Getting From There to Here and Beyond… You Can Too!
On a cloudy and cool morning on Patriots Day in April 1983, with a gleam in my eye and butterflies in my stomach, I arrived in Hopkinton with two friends. We were there with hundreds of others – “back of the packers” we called ourselves.
We were beginners, without a qualifying race finish on our resume, and all with the dream of being able to finish the most famous foot race in the world, the Boston Marathon. Little did I know, that innocent first attempt at the marathon distance would be the start of the most amazing and incredible journey imaginable-a journey that not only changed my life, but has truly defined it.
I arrived that day NOT as a talented young runner with a list of lofty accomplishments over shorter distances, but rather as a complete novice who had, just a few years earlier, struggled as a high school senior to barely pass gym class because I had a hard time completing a one-mile run.
After over four hours of running on that fateful day, I crossed the line with a smile so wide it hurt, overcome with that incredible feeling of both euphoria and exhaustion! As soon as I finished “unofficially,” the only thing I could think about was that I HAD to return some day to this historic race as an official entrant.
The years passed and I vowed to read everything I could get my hands on about running.
I joined a local club, set goals of running the 5K and 5 mile faster, and along the way I suffered through all of the frustrations and every injury that a runner can have, as I tried, like so many of you, to find the best way to improve and run better and faster. I vowed that I wouldn’t toe the line again for another marathon until I thought I was ready to run a qualifying time of 3 hours.
Three years later I reached a milestone-running my 2nd marathon in a time of 3:01:20 at Marine Corp, a race that began a streak of 19 straight sub-3 hour marathons. Well, it was almost 3 hrs that day. After all, I started behind nearly 11,000 people as it took me 3 to 4 minutes just to reach the starting line. The race organizers at Boston accepted my plea and I was in! I went on to many more Boston finishes, reaching another milestone in 1992 as I ran my personal best of 2 hours 39 minutes.
It had been nine years since my first innocent attempt at Boston, and now I had achieved the seemingly impossible, running this historic race course at a 6-minute per mile average pace! Wow! Despite this accomplishment, my journey didn’t end there. It was really only beginning!
While I had come far as a marathoner, I had another DREAM – another life goal that gnawed at me. In 1995, while watching the Ironman Triathlon on TV with my nine-year-old daughter, I turned to her and very matter-of-factly said, “Erin, I am gonna DO the Hawaii Ironman.”
Innocently, she looked at me and started laughing out loud because she knew something that not many people knew: her Dad had suffered a near drowning as a child and to that day, was deathly afraid of the open water. For that brief moment when I shouted out something that came straight from my heart, I never even stopped to think…
How on earth could a 36-year-old man who was scared of the water find his way to being able to not only finish an Ironman with its 2.4 mile open water swim, but actually qualify for and compete at the Hawaii Ironman World Championship?
Overcoming the obstacles of fear and self-doubt that I faced every single day as I set upon the path of becoming a swimmer is absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Amazingly, with my family in full view, in 1998 I finished my first Ironman distance triathlon, and then in the summer of 2000, in my second Ironman distance race that year, I finally reached my goal – I won a slot to the Hawaii Ironman! I was finally headed to Kona!
I’ve since been to Hawaii twice more for the World Championships and have finished eight Ironman races. It’s hard to believe, and I still have to pinch myself whenever I look at that first Hawaii finisher’s photo, with both of my children on my arms and the look of sheer joy on their faces.
Through all of those years, while I wasn’t a coach “officially,” I felt like one on the inside. I knew that if I was to achieve my dreams, I would have to learn more and train smarter, because I never felt I had the talent of so many of my training partners. So I studied, asked questions, read, watched, listened, and learned, and studied some more, and then tried whatever I learned on myself! Even more importantly, I desperately yearned to share what I learned with others!
I couldn’t stop talking with other runners and athletes to tell them about my new discoveries. I felt empowered beyond my wildest imagination – I was finally doing something with my life that I was meant to do. I had overcome so many obstacles and had discovered this astonishing BELIEF in me that I knew was special, and I wanted others to discover it within themselves and feel it too!
In what was surely destiny, in 1999 I finally “officially” became a coach. I worked for a coaching company for a while, but soon decided to pursue my own dream and start my own coaching business that I called Pursuit Fitness. The word “Pursuit,” suggested to me by a client, seemed perfect. That person knew me well and knew that my mission as a coach would always be to help others PURSUE their life dreams and goals through their participation in endurance sports.
I share this story with you now, because I hope that it inspires you in some way, and reminds you that you ARE capable of so much more than you ever dreamed was possible. Noted philosopher and leader, Kurt Hahn, said: “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.“
Best of luck! I hope I have inspired you to reach for YOUR dreams, too!
Coach Al Lyman
Please contact me with any questions you may have or if you have an interest in coaching services, training plans, gait analysis and more. I truly want to help you reach your full potential!