Running a marathon is running a marathon. It is 26.2 miles and that has not changed. Those miles may seem like an insurmountable obstacle but we bet on ourselves and go for it. In the training, we find solace, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment. On race day, we go for our victory lap to celebrate the days, weeks, months and even years of training. We have been running through life but now we are running a marathon. For James Riddlesperger, his journey toward the marathon began as a response to the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. This ultimately leads to a transformative experience that has him thinking about doing it again.
A Restart in 2020
As the world grappled with the uncertainties of 2020, James seized the opportunity to embark on a new running journey. “We’re at home, quarantined for a couple of months, and it was like, okay, got to get up and get active,” James recalls.
Previously, he had stops and starts with running. He would try and then stop. He recalled the first time a friend of his told him he was going to run a marathon. James, a self-proclaimed non-athlete, thought that was nice but it wasn’t for him.
His sporadic history with running took a more committed turn, influenced by his wife’s unwavering dedication to the activity. He often saw his wife put on her running shoes and head out the door for a run. When the pandemic hit, his chance to run was presented to him.
A Family Affair
James acknowledges the role of family in his running endeavors, especially highlighting the support of his wife. “It’s like her time, where she doesn’t have to worry about the kids,” he says, emphasizing the importance of carving out individual moments amidst the responsibilities of parenthood.
As James began to run more consistently and dreams of running a marathon someday became solidified he was faced with the challenges many families face. How do we fit it all in? Balancing life as a father, husband and a runner became an unspoken understanding within their family.
From 5K to Marathon
James’s journey evolved from casual runs to setting ambitious goals. The desire to run a marathon lingered since his college days, and in 2020, he decided to make it a reality. “I know I can do this,” he thought after completing a virtual half marathon. This conviction led him to participate in the Princeton half marathon in 2021, surpassing his expectations.
The path toward the marathon was filled with moments of enjoyment. After he finished each new distance, James would ask himself if he enjoyed it and would he want to go longer. Each question received an answer of yes until that day when he pressed the register button on his first marathon.
Thread of Positivity
As James progressed in his training, life threw unexpected challenges his way. Work-related stress cast a shadow on his preparations, leading to a brief setback. The impending threat of a job loss added emotional weight, impacting his mindset during a crucial phase of marathon training.
Amidst the difficulties, James found solace and encouragement in the online running community, specifically through platforms like Threads. Sharing his journey and receiving positive affirmations became a source of motivation. “That level of positivity, it’s almost embarrassing to admit, but it makes a little difference,” James acknowledges the impact of the online running community.
Racing Beyond the Finish Line
The marathon itself became a test of resilience and self-discovery. Rather than finding fulfillment solely at the finish line, James experienced a euphoric moment around mile 17. Dancing down a hill with the sound of music in the air, he realized the joy of exceeding his own expectations.
The vision of a runner at Mile 17 dancing is not one that often happens but this time it did. The realization that the hard work would pay off in a finish line was too much to hold back. Despite 9 miles to go, James knew that his goal of running the marathon was going to be accomplished.
With the marathon successfully conquered, James contemplates the future of his running journey. A focus on speed work and a potential reunion with his brother for a marathon in Fort Worth becomes the next chapter. “Can I run faster, and can I integrate more speed work?” he ponders, setting new goals beyond mere distances.
James Riddlesperger’s story exemplifies endurance sports. From uncertain beginnings to surpassing personal milestones, he is a testament to the belief in oneself created through running. As he continues to lace up his shoes, James embraces the lessons learned on the road, not just as a runner but as an individual navigating the challenges of life.