. I'm in the pink and super-tristudette (and amazing swim coach) Tracy is in the red.