Today, we want to tell you about one man’s road to the Boston Marathon that has inspired us due to his perseverance and commitment to achieving his goals. At ISN, our mission is to help a connected network of health-conscious individuals become the healthiest version of themselves. Not only does our guest today embody that mission, he inspires those around him to achieve large goals that seem insurmountable.
The Boston Marathon is perhaps the most recognized marathon race in the world. With a grueling 26.2 mile path through the streets of the Greater Boston area, the race is largely considered one of the most difficult marathon’s to run because of the notorious Newton Hills, a series of 4 difficult hills that culminate in Heartbreak Hill near Boston College between miles 21 and 22. It is a test of endurance for all the athletes who compete in this rigorous race.
However, what many don’t know is that just to stand at the start line requires significant accomplishment in and of itself. The qualifying standards are rigorous and have held back many trained distance runners from qualifying. With 30,000 athletes competing in the race annually, each year tells the stories of many athletes who have overcome disappointment, injury, pain and triumph for the privilege of competing in the most famous marathon race in the world.
Meet Bryan Campbell
Bryan Campbell is a friend of ISN and someone we have followed on his journey to push his limits and be the best athlete he can be. Bryan has been a runner for a long-time and has evolved from 10K’s and full marathons to 100 mile endurance races that last for 24 hours. Still, despite all his success, Bryan struggled for years to qualify for the Boston Marathon—-until this year, that is! Bryan will be competing in his first Boston Marathon in April, 2020 and we are thrilled to support him in this life-long endeavor.
1. Tell us about yourself:
I live in Carmel, IN, which is just north of Indianapolis. My wife, Lynsie (also known as my better half), and I have 12 year-old twins, Carter and Lauren. I work for a local hospital network as a director of surgical services. A fun fact about me is that I actually love roundabouts, which is great since we have more than 125 in Carmel!
2. Tell us about your commitment to fitness:
My Mother told me once, “exercise is not really an option it’s just part of the day. You have to eat, you have to sleep & you have to move.” I have been running intermittently since high school, but started running very consistently (and doing races) 13 years ago. I run because it gives me clarity, joy, and energy. It also helps me learn more about myself and keeps me sane! Running regularly allows me to keep my body healthy, enjoy a few extra calories every now and then and keeps my mind in a better place. When I don’t run, I become cranky, less focused and restless. My hope is that, later in life, I will still be thinking, laughing, and living well into later stages of life. I think Neil Young shared in one of his songs, “it is better to burn out than fade away.” I prefer to put forth effort & live, verses never take a chance.
3. What is endurance running and how did you get interested in it?
While I think of endurance running as getting outside and moving, I think that most would qualify it as a marathon or longer. I started running with my mom as a kid and then joined her in running my first marathon in 2003. When I finished, I thought I would never do another one. Until I decided to give it another shot in 2006. After that, I was officially hooked and started running consistently. Key word: consistently. After running a number of marathons, I convinced my wife to let me try out ultras. First there was a 50 and then a 100. My first 100 miler was in 2015 and I’ve now done (and completed) six of them. I really love the hundreds because something about being in motion for 24+ hours just seems crazy awesome to me. Running in the woods, jumping over rocks and going through streams makes you feel alive. You feel like a kid again! Every day life makes it very difficult to just be in the moment. When you run that far, you’re not thinking about email, meetings or life problems. You are just trying to physically, mentally and emotionally finish the race. You experience every emotion you can imagine! And after you finish, you never look at life as mundane again. I feel very blessed to have legs to run, a mind to think, words to express myself, and eyes to see the beauty around us.
4. Tell us about the struggles you faced to qualify for the Boston Marathon:
Qualifying for Boston (for the average runner) is not an easy task. And qualifying doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll get in. Which is why my goal at my recent race was to run at least five minutes faster than my required qualifying time. That said, this race was 12 years in the making. Year after year, I just couldn’t quite figure out the formula. Did I need to lose weight? Run more miles? More quality runs? Every year, something just wouldn’t quite line up. Warm weather, early bonks, muscle cramps, over/under training- all led to failed attempts. I wasn’t sure if I just couldn’t do it and should give up, or if I was just making excuses. There was more than one season where I chose to sleep in, eat chips and not believe in myself. But that didn’t make me feel better or take away my desire to conquer the Boston goal. I have learned to stay consistent, build off of the past, and learn from my previous misses–not failures, misses. This time, I went into the race with the knowledge of my past races and had built a plan for what, I hoped, would be a success. But, plans are made to be changed, right? I had planned to stay behind the 3:15 pace group. However, after five miles, I left them, as my outgoing self wasn’t being motivated or encouraged by the seriousness of that particular group. I had moments of worry and fear, but I refused to let all of the reasons I had to fall apart enter my mind. Or, at least, not stay there. I told myself over and over: just keep moving! At mile 19, I was four minutes faster than I expected. Thankfully, I joined a group of positive runners for the last three miles and we all finished fast and strong. I think I looked like I was dying, but I yelled at my foot not to cramp, my stomach not to vomit and just kept telling myself to hold on. When I crossed the finish line in 3:11:20 I was ecstatic. Twelve years of work had finally come together. Running in the dark, the heat, and the cold. Getting up crazy early. Work-life-family balance. Various foot, leg, hip and toe issues. I’d made it through all of them to get to this moment and see this dream come true. In that moment, I realized the blessing of having a body that can move, and the gift of all of the people in my life that helped make it happen. It was raw and real. I hugged a few other runners who were in that moment, feeling the same thing.
5. How did you feel when you learned you had qualified?
Life is pretty amazing. It may be hard to put into words, but I will try. Qualifying for Boston had become the “thing,” the focus. Twelve years of trial and effort to get to this moment, and then putting ALL of those years of set backs, misses, training, life, and emotions into about twenty seconds of pure euphoria. The twenty seconds was worth the twelve years. In that moment, I realized it was never about the race itself. It was about never giving up. It was about the people and the moments along the journey. It was about the struggle and it was about faith.
6. What advice do you have for people about setting big goals and developing plans to achieve those goals?
Write down your goal on a calendar- even if it’s a year or two away. Find weekly wins. Find what works for you. The mind is an amazingly powerful tool- use it! Understand that your goal might not be easy, but thinking negatively never helps. Smile more. It’s infectious and will help your attitude in both life and training. (see our blog on turning your goals into a process for additional information)
7. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your story?
I ask people to run with me regularly. Sometimes we run and sometimes we walk. When I run with people who are faster than me, it helps me grow. When I invest in people who are slower than me, it inspires me and grounds me. I encourage you to do both! Investing in achieving goals, and then meeting them, is thrilling. Investing in people and seeing them achieve goals is life changing.
I could not do any of this with out support. My wife is a saint to put up with me. The ailments, the highs, the lows. What should I do? What should I not do? She is awesome for listening & supporting these crazy journeys & is always there with me in spirit through it all. She helps me see the importance of being there for others. She appreciates me for being me & supports me in putting forth effort, no matter what it is.
Thank you, Bryan, for sharing your story of grit and perseverance with us. We can’t wait to watch you succeed at the Boston Marathon in April.