Mental and physical pain not enough to stop the marathon man
April 19, 2012
One of more than 266,600 participants in this year's Boston Marathon, Col. Jeff Gabbert maintained one simple thought throughout the 26.2-mile trek through the historic Massachusetts city -- finish the race.
No stranger to running marathons, the U.S. Army Contracting Command chief of Staff ran his first marathon because of some in-house ribbing.
In 2008, while serving as the Defense Contract Management Agency Iraq/Afghanistan commander at Camp Victory, Iraq, word came down about the first Camp Victory marathon and his lack of participation.
"I told everyone I was going to run the half marathon," he said before discovering a petition was circulating throughout his command addressing his effort.
"It read, 'we the undersigned believe that if you only do half the marathon, then perhaps, you are only half a commander.' Needless to say it was game on from there," said Gabbert, whose longest run up to that time was 10 miles.
With only three weeks to train, he began his regimen and soon competed in his first marathon, finishing in 3:40.
Since then, he's run in the Rocket City Marathon in 2009, putting in his fastest time of 3:28, and in the 2010 Boston Marathon, finishing in 3:31.
"Running a marathon is not a race, but a long and hard journey of commitment," said Gabbert, whose competitiveness is both internal and external. "From the moment you make the decision to run a marathon there is no doubt you will face adversity and factors out of your control."
Gabbert said his marathon training regimen is 18 weeks long and includes running more than 750 miles as well as lifting plenty of weights. "Pumping your arms for three and a half hours straight is a tough task," he explained.
Gabbert said competing in a marathon takes one part perseverance, one part commitment and one part dedication.
"There is a pattern to what goes through my mind during a marathon. I start off with talking to myself about things like monitoring my pace and sometimes slowing myself down," said Gabbert.
"Then, I try to think through the challenges currently confronting me in life. When I reach hills, I tend to think of the technique involved to continue with a steady effort head and shoulders up. During the rough periods, I think of those that I have dedicated the run to and repeat the mantra - this is not about you. When it gets really tough, I think of my Dad who taught me to slow down, but never quit."
Because of the 84.8 degree temperatures, marathon official extended a never before option of allowing participants to sit out this year's marathon and run next year instead. More than 5,000 runners accepted the offer. More than 2,000 runners didn't make it to the finish line this year
Suffering from piriformis syndrome, a neuromuscular disorder that causes pain, tingling and numbness in the buttocks and descending down the lower thigh and into the leg, no one would have faulted Gabbert for pulling out of this year's Boston Marathon.
So when the starting pistol for the 116th Boston Marathon exploded, wearing number 12156, Gabbert begin this year's 26.2-mile adventure.
Crossing the finish line at 3:06 p.m., his time of 4:44:05 was more than an hour off his desired time, but quite an accomplishment considering the pain and sweltering heat.
"I run them simply because I can. The day is quickly approaching when these knees will no longer take the long-distance road runs. Again, I started because of the challenge of my troops. Then, I caught the bug and began to chase entrance into Boston," Gabbert said.
"I have dedicated each marathon to someone close to me or a cause. Due to several injuries I have sustained as I have trained for this marathon, I dedicated this run to all the wounded warriors who can no longer run."