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Two friends run the Canal Half Marathon twice but for different reasons

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Meet Danny, in 2012, he weighed over 200 lbs. and wasn’t much of a runner.

Meet Gordon, in 2012, he was an avid marathoner and in great shape.

Soon, despite meeting each other, they were going to go in opposite directions.

Throughout 2013, Danny decided to change things for his own good. He joined Weight Watchers and began a heavy training plan that included weekly check-ins and a lot of running.

In that same year, Gordon began suffering from Partial Complex Seizures (PCS). The testing and the meds nearly wrecked his health, he didn’t run any marathons, and he was in the worst shape of his life.

Danny relearned how to eat and adjusted almost every aspect of his life towards becoming healthy.
Gordon relearned how to run and adjusted almost every aspect of his life towards heavy medication.

They began worshiping at the same church, and they started running together every week. As the year came to close, they conspired, “Let’s run a marathon together.”

Three and half months later, they stood at the frigid starting line of the Roanoke Canal Half-Marathon. The Canal Race is one of the best organized and gracious Half’s on the East Coast. It is a 6.5 mile trail out and back along the scenic Roanoke Rapids.

But you might say, “I thought they were running a full marathon?” Yep, their plan was to run the race twice, but there were more daunting challenges than losing weight and overcoming PCS’. 2 inches of rain fell along the trail prior to the race. A half was going to be a challenge, but a full in the mud was going to be ridiculous.

At the start of the race, they reminded each other that finishing was the goal, so throughout the first 6.5 miles, they had to keep telling themselves to slow down. The camaraderie along the trail was enjoyable and inspiring, and the down and back aspect of the race meant that lots of friends were made and greeted along the way. The volunteers with water and gels offered multiple encouragements and shouts of, “Good job” as well.

Danny and Gordon picked up a much needed second wind as they crossed the finish line, received their half marathon medals, and declared, “See you in two hours.”

But the second half was going to take much longer than that.

The trail conditions worsened after so many runners completed the race. But there were still a few runners finishing who greeted them and gawked as they attempted another half, but that number dwindled quickly.

Slipping in the mud and soaking wet feet provided a laugh or two, but energy began to dim. They promised themselves that at the last turn, they would begin to inspire their final 10k with thoughts of all the food and drink they would take in after finishing. Coffee, burgers, and milkshakes filled their conversations.

Then, they hit the wall, or better yet, the wall hit them. Most marathoners experience this around miles 20 or 22 when their body just tries to convince you to give up. Danny found energy to burn. Gordon had burned all his energy. But they yelled each other on and talked about everything from theology to video to games to which words were really “curse” words. Laughs and groans and dreams of glory kept them going.

As they crossed the finish line and turned off their watches, they embraced and called their wives. There was little to no expectation of the Canal Race runners still being around. Why should there be? They had celebrated, cleaned up, and left a long time ago. The organizers and runners were amazing, and assuredly, they were at home resting by now.

But Danny and Gordon had their own marathon medals with “Toughness Groove” emblazoned on them. They ate double cheeseburgers with bacon, downed copious amounts of caffeine, and laughed a lot.

By God’s grace, one proved that he could get in shape and run a marathon.
By God’s grace, one proved that his seizures and medicated body could still do it.

And both will remember this time for the rest of their lives.

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