Meet John Reynolds

John Reynolds became a CARA member 12 years ago after a friend bought it for him for his 50th birthday. Now, at the age of 62 he's renewed his membership every year since. John has been a group leader and a repeat participant in the Summer Marathon Training program.

1) What first inspired you to want to run a marathon? How capable did you feel you were of running a marathon?

I read somewhere forever ago that when runners hit the wall during a marathon, it’s the point where the body actually starts tearing down muscle to get energy, and I remember thinking, “Huh. I wonder what that feels like.” My first marathon was in Chicago in 1979 (in truth, it was my first organized race) and I had no real expectations. I really just wanted to bring it home safe.

2) How did marathon training change your outlook on life?

I trained on my own for my first twelve marathons, and I’ve been training with CARA since 2004. Wistfully, I was complaining to my wife a few years back about the countless hours I’ve spent training going back to well before we were married in 1981. I told her that if I hadn’t spent all of those hours on the roads, I could maybe speak French now, or play the piano, or be better with repairs around the house, or have accomplished any number of great things. Then in an epiphany moment, it hit me that if I hadn’t spent all those countless hours running, I’d be a whole different person, and my wife might not have even liked me then.

3) Sometimes training through the summer is hard due to vacation(s). How did you keep up with your training? What would you tell a runner that is considering training but hasn’t because they know they will miss some of it?

I was much more hard-core about training when I was younger, but even now I’m still usually the first one up on family vacations to get in some miles. I’ve found that for many things in life, if a plan works even 70% of the time, it’s a pretty good plan. Missing a handful of training days here and there isn’t a bad thing. Missing all of them for fear of missing some of them is crazy talk.

4) Why did you choose to participate in the program again and what are you most looking forward to?

My answer is always the same for this one: I come back every year because I enjoy the camaraderie of the long run. I’ve met some really terrific individuals on the path, and for this reason alone, I encourage people--my daughter included--to join the CARA training program. The fitness and accomplished goals are almost like extras.

5) What marathon are you running in the fall? What are your expectations for it, and how will training with CARA help you meet those expectations?

I’m running the Twin Cities Marathon in the fall. It will be my 24th marathon, and CARA will help me bring it home by giving me the energy/inspiration to keep the long runs going.

6) What most surprised you during this marathon journey?

My daughter said she wants to run Minneapolis with me this year. She’s run a couple of 1/2s, but 26.2 is a lot different than 13.1. I’m excited for her, and I’m excited to be in the same race with her. We did a team ½ Ironman last summer (I was the swimmer) and that was cool. It will be just as cool encouraging each other come race day, and all of the days leading up to it.

7) During the training process there comes a point where every runner hits a wall. How did you keep yourself going? What did you tell yourself?

To paraphrase Yogi Berra’s assessment of baseball, running is 90% mental and the other half is physical. When I hit the wall in training, I take a few days off, remember the good days, then just pick up where I left off. Besides, my running goals have changed. Early on, I was chasing down sub-3:00 races (the Boston qualifying time in the early 1980s for young guys was 2:50). Then for years anything sub-4:00 was a good race for me. Now I’m getting a little more comfortable with sub-5.

8) How did marathon training enhance the already amazing Chicago summer experience?

Summers in Chicago are wonderful anyway, and not much beats seeing the sun come up over Lake Michigan when you’re out there on the path for an early Saturday morning run with your CARA friends.

9) What was the hardest thing for you to overcome during training or running the marathon? Time commitment? Doubt?

Finding time to train is always a challenge, which is pretty much why I gave up marathon running when my daughter was born in 1986. But the distance was already in me, and I knew I’d be back. Eleven years later, I put on my marathon shoes again, and I’ve never really taken them off. As noted, I’m quite a bit slower now than I was in my 20s, but I’m still in the game, and being in the game is everything.

10) If there was someone sitting on the couch right now, thinking about doing what you did, what advice would you give them?

When asked, I’ve offered counsel to many considering their first 26.2, and I’ve long joked that depending on what I sense their state of mind is, I can either talk them into it, or talk them out of it. Everybody needs to be in shape. Nobody really needs to be in marathon shape unless he/she has a dream. But if the dream lives, my advice is also always the same: join CARA and get out there. The days/weeks/months slip away whether you’re on the couch or on the path. I prefer the path. Eyes on October.

11) How has training and running a marathon changed your relationship with your kids? Do you do more sports related activities with them now?

My wife knows that my greatest aspiration in life as a father is to have my children be proud of me. Somehow, I believe that my marathon pursuit--especially the dedication it takes--helps serve that purpose. Our son Paul (now 26) hasn’t shown much interest in organized races, but our daughter Sarah (now 29) has, and we have Minneapolis on the horizon. When she was small, she left a note in my running bag the night before race day, and I found it when I got up early to take the train downtown for another 26.2. “Good luck, Daddy,” she wrote, and “Run like the wind.” Nearly 20 years later, I’m still using the phrase when I close notes and emails to my runner friends. RLTW, everybody. Run like the wind.


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