Meet Alex – the one-man "South of Chicago" marathon

One of the truly special delights about writing this blog is hearing all the fun and inspirational stories of people who, despite setbacks and disappointments, continue their quest for better health and accomplish things they never dreamed possible.

Meet Alex Machado. After training for, but not being able to participate in, the Chicago Marathon, Alex, 51, decided to hold his own "South of Chicago" marathon with a grand total of one participant – himself. Alex ran the full 26.2-mile distance on his own in 4 hours and 46 minutes. He mapped his own course and ran without crowd support (except for a small group of cycling friends who accompanied him along his journey), water stops, or formal finish line (or entry fee)! Alex chose to complete this race in honor of another friend, Sanee Lombardi, whom he met when he joined a local running group, "Lost in Pace." When Sanee became injured, Alex planned to run the Chicago Marathon in her place, but the entry was not transferable, and the registration deadline had passed. (Alex adds kudos for three other team members who helped him train – Janell Fuller, Cheryl Shaw and Tracy Smallwood, and for his wife, Julie. Janell is with Alex in the top photo. Julie is with Alex in the bottom photo.)

Alex's backstory puts his accomplishment in perspective. One year ago, pushing 212 pounds at a height of 6 feet, he decided he needed to make some lifestyle changes. At his height and weight, his Body Mass Index of 28 put him in the overweight category. He knew that if he didn't get fit, he might not enjoy a long and fruitful life. He was asked to join a local running group, but given his general lack of conditioning, he was concerned that he would not fit in with such an elite and motivated group. Alex had never run any significant distance, while many in the group had completed half-marathons and marathons. The prospect of training with these proven athletes was daunting.

After much thought, Alex decided, "What the heck? Why not give it a try?" With the patient tutelage of fellow runners, and some serious cross-training, Alex found himself 32 pounds lighter, in the best shape of his adult life, and ready to tackle, arguably, the toughest challenge in the running world, the full marathon.

Without crowd support, marathon miles can seem endless. Alex ran the last four miles with Janell Fuller, another running group member, who decided at the last minute to join him as he passed her house on his route. His wife, Julie, and a group of friends came out to cheer him on to the finish. Experienced marathon runners know that motivation can wane in the later stages of any race. 

Alex's story illustrates several points worth noting. First and foremost, with proper motivation, we can all accomplish tasks and goals beyond our wildest imaginations. Alex's motivation was to get healthy, but along the way, he began to have thoughts of much grander goals, completing a full marathon and honoring a fellow running group member.

Second, and just as important, we need to participate in activities that we enjoy. Having a support group to hold us accountable makes work seem like play. If we enjoy the activities in which we are engaged and the people with whom we are participating, exercise no longer feels like a chore. Exercise becomes something we look forward to.

Finally, Alex shows us that we need not be afraid to take that first daunting step. The first step, many times, is the hardest. But once we take the leap, we realize that it was never that difficult after all. The fact that Alex chose to do this on his own, on his first attempt at the marathon distance, is truly amazing, and an indication of his motivation and dedication to honor his running team.

Congratulations, Alex, for choosing to take that first step and for accomplishing your goal!

I'd love to hear about your victories. Reply to this post and let me know what you're up to. 

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