My name is David Wilkerson I have been asked to do a blog for the upcoming CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon! I am excited about this opportunity to share what running has done for me and offer tips and insights regarding training, nutrition, injury prevention and motivation.
First a little bit about me. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. I am married and have two amazing teenagers that keep me on my toes! I started running when I was 12 years old because my mom wouldn’t let me play football, which at the time I was very disappointed about. Then, good friend talked me into trying cross country and track and here I am! I ran in middle school, high school and college and most recently have been coaching girl’s cross country at a local area high school.
When I first started running I didn’t really understand what I was doing and it took me some time to figure out this crazy sport that I was now participating in. After running many miles with a lot of patience I finally started to figure it all out and it has truly helped shape me into the person I am today. I have been running both competitively and leisurely for over 25 years.
With running I have experienced both the highs of highs and the lows of lows that come with this sport and through every experience I have learned something about myself in the process. My goal is to share my views and personal experiences that I have gone through and have seen with my years of running and coaching. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with everyone and hope you find the blog to be very beneficial and motivating.
Let me introduce you to my high-school sweetheart, my wife of twenty years, my one true love, my soul-mate, Kim Whited. Kim is a forty-something mother of two adolescent boys and beloved kindergarten teacher for nearly 450 sweet little kiddos in her 19 years of teaching. She is the youngest in a family of 14 children (think Brady Bunch here). In the last few years, to her own surprise, she has become a determined runner. “Oh, I’ll never be a runner!” she once said. And now, after September 12th 2016, she is a stroke survivor. Yes, a stroke-survivor. It’s amazing how you can become what you never thought you might be.
While attending a family wedding in northern Michigan in September, Kim decided to take advantage of the beauty around her and go for a 6-mile run before the wedding. She had a great run, but started getting a terrible headache at the reception while the music pounded and the family celebrated. Little did we know that it was the beginning of a stroke caused by a blot clot in a sinus cavity of her brain. By the next day after headaches persisted, we were back home in Indiana at a hospital, where her condition was misdiagnosed - even following a CT scan. “Her brain is fine!” piped the ER doctor following the scan, “She has a severe sinus infection, however.” It wasn’t until the following day, nearly 36 hours after the headache began, that a second hospital correctly identified that she was experiencing a blood clot and a hemorrhage in her brain. Her neurologists told us that this was a rare type of stroke, affecting only 1 in 200,000 people. Kim received treatment for five days in the nuero-intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital, and another two weeks in a regular room and inpatient physical therapy hospital in Indianapolis. At one point during her therapy, Kim had no use of her left arm and was only able to walk a few slow steps at a time, but she was walking, and was eventually able to go home on October 1. Her doctors pointed to the fact that she was a runner and had “strong legs” as providing her a head start on her recovery and physical therapy.
Kim has gradually made slow but significant progress. After many weeks of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, she was able to resume driving in November and return working full time in her Kindergarten class in March. Recently, she has actually started running again. In fact, she completed the 5k at the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in May and is now turning her sights towards the Monumental Half-Marathon in November. We were planning to run the Monumental for the first time in 2016, and then the stroke happened. Although this 2017 race seems a bit daunting for her at this point, as she considers this challenge she reverts back to a simple mantra that she has relied upon throughout her recovery: “I CAN do hard things!”. She is humbled by the countless people who have called her “inspiring” and who refer to her as a “miracle”. Kim shrugs off the personal credit for her recovery, referring to her strong faith and the unwavering encouragement and prayers from her friends, her school family, her church family, and her enormous biological family.
“Make the most of every day of your life, because you simply don’t know what tomorrow holds for you.” shrugs Kim. “Why not? That’s my new motto. It shouldn’t take a life-threatening medical event to get you to start living right now!”
Meet Neale Johantgen, Event Operations Manager. He’s the newest member of the Beyond Monumental staff. Neale comes from a background in Track and Field, but doesn’t consider himself “a runner”. That being said, he’s in the middle of training to run his first marathon at Grandma’s marathon on June 17, 2017 – which begs the question “why?”
You say you’re not a runner – what experience did you have before working here?
I worked at USATF (USA Track & Field), the National Governing Body for the sport that is also based in Indianapolis, for almost seven years. I interned there after graduating from IU and just never left! I worked in multiple areas over the years. I updated the website, then moved on to general IT, and then to events. And I assisted with some office operations throughout all of that. I traveled quite a bit, working 7 Outdoor National Championships, 4 Indoor National Championships, 3 Olympic Trials, and 1 World Championships, along with various other major events.
Describe your relationship with running:
I joined my schools track team in eighth grade. I ran the 800m and threw Shot Put, because those seemed like a logical combination. I placed seventh in the city wide meet in Shot Put. I’m fairly certain only nine people competed. But I got a ribbon!
I didn’t start running until after I graduated college. I had a few friends who were training for a half marathon and I was working with several former collegiate runners at USATF, so it was more peer pressure that pulled me in than anything else. I’d go running with my friends and I’d always finish several minutes behind them. Demoralizing? Sure, but I got used to it and just ran at my own pace, running just fast enough to not get lost. It worked out in the end!
Ever since then, I’ve run to maintain a reasonable fitness level. I can’t say I’m always successful at it, but my habits have gotten better over the years. I’m a competitive person, but I know my limits. Like everything else in life, it’s about finding the right balance for yourself. For me, that means getting out to run more often than not, but knowing I won’t be winning races anytime soon. I’m ok with that.
Why are you running a marathon?
When I interviewed for this job – which I didn’t know was an interview at the time – I was asked if I would ever consider running a marathon. “Ha! That’s hilarious! Why would I do that to myself?” It was a hard no for me. But when the job was offered, I knew I wanted it. And Blake Boldon, our former Executive Director, told me he thought it was important for me to pick a marathon to run in my first year working here. The joke is “I’m running a marathon because Blake told me to.” But his reasoning, why he thought this was so important, is part of what sold me on working here. You can’t ask someone to run your race if you wouldn’t run it yourself. I wanted a job where I would be doing something I enjoy, at a company that supports the community, with a product or service that I genuinely believe in. For that to be true, I better be willing to run 26.2 miles.
So, I had to ask myself: am I willing to run 26.2 miles? I have close friends who have run several. Like I said, I’m a competitive person. If they can do it, I can do it. On top of that, some people laugh when I tell them I’m running. I get a very deep John Locke from Lost attitude – “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” I just turned 30 and it feels like a good milestone to reach for at this age. I have friends in the industry and I’ve worked multiple marathons. I see how much work goes into it, and I’ve always appreciated the time and effort. I’d like to experience what it’s like to run one of their events and see it from the other side. And finally, I try to say yes as much as possible. I didn’t have a good reason to say no. So why not?
What did your first year at the Beyond Monumental teach you about marathons?
First, it’s a lot more work than you would think. You think “how do you spend all year on one event?” There are internal tasks like marketing, warehouse cleaning and organization, volunteer coordination, sponsorship outreach – these all require year round planning and communication. Then there are tasks with outside vendors and organizations – medal and shirt design, printing signage, ordering awards, working with registration platforms and timing companies. Not only are they vital activities with year-long timelines, they are relationships that you must work every day to build and maintain. Each member of our staff – and on most marathon staffs, I imagine – wears a lot of hats and has a lot of responsibilities. We have a point person for each area, but we all back each other up. I enjoy these types of roles and I think they produce the best, most well rounded events.
Second, you can’t do any of this alone. I mentioned volunteers – and I cannot overstate how vital they are. I started at Beyond Monumental right in the middle of crunch time, and I didn’t get my feet under me until after the event was over in November. There are multiple volunteers who taught me how to do things along the way and were telling me what was next, simply because this was their second, third, fourth, or whatever year with the event. That kind of experience is key, and it doesn’t just make our jobs easier. It makes the event possible.
What has training for your first full marathon taught you?
Do you have any goals the race?
To finish. To actually eat breakfast before I run for once. And to jump into Lake Superior once I finish.
What is the best thing about Indianapolis?
There is no single “best” thing about Indianapolis. I like being able to walk everywhere if I want to. I hope people appreciate all the monuments the Cultural Trail, and the Canal Walk – they’re truly great pieces of our city. I love eating lunch at the City Market. I love movie nights with Indy Film Fest. I’ve always been a huge sports fan, so it has everything that I could hope for in that area. We put on world class events, year after year. And the food. Oh, the food. Rook, Milktooth, Nick’s Chili Parlor, Fat Dan’s Deli: they all own a piece of my heart, and most of my wallet. And the drinks! There’s too many breweries to name, but there’s always a special place on my shelf for Central State, Tax Man, and Black Acre. And my treat after my long runs? A daiquiri from Black Market. It’s glorious. Take a nap first though, or it will knock you out.
by Amy Weichert Hunter
After that, a friend encouraged me to train for a half marathon. I thought, okay, why not? What do I have to lose? After Jake died I felt like there was nothing more to lose, so why not? I was starting to enjoy running, and the relief it brought me from the stress, anxiety and pain of grief was more than I could have ever expected. So I signed up. But it was hard.
What I didn’t expect to happen was that I had a lot of running miles to think about Jake. When I was running, I could cry or not cry. (I did more crying than not) I could scream out loud, I could use every bit of my anger about Jake’s death and pour it into running. I would come home spent day after day. But I always went back out. The whole endeavor scared me but I went back out. Day after day I went back out and ran.
by Judy Hasselkus
I’m not the only one who became smitten in those early days. Consider Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. The inaugural race of the IMM was his restart to a running career. It gave him something to shoot for when he began running again in July of that year. “Who knows if running would be as much of my life as it is today?” he ponders. “I’ve seen the race grow over the years and become an incredible event. Early Learning Indiana, the organization for which I work, has participated in the children’s event and one of our Day Early Learning centers is on the half-marathon course on Central Avenue. Some of our staff volunteer at the water station near our center. It is a highlight of my run every year to run by our center and see our staff cheering people on.” And Maple reports that Beyond Monumental has become more than a race, but also a family event for him. He ran the race with his son, Jonah (age 12) in 2016. Running with Jonah in his first half-marathon will always be one of Maple’s favorite memories of the Monumental. It’s a “dad thing.”
Brian Schuetter, Indy Runners Medical Liaison and coordinator of Saturday runs, ran the Monumental as a half during the inaugural event. “I’ve done the half six times and the full three times,” he reports. This year, he’ll run the full marathon again. It is, he says, a “great tour of our city.” Schuetter also celebrates Beyond Monumental as a sort of “family reunion” for runners—in which “50% of the folks out there—racers, organizers, fans”—capture the “get your friends together and put on a race” element that combines with Hoosier hospitality for visitors, and a first-class race for the elite field, to create a world-class event. As Schuetter rightly observes, “This is not a small balancing act to pull off. I am impressed with how the Beyond Monumental group has continued this.”
When asked about favorite memories of the event over the past 10 years, Schuetter recalls a favorite memory from 2016 when Indy Runners, Carmel Runners, Back on My Feet, Wayne Township schools, and many others paid tribute to a member of the running community, Erika Wells, who was killed on her bike on 10/12/2016. Though I, personally, have had many awesome memories of this event over the past 10 years, four that stand out are the tributes to Erika in 2016; the bright green t-shirts of local students who participated in the event, which benefits education; meeting marathon Guinness World Record Holder and Arizona resident Larry Macon on the course near the IMA in 2010 while running my first marathon (when he encouraged me and got my novice marathoner self through mile 18 or so); and experiencing the growth of the event without it losing its warmth. “The tone is set from the organizers,” says Schuetter. “We’re welcoming everyone to our neighborhood and making them as comfortable as possible as they pursue their goals.”
So, what keeps those of us who were there for the inaugural event coming back year after year after year (Maple, Schuetter, and I have participated in EVERY one)? For Maple, it is the family-friendly nature of the event. “Both my wife, Johanna, and one of my sons, Jonah, are runners, and this is one of the highlights of our year. Also, it is just a great race. The weather is almost always wonderful. The course is nice and flat. It is fun to be downtown. The event has such great energy.” Maple enthuses: “We love the Monumental and will keep coming back.” For Schuetter, it is the family feel of the event and its commitment to local schools and childhood wellness programs as well as the way the Monumental “acts as a sort of end-of-the-running-year get together for the running family.” For me, it is all of those things and more.
Indeed, outstanding stuff.
Join us in November, won’t you?
Judy Hasselkus has an extensive collection of IMM bibs. And medals. And shirts. Look for her out on the course in November!
How Resilience, Pain and Determination Paved the Way to My Goals
Running has always played a positive role in my life, and that’s apparent by the times that I let myself stray away from it. My passion for running has its roots from when I attended registration night in middle school with my mother. My family never pushed me to participate in athletics or team sports, and I was very shy and out of shape at the time. When we got to registration, some of my friends were at the cross country registration table with their families. Before attending registration, I had no intention of joining the team, but I succumbed to peer pressure because I didn’t want to feel left out. I saw joining the cross country team as a way to meet and hang out with friends as well as a way to lose weight that I had gained from the combination of playing video games, drinking soft drinks and sweet tea as my main forms of hydration, and eating copious amounts of snacks and junk food. Doing so seemed to pay off because I met several friends, lost a lot of belly fat, and improved my overall fitness from running and the workout exercises that we did every day as a warm up.
I still wasn’t the healthiest kid because I maintained my lunchroom, cheap dinner, and junk food diet, but at least I was staying active. I joined the indoor and outdoor track teams for some seasons, which kept me physically active throughout middle school and part of high school. However, I would find myself struggling to enjoy the physical aspect of running until the very end of a season because I would become sedentary and mess up my diet between seasons. I kept joining the teams and following the same cycle until my sophomore year in high school. I ended up losing interest in long distance running, decided not to join the cross country team my junior year, and joined the track team for just one more season before quitting that too. By doing so, I lost connection with several of my running friends, ended up picking up bad habits, and lived a generally unhealthy lifestyle for the next six years.
I started smoking and drinking during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. Several of my non-running friends began to experiment with smoking and drinking during this time, and I eventually fell under peer pressure. I understood that there were long-term negative consequences, as I have had other family members who have struggled with health problems related to alcoholism, substance abuse and addiction. However, being the teenager that I was, I believed I would be an exception to the rule and that I would be able to control any habit that I picked up if I started. Needless to say, this didn’t pan out well. I started smoking and drinking excessively, my grades started to slip, I began experiencing anxiety and depression, my attitude towards school and outlook on life changed, and family problems that previously existed were only made worse by the issues that I had created.
Eventually, I was able to rebound and gain some confidence back about my future during the second half of my college career, but I still struggled staying physically and mentally healthy. During my last track season in high school, I weighed approximately 175 pounds. By the time I graduated college, I had begun to drop below 150 pounds, which is underweight for my size. It wasn’t until after college that I decided to make lifestyle changes in order to become healthy again. During the spring of 2015, I joined Planet Fitness in hopes of gaining muscle mass. By doing so, I reduced the amount that I smoked, became more mindful about my diet, ate meals at regular times, and improved my sleep routine. I eventually started to feel healthy again, which was a big boost to my confidence.
After I had gained some weight, I began to run on the treadmills at the gym. Running was by far my least favorite activity at the time because of how painful it was. I had terrible endurance and stamina. Every time I ran, I would get side stitches, my lungs would burn as a result of smoking, and my legs would tire quickly. My first goal was to run half a mile without stopping. I continued to run on the treadmills three to four times a week until I was able to run five miles. This is a lot of treadmill running, I know, but for some reason it was the only way I could motivate myself to run at the time. I eventually started running outside once I realized how insane it was for me to be running on a treadmill every time given the distances that I began to achieve. It was the summer, so I started to run around my neighborhood late at night, no earlier than 9 pm, in order to avoid the heat. After a run one night, I had a crazy pipe dream that I would be able to run the 2016 Mercedes Marathon. I continued to run three to four days weekly, building up to an 8 mile long run before I quit running and going to the gym for two months.
By the time I decided to start running again, I had lost a lot of the foundation that I built. I didn’t feel comfortable committing to marathon training with such a small aerobic base, but I convinced myself that running sub-two hours in the Mercedes Half Marathon was possible. It was with this decision that I successfully quit smoking cold turkey. I had reached a point in my training where I believed I was holding myself back from success, and I had already fallen through on my hopes and dreams to run the full marathon. I started running on the treadmills again. I didn’t follow a formal plan, but I kept increasing my weekly mileage and capped my training with a 10.5 mile run on a treadmill a week before the race.
I registered for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November because it was a relatively flat course and would give me another seven months to train. After about two months of training on my own, I learned that Cadence Run Coaching had a group of runners who also were training to qualify for Boston and run sub-3-hour marathons in Indianapolis. I kept building up my base mileage and eventually reached out to Cadence Run Coaching for a training plan. I received a training plan to run a sub-3- hour marathon, which was very intimidating but necessary to ensure there was enough of a time cushion for the 3:05 age group BQ. The training cycle was difficult, and I hit the wall on several of my training runs due to the heat and improper fueling. However, Cary Morgan kept insisting that I was on track and didn’t have anything to worry about. I ended up making huge gains during the second half of my training cycle, and I ran 2:55:40 on race day!
I’ve had several breakthroughs in running this year. Since running my first marathon in November, I’ve set a 5k PR, set a half marathon PR at the Magic City Half Marathon, ran my most successful half marathon at the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon in Atlanta, and am in the middle of training for the 2017 Mercedes Marathon. More importantly, this year of running has allowed me to make significant improvements to my physical and mental health. I’ve made several lifestyle changes to optimize my training. These changes have greatly reduced the stress, anxiety, and depression that I’ve experienced in previous years. While I may be tired some days from the accumulated fatigue of intense training weeks, I enjoy what I do.
It’s hard for me to describe the array of emotions that I’ve experienced recently while reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of my past. The decision to start running again was easily one of the best yet most difficult decisions that I’ve made for myself. I started running again as a way to rebuild myself after spending half of my high school and entire college career living a generally sedentary lifestyle and making poor health choices. I knew that running would not be enjoyable during the first few months due to the chest pain that I’d experience after years of smoking, especially since I was still struggling to quit at the time. However, I knew that my health and fitness would eventually improve if I stayed committed.
What I didn’t know at the time was how far I’d push myself to make it to where I am today. My overall health has greatly improved, I’ve met several wonderful people through the local running community, and my future prospects are brighter than ever. What makes me most happy and motivated about running, however, are the people who have reached out to me recently saying that I’ve been a source of inspiration for them to kick their own bad habits, become more physically active, and make other healthy decisions. The ability to learn from my past mistakes and endure the consequences has been key for me to achieve resiliency. I hope that I’m able to continue inspiring others to push themselves to achieve peace of mind and to lead healthier, active lifestyles through running and physical fitness.
Ever since I moved to Indianapolis in 2012, Monumental has been a huge part of my life, something that I have participated in every year and big events in my life seem to coincide with the race.
The 2012 Monumental became my second ever 5k and the thing I remember most about that race is that it was the first time I got to experience shaving time off of a PR and I had run the entire thing without stopping. After that race, I decided to not only continue to push myself with running, but also to fully commit myself to adopting a healthier lifestyle and losing weight, as I had spent the vast majority of my life overweight. The 2013 Monumental became my first half marathon and I ran it 75 pounds lighter than the year before. In 2014 I pushed myself even further and ran my first full. It was also the race where my boyfriend, who had traveled from California to run it, finally asked me to be his girlfriend.
So my goal, 16 years in the making, became a reality at the 2016 CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. It was an absolutely perfect day! So many little details all came together to make it an unforgettable day. It was a special treasure to share this day with Mike Fitzgerald (December 2015 #BeMonumental story), who also completed his goal of running the 50 states that day. I had so much fun taking the race at a slower pace and just taking in the scenery, talking with my friends and family along the course, talking with fellow runners about their journeys, taking a bunch of pictures along the way, and just truly enjoying all 26.2 miles and the memories it made for me. Thank you Beyond Monumental for putting on a great race which helped create the perfect ending to this journey.
I work as a Firefighter/Paramedic in Schaumburg, IL and my wife and I befriended another couple of which, the husband was a Firefighter/Paramedic in the Department neighboring mine. Our relationship grew quite close and when they announced they were pregnant with twins, my wife became godmother to their son. Shortly after birth, his sister, Madison showed signs of Liver disease. She was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a somewhat rare Liver disease. At 7 months old, it was determined she needed a Liver transplant.