TGIF: Matt Leedham

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Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a great week of achievement this week. If this is your first time reading our blog, Welcome! You can read more about Velocity in the tabs above this post. If you’d like a daily dose of inspiration, like us on facebook or add us on twitter.

Today we’re going to switch it up a bit and use this format to interview Matt about accomplishing one of his major personal goals. Matt’s written a lot of stuff on this blog, so feel to look around and read more about what he thinks and feels.

Now, onto the good stuff!

The Achiever

My name is Matt Leedham, and I am a married, Yankee-loving, marathon-running, dog-owning, native New Jerseyean, who is currently a Washington DC resident, and is passionately driven to help others achieve their goals. In my dream to change the world by building a community of achievers, I co-founded Velocity Goals with my good friend and former business partner, Jaime Willis. I also work extensively with entrepreneurs across the U.S. on strategic planning, goal setting and experience sharing at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.



The Goal

My goal was to finish a marathon (26.2 miles) in under 4 hours.

Why This Goal

In 2004, at the age of 26, I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. I trained hard for months, but as the race got near, I let up on the training a bit. During the race, I ran into all sorts of trouble and there were times when I just stopped. I remember limping along Rt. 110 next to the Pentagon, grabbing my hamstring with my left hand and the highway guardrail with my right hand. It wasn’t pretty. I finished the race in what I considered a disappointing time knowing my potential – 4 hours and 34 minutes.

After that race, I quit running for awhile. I later learned that it is very common for runners and endurance athletes to completely stop doing what they trained for months to do after a big race. Race day is such a high, and without having plans for an upcoming event, it’s easy to just give it up. I would run occasionally but I stopped doing what I loved on a consistent basis.

Flash forward to 2009. I knew I needed to run. I was dealing with some stressful situations at work and was generally not happy with my fitness level. So, I decided to pick another challenging event – another marathon. It was the Fall, so I looked for a race sometime in the late Winter or early Spring, so that I would be forced to train all winter. That’s important because normally I would hibernate and become dormant all winter. I found an interesting race in Austin, TX, one of my favorite cities. It was on Valentine’s Day 2010 and I thought the wife and I could enjoy a nice weekend in a fun town. Plus my family has all migrated to Houston and I figured they’d come watch the race.

The First Step

The first thing I did was register for the race and booked my plane ticket. If you pony up the cash and put an event on your calendar, it becomes VERY difficult to back out. Think about it – you would lose money, have to make a bunch of phone calls, and tell everyone that plans changed. Once I commit to something like this, it’s on. That’s it. Get out of the way because I’m making it happen.

Challenges

For those of you that live in the DC Metro area or on the East coast, you may recall the winter we had last year in 2009/2010. I survived Snowpacalypse and Snowmageddon, but running in it wasn’t easy! In addition to massive amounts of snow, we also experienced ice storms, rain, and frigid temperatures. It’s not easy to get out of your car at 6:30pm in the dark, when it’s 18 degrees and sleeting outside, especially when all you have on is a few thin layers of DryFit or CoolMax running gear.

There were also many minor injuries. I remember one night, running in a light snow. My shins felt sore right away, but I needed to run 5 miles. I kept running, and it got worse and worse. I should have stopped, but I really needed to get in this run, so I kept going. Two miles later, I couldn’t run anymore. I could barely walk. I was about a mile away from home and would have called my wife if I had access to a phone. I slowly limped home, very distraught. This was about a month before the race and I knew I was in trouble. I almost gave up here because I know how bad shin splints can be. I’ve had them before and the only way to cure them is rest. Rest was not something I had time for and I didn’t see how it was possible to keep training.

I took three days off, iced my shins constantly, stretched out as much as possible, and tried not to walk more than was necessary. On the fourth day, I tested out my shins on a quick jaunt and they seemed better. I didn’t want to push it, but I kept running as was able to stave off further injury.

Staying Motivated

Planning my weekend in Austin with my wife was helpful. We both got excited about exploring the city, going to the Expo to pick up my race packet, eating lots of good food, etc.

Also, I knew that I had to average at least a 9-minute mile pace to reach my goal. I had gotten to a point in my training where I was running 8-minute miles for over 14+ miles. Knowing that I was averaging a pace that was significantly less than what I needed to finish in under 4 hours was really motivating.

Who Helped?

My wife is amazing and supported and encouraged me the whole time. She was very understanding when my training affected our dinner plans or weekend plans. She kept me focused on the goal and I love her for it.

I also met up with a fairly casual running group called Potomac Runners. They’re a great group of people that are very passionate about running. Having that support was essential.

I knew a couple of guys in Austin who were running the race and they were really generous with their time and knowledge of the course.

Of course my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch was amazing! It helped me track my pace, distance, and heart rate. This actually came in very handy during the race when I noticed my heart rate spiking after climbing a hill. I was able to regulate and get back to where I needed to be to finish the race strong.

TGIF – Celebrate!

My goal was to finish in under 4 hours. When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, I welled up inside. I finished the Austin Marathon in 3 hours and 41 minutes, well under my goal time. I crushed it. Then I went over to my wife and she was so genuinely ecstatic, that I welled up again. It was actually quite emotional.

Then, my wife and I joined some Austin locals for a post-race meal. It was one of the best meals of my life. After burning 3,000 calories, I really enjoyed my cheese smothered, chicken quesadilla at one of the best Tex Mex joints in town. A couple margaritas were a nice touch too!

Advice

My advice for race day is: just keep moving. There were times that I wanted to quit. There were times when I hit the wall. There were times when I was running up a hill and was literally angry about it. There were times when I was tight, or dehydrated, or in pain. But I remembered repeating to myself, over and over again…just keep moving. It was that feeling of disappointment from the Marine Corps Marathon in 2004 that kept me focused. I figured that if I just kept moving and didn’t stop, even if I slowed to a snail’s pace, that I would finish with a better time. It turns out that I was right.

Just keep moving.

What’s Next?

I just signed up for a triathlon in August, 2011. Jaime and I are hosting a triathlon training program, specifically geared toward novice athletes that may have never completed a triathlon before. We want you to feel like I felt when I crossed that finish line. Join us!

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