It is amazing how running can be the catalyst to establish new friendships. Many of my friends are runners and I cannot think of a better group of friends to associate with.
During one of our Saturday runs with Runners Edge of the Rockies in Denver, I stopped at one of our aid stations, looked down at the ground, and found an iPod Shuffle. I hung on to it and took it home. Immediately, I posted on our running group’s website asking if anyone lost an iPod Shuffle and that I had found it. A member, Mike Fontes, responded that it was his, so I wrote back to let him know I would bring it to the next run. I actually had no idea who Mike Fontes was so, after asking around, I found him. Turns out that at that time, Mike was running in a slower pace group and actually weighed more than he does today. He was just getting the running bug. I gave him the iPod Shuffle, he said thanks and that was that. I then headed off for my run with my pace group. Little did I know, Mike would soon become a standout in our running group.
Last summer our speed work sessions were held on Tuesdays, and Mike was in our 5:30 am group, same as me. He looked quite a bit different as he had shed some weight, and he was now real focused. Hmm… this is an interesting transition I thought to myself. So, during our little two-mile warmup run, I’d have casual chats with Mike and found out a little about him. Turns out we both had a common history of working for cable TV companies.
As the session progressed, I found we were somewhat, in a fun way, competing a little during the speed work sessions. Mike and I were lumped into the same group, so whatever the coach had us doing that day, Mike and I would usually be in close proximity to each other. I fed on him and I think maybe he fed on me (but I’m not really sure to be honest). I do know, however, that people sometimes stand out, and quietly I was witnessing Mike’s determination and improvement throughout the session. I love seeing someone excel in running; it makes it all worth it!
Last Fall, it was Mike’s goal to run the Chicago Marathon, which he did successfully due to all the summer training with the group. His time was an amazing 3:52:34, which qualified him for Boston as well. This I knew was a goal he desperately wanted to accomplish. He did get a little banged up during the race, but recovered well. Mike also had plans to run the Tucson Marathon based on how he was recovering from Chicago, and how he was doing with his training. Since we were becoming friends, he asked if I would be interested in doing Tucson also. Well of course I was! Since it was a downhill race, we planned to do some training together outside the group.
One of my most memorable training run’s with Mike was a 100% downhill run outside of Denver called “High Grade.”
It’s a road located in Deer Creek Canyon that’s not only perfect for downhill training, but is spectacular 10-mile run due to the breathtaking views. A few of us decided to run it, so we parked one car at the finish and drove another to the top. We got out and started our run! I felt I really bonded with Mike and we talked some, but we also pushed ourselves to the max. Mike was attempting to beat his fastest 10-mile time ever. Both of us were in the zone, focused and motivated. We killed that training run, and I believe it was only because we were pushing each other! Unfortunately, Mike didn’t beat his best 10-mile time that day, but he was still very satisfied. I gained so much respect for Mike on that run. What a thrill!
So, on to the 2011 Tucson Marathon. Mike didn’t care about the race since he already qualified for Boston (or so he said!). The night before, we enjoyed our carbo-load dinner with the group. Then it was race day, perfect weather and though Mike was “taking it easy” he ran a 3:41:10… I ran a 3:36:32. Mike said he was pushing to catch me and would have if there were 3 more miles. I believe him! He also now runs in our 3:30 pace group.
Currently, Mike’s goal is to surpass me in the next marathon we run together, and I think he’s going to do it! Already he destroyed me by one minute in the Runnin’ of the Green 7K and, just last weekend, he killed it at the Eugene Marathon pounding out an outstanding 3:38:50 Boston Qualifier. This is so impressive that I’m not sure I even have a hill of beans of a chance!
I’m impressed by Mike’s focus, enthusiasm and drive. He’s likewise a heck of a great guy, always fun in the spirit of competition and I’m proud to say he’s my friend! Keep rocking Mike – I can feel you breathing down my neck!
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