The PowerMarathon is a sport that had been on my mind since the late 90’s. In my mid-twenties, I decided to run a marathon. I was already a very ambitious weight lifter and so was carrying a heavier body than most of the serious racers. After a painful but rewarding finish in 4 hours and 3 minutes, the idea of combining the powerlifting I had been doing with this new hobby came to life. I mentioned this to a few friends at my gym and received the “you will run your muscle off” and “you have to be skinny to be a good runner” responses. Since 2007, I have been running and bodybuilding with good success, placing first or second in many of my competitions. After a Google search for this combined sport found nothing, I decided that life was too short to wait for things to be invented. I set the date for the first-ever PowerMarathon for November 17, 2013, just one day before my 45th birthday. I had developed a great relationship with Brenda Carey and Brian Acree from Vegan Health and Fitness magazine, and Brenda was amazingly supportive in creating the layout and placing a one-page ad in the magazine. I needed to find a gym for the powerlifting portion of this sport, which would be done before the running challenge. Chad Beyers, owner of Beyond Fit gym in Austin, Texas, kindly offered his space for the event. He has a great gym and is a terrific guy–also a member of the PlantBuilt team of vegan competitors. My second obstacle in getting this sport together was to find a place for the running element. The Shrodi Center for canine behavior has a one-kilometer loop used to teach dogs and their owners how to interact for a better relationship. This nonprofit foundation has done a terrific job accomplishing these goals. Every year they host a 3-,6-,12-, or 24-hour race to raise funds to support this cause. I have run this race four years in a row and love the soft, tree-shaded loop. The center graciously offered to let me use this course for the running portion. I was set! Now, I needed to do a little training myself. I did my powerlifting (squat, bench press, dead lift) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with two to three runs on alternate days. I rented a portable restroom that was going to be placed right next to the race loop and purchased two large coolers full of Gatorade and water. My good friend Pascal donated some sandwiches from his restaurant, and others supplied fresh fruit to top off our dietary needs. A trip to Home Depot to buy a large board to mark off laps and buying a rolling measure and boundary tape to mark the course finished the race preparations. I had already had the finishing medals made, so now just needed athletes to win them. A few weeks of Facebook advertising gave me the nice group needed. I wanted this race to be a controllable size, since this was my first attempt at coordinating an event like this. The day of the event came, and at 10 a.m. we all collected at Chad’s gym. I was concerned about re-injuring my lower back from contest training and so kept my squat at 315 pounds. The bench press was decent at 245 pounds, and the final lift, the dead lift, went well pulling 405 pounds off the ground. Between lifts, Chad, Trisha, Christy Morgan, and I spotted the other eight competitors and recorded their best lifts. When my lifts were completed, I rushed down to the race loop to remeasure the kilometer loop. The Shrodi Center had remulched the course the day before, accidentally breaking the tape used to mark the loop. This course has many optional turns, so it was fairly confusing to remeasure, but I finished marking the course again just as the competitors showed up. We laughed and took some pictures for a few minutes until the 12 p.m. race start.
The clock hit noon, and we all headed down the course with a loud cheer. Elana Priestly and “Bone Breaker” Mike were both going for personal bests at longer distances, while John Savona was setting his goals to win the 10k distance. Spirits stayed high as we high-fived each other in passing. Christy Morgan was doing a great job keeping track of our progress by marking laps off on a big Masonite board that was resting in a folding chair. We were all sweating as the temperatures reached 90 degrees, a unusually hot day for November, even for Texas. Brenda Carey came in first in the 5k and others soon followed, cheering on the 10k runners and me from the comfort of a chair. John came in first in the 10k, and Elana broke a personal record at that distance. A few minutes later, I was the only one on the course, being the only one competing in the full marathon distance. (I was supposed to have two other marathon competitors, but they both had to cancel on short notice.) The others stayed for awhile longer, drinking, eating, and packing up their belongings. A hour later, I was the only one on the course, left to mark off my own laps on that board. It was a terrific feeling to be running alone, yet still in an event I had thought about creating so many years ago. It had been a long month of preparation, and these last laps were going to feel like victory laps. Brenda showed up with only three loops left to go, cheering me on as she caught the moment on camera to the finish. After a brief rest, she helped me break the course down, returning it to its original state and helping me load the chairs, coolers, and various other race goodies. Now, it was time for me to head home for a hot shower and a much-needed nap.