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Sideshow: Troy Runs the Boston Marathon

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Sideshow: Troy Runs the Boston Marathon

Nov 09, 2021
After six years of running and COVID deferring the event, Troy was finally able to achieve his goal of running in the Boston Marathon. He shares his experience at the event, his changing relationship with fitness goals, and what's next in his health journey.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: It's the "Who Cares About Men's Health" Sideshow. My name is Scot Singpiel. I am the guy that brings the BS to the show. Also co-host Dr. Troy Madsen, the MD to my BS.

Troy: Scot, I'm happy to be here with you.

Scot: And Producer Mitch is in the mix.

Mitch: Hey, there. I'm back. Haven't had roller food in over two weeks.

Scot: Oh, nice.

Troy: Well done.

Scot: Nice. Yeah. Awesome. All right. On the Sideshow, we get an opportunity to talk about some things that will have to do with health, but it's not necessarily health issues that face men or it doesn't necessarily always tie back to the core four, but a lot of times it does.

Today, we're going to celebrate another success. We celebrated Mitch's two-year quit-iversary, but Troy also has had a goal, an objective, and achieved something pretty cool as well. Troy, go ahead and tell us what happened.

Troy: Well, Scot, we talked about this a little while ago. I mean, it's been about a year since we talked about it, but I ran the Boston Marathon. It happened. It happened a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those things that was out there and I'd qualified for the Boston marathon about . . . it's been about three years ago that I qualified for it. And then as you know, COVID happened and there was all that disappointment because COVID hit about a month before I was going to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, and the marathon was essentially canceled.

They did this virtual marathon where you just go out and run and they send you a medal. And then it was rescheduled . . .

Scot: Eh.

Troy: I know. It was kind of like, "Eh, well, I ran the Boston marathon." But it was about 15 miles from my house, so it wasn't actually in Boston. So it wasn't that cool.

And then they had rescheduled and we were looking at April 2021, and then they pushed it back to October 11, 2021, and it actually happened. And it was wonderful for it to actually happen and to be part of it and to be there and to run the Boston Marathon.

Scot: Well, congratulations. And you finished?

Troy: Finished. Yeah, I did finish. Yeah, it was . . .

Scot: How did it go?

Troy: It was great. I enjoyed it. Everyone was like, "Well, how did you do? How did you run?" Well, I ran 3 hours and 16 minutes. I was really happy with that. The fastest time I've ever run in a marathon is 3:07, so it wasn't that far off of it. And that time would qualify me for a future Boston Marathon, which is always an achievement. Any time you can qualify for the Boston Marathon, that's a big deal.

So I was excited about that, to qualify for a future marathon in 2023. I think it would count for 2022 as well just with that race. So in that sense, it was great, but the best part for me was I just enjoyed it. I did not wear a watch. I did not know my time. I just ran. I enjoyed it. It was a cool experience. And then at the end of the day, it was like, "Oh, cool. It was a good time too." So I was happy with it.

Scot: Were you kind of let down then after you crossed the finish line? I mean, was there a point of like, "Wow, this thing is something I've wanted to accomplish, something I qualified for, it's been two years, and well, that's that. It's done"?

Troy: It's funny. It was kind of a relief to be done. And the reason why it was a relief is because most marathons I run, I just don't tell anyone. And beforehand, I was getting some texts from people who were like, "Hey, good luck tomorrow. We're going to be watching how you're doing," and stuff. And I'm like, "Guys, don't watch. Please, don't watch." I don't want this kind of pressure. Come on.

Scot: By the way, I downloaded the app and followed your progress.

Troy: I know. And I'm so glad I did not know you were doing that because I was just like, "I don't want people to be watching what I'm doing. I just want to go out and run."

And it's funny, leading up to it, it was a little bit stressful. I had this great plan where Laura was just going to drop me off at the start line. We stayed five miles from the start line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. And we get up that morning and she starts to drive me to the start line. We get one block from our hotel and the road is blocked, and I'm like, "What am I going to do?" They're forcing people off the road onto the highway. So I just jump out of the car. I'm like, "See you later. I am running to the start line."

I am not joking. I just started running up the road because I'm like, "I don't know how else I'm going to get there." Fortunately, some guy is driving up, just one of the locals in Hopkinton, and he's like, "Hey, you need a ride?" So he's like, "I can get you two miles up." So he drove me two miles. So I ended up running a couple miles just to get to the start line. So it was a little bit stressful getting there.

Scot: Wow. That seems strange that they didn't plan that better.

Troy: Well, it's probably that I didn't plan that better.

Scot: Oh, okay.

Troy: I should have known the road would be blocked off, but I just didn't find anything that said it would be.

And then the race itself was kind of weird. I liked the way it was, but it was different than usual just because of COVID and all the health precautions. They did not have a start time. There was no gun firing and everyone starting. I was in wave number two. They had several waves based on your qualifying time. And so, for my wave, you basically started somewhere between 8:20 in the morning and 8:40 in the morning.

And so you just kind of walked up to the start line, and I look around and there are people kind of looking around at each other, all nervous, like, "Do I start this?" And I just was like, "Okay, here we go." I just started running and just crossed the start line, and then it starts your chip timing. Just started running.

So it was kind of weird in that way, but I mean, it was a cool experience just because it was . . . everyone was spread out. I wasn't packed in with a ton of people.

And the crowds along the race, that's what they always talk about. The crowds were amazing. So many people were out. It was just a really cool feeling because you could tell the community support for Boston is just huge. And that's what really makes it special, to have all these people out there all along the race route just cheering. You could tell they were just celebrating having this race back, and it was really an amazing experience to be part of that.

I will say, though, my favorite part of the race if people ask, and I'm hesitant to admit this, but my favorite part of the race was about Mile 13. And I'm just starting to come up this hill and I just hear all this screaming. I'm like, "What is it?" I had headphones and listening to music. I'm like, "Oh, what is that?" I didn't know exactly what happened where along the route.

I take my headphones out and just loud, loud screaming. I come up there. This is Wellesley College. This is an all-girls college, and all these college girls, hundreds of girls -- and as this happened, I remembered I heard about this -- are on the route just screaming their heads off.

They're holding their hands out to give people fives as they're coming by and people aren't doing it. And I'm like, "I am giving fives to every one of these girls who's going to give me five." So I'm just going down the line and girls have their phones out just recording and stuff, and I'm just giving fives. It is the closest I will ever come to feeling like a rock star. That is the closest I'll ever come. It was awesome.

I admitted it to Laura afterwards. I'm like, "Laura, I gave fives to all the Wellesley girls." She's like, "Go ahead. You do that." So it was funny. It was just one of those things.

And again, afterwards, I remembered I'd heard about out that, just all these college girls out there just screaming their heads off. But again, it was cool. The crowds were amazing.

As you get closer to town, it's just incredible. These crowds are like 10 people deep. Even early in the race, I thought, "I don't deserve this. Come on, guys. It's Mile 3. You can't be cheering now. I haven't done anything." But you get closer to the end, just huge, huge crowds as you're coming in the city. Yeah, it is a really cool feeling.

So it was an amazing experience, but like I said, getting done, it was a little bit of a relief because it was like, "Hey, I had a good race." I felt good. I enjoyed it. Great experience to think back on. You always worry you're going to go out there and just feel awful, like have some stomach issue or something, but everything went great. So it was a fun experience.

Scot: Oh, that's awesome. Well, congratulations.

Troy: Thanks. Yeah, I was happy about it. It was cool. It was definitely one of the . . . Yeah, people talk about it as the pinnacle of . . . That's what you try to achieve as a marathon runner. People want to run Boston. It's like, "I want to qualify for Boston. I want to run Boston." There are a lot of other great races out there, but that's kind of the big thing. So it was a cool thing to experience. And not just to be there, but just to have a fun experience with the whole thing.

Scot: And what a great story too, like how you got there. And in case somebody is listening that doesn't know that story, Troy, tell how you got started running.

Troy: Well, a big part of running for me . . . We talked a little about it before. There was the vegetarian diet, and that had a lot to do with just getting my cholesterol checked many years ago. I mean, it's been 15 years ago now, and seeing just some really bad numbers and saying, "I've got to do something about this."

So that's when I started a vegetarian diet, but I didn't really start running consistently until . . . it's been almost seven years ago. So in March, seven years ago, I got to a point and I said, "I'm just going to try and run every day." And I said, "I'm going to do two miles a day. I don't care how fast I go. That's all I'm going to do, and I'm just going to do it."

Prior to that, I'd put on a decent amount of weight. And again, I'd had my cholesterol numbers checked and they had improved, but still not super great. So I started out just doing two miles a day.

And then after about six months of that, Laura, my wife, she was running a lot of marathons, like a ton of marathons, and she got me interested and basically got me to commit to running a marathon.

So anyway, I committed to that. And so at that point, I started to kind of increase the mileage and mix in some longer runs. It's sort of evolved from there, but it really just started saying, "I'm just going to try and do it every day, two miles," and then it just built from there.

Scot: And I love that because that's what's kind of known as a process goal. It wasn't an end goal. You never had the goal of running the Boston Marathon or running marathons or getting a particular time.

Troy: I didn't.

Scot: You just recognized a health issue that you realized that a little bit more activity could help, and you just said, "I'm just going to do this every day for a certain number of minutes or a certain number of miles," and you did it, and then it led to this. So I think that's such just a great story.

Troy: Thanks. I think that's the big advice I would give anyone too. It's not about the end point. For me, it was not about Boston. At no point did I say to myself, "I want to run the Boston Marathon." I just said, "I want to run." And it started out just little bits and then it became, "Well, I want to run a little more." And then it became, "Well, I've got this marathon out there. I've committed to do it, going to get through it." And so I ended up doing that and then enjoyed it.

So I think the biggest thing is just enjoying the process. And that's what I've found. As I started doing it on a regular basis, I just enjoyed the process, and that's what it's fortunately been for me. Sometimes the process is challenging, but I've enjoyed it, and I think, for me, that's what's helped me to stay consistent.

Scot: Yeah, it went from an extrinsic reason to an intrinsic reason, that you just enjoyed it. You just liked doing it. And I think for anybody listening, when you try to get into any sort of activity, because we know that you need to get about 30 minutes, a little bit of sweat in every day, you might stumble into something like Troy did that you then ultimately enjoy.

I don't know. It's kind of a chicken and the egg thing. Did you enjoy it because you were kind of destined to enjoy it, or did you enjoy it just because you did it long enough and you liked how you felt physically? I mean, who knows?

And I've actually even learned from you as well. I used to have these goals when I'd go into the gym to lift weights that I want to be able to bench press this much or squat that much. And as soon as I kind of let that go after we had these conversations, I enjoyed doing it a lot more. I don't hurt. I don't hurt myself and I feel better and I feel healthier.

So sometimes just promising that you're going to be part of the process is 90% of the battle. And you don't have to be a superstar at it. Just go out and engage it and sweat. Find that thing that you like. If it's not the first thing you do, maybe it'll be the second or the third thing.

Mitch: Along that same line, Scot, is that when I was doing my little 5k a little while ago, it was the same sort of idea. When Troy said that he ran the Boston Marathon and didn't even wear a watch, my kneejerk reaction was, "What do you mean you didn't wear a watch? How did you run it without knowing how fast you were going?"

But that's just it, is just enjoying the activity. When I was doing the 5k training, it's like, "Don't look at the distance you're running. Don't look at the time that you're doing. Just get in the habit. Just do it and find a way to enjoy it."

And that's been a big change and shift for me as I've kind of matured over the last couple years about my feelings about health, and I really think there is something to it.

Troy: I agree, Mitch. And it's funny because before I ran the race, I kind of thought, "Oh, I'll wear a watch just to see what I'm doing." Then I thought, "I don't want to." And I thought back because, again, I think it's so much about just enjoying the process and just enjoying the experience. And then as you do that and you really embrace it, I think the results follow.

Scot: So Boston is done. Does that mean you're done running then?

Troy: I'm done.

Mitch: Yeah, what's next?

Scot: Yeah, what's next? Because from a goal standpoint, a lot of times we make these goals, whether it's "I want to lose five pounds" or "I want to be able to do this one thing," and then you've reached the goal and then it's like, "Well, now what?"

Troy: I know. I've had that thought. It's funny. I have had that thought and it's funny because leading up to it as I talked to some people . . . and I can't remember how it came up. I mean, when I say that, it sounds disingenuous because runners always have a way of bringing up the fact that they run marathons. So maybe that's how it came up. But I have met people who have run Boston and who said, "Oh, yeah, I ran Boston," and then they've stopped running. They don't run.

And I have not wanted that to happen to me, so I'm still running. I'm still going. The thing that I've come back to is I really do just enjoy the process. I've always told myself I don't want this to be about a time, a certain time that I'm running, like a certain speed. I don't want it to be about Boston, about qualifying, and then once I had qualified, about running the Boston Marathon. I never want it to be about that.

I've told myself I want to be doing the same thing when I'm 80 years old. I love running these races and seeing these old people out there. And they're not running super-fast, but they're just scooting along.

Scot: They're there.

Troy: They're there. They're doing it. That, to me, is the pinnacle right there. I find that just remarkable. I hope that's me honestly, and that's kind of how I look at it.

Mitch: I love that because it seems like . . . I don't know. Maybe it's just how guys are. When I was growing up in high school and stuff, it's like, "I want to be the model on the front of the runners' magazine. I want to be the big beefy dude." And it's so cool to hear, "I just want to be the 80-year-old who's scooting and still doing what I love." That's so different that I like it. I like it a lot.

Troy: Just keep on trucking.

Scot: What I'm taking away from it, though . . . It might be the same. It might be a little different. It seems like what you're talking about is it's like more of a journey, and Boston was just kind of a stop on that journey. It's not an end point. It's not the destination. Any of these things we do, how can you make it into a journey and how can you have destinations you look forward to getting to?

Troy: Yeah, you're right. And to switch your analogy up a little bit, maybe it's more like a really long trail run and some of these things are some of the peaks on the trail run, and you take in the view and you're like, "Ah, it's amazing." But you know there's another peak. You're going to keep going. You're going to drop down a bit, you've got some climbs, and then there's something else out there, some other cool experience where you're taking in the views and just enjoying the rewards of it.

Scot: Or how Mitch heard your analogy, you reach the peak and then you go back down into a deep, deep, dark valley. And then you try to figure out how you're going to get out of it.

Troy: How do I get out it? But sometimes they are dark valleys. I kind of had that thought yesterday morning when I went out. It was raining out and the temperature was in the low 30s, and it was dark and I kind of did have that thought, like, "Do I need to do this every day? I did Boston. Do I need to do it?"

Scot: Your cholesterol does not know that you did Boston, so that's why you continue to do it.

Troy: That's right. My genetics do not know that I did Boston.

Scot: They don't care.

Troy: They don't care, yeah. And that's a great point too. They don't care. They're not going to be like, "Oh, you're good for life."

Scot: Yeah, you're kind of doing it for a different reason, and I think maybe Boston was just kind of a cool little outcome of the real reason why you're doing it, and that was so you can manage your health issue that you have and be that 80-year-old that is still out there and moving around.

Troy: Yeah.

Scot: Mitch, do you want to say anything to Troy before we wrap up? Do you want to give him your own personal congratulations?

Mitch: Oh my God. Yes. Congratulations.

Troy: Mitch, please do.

Mitch: It really is really inspiring, as someone who's trying to get back into fitness, who's been struggling in his own way or another, to have a different approach and a different framework. And I really appreciate you sharing that on this podcast in particular.

Just do it. Just find something you enjoy and do that every single day. That is so much different than, "You've got to kill yourself. You've got to be sore if you're going to get those gains." It's such a different approach to health that I cannot tell you how proud and appreciative I am that you have done Boston and were able to do that.

Troy: Well, thanks, Mitch. Well, I'm obviously incredibly proud of you and what you've done with your health change. I mean, it is inspirational too.

Scot: It is actually.

Troy: It is.

Scot: I'm just sitting here thinking, "I'm kind of the one that's bringing the group down."

Mitch: Come on, Scot.

Scot: This is why guys should talk about it, I guess. I didn't think I was competitive until very moment right here.

Troy: See, that's the point, though. It should never be a competition. I don't think it ever should. And for me, six years ago . . .

I have to say this too. So they had this board where people could put up pictures and messages to you near the finish line. So Laura posted a picture of me six years ago running with her. It was the furthest I had run at that point since college. I ran the second half of the California International Marathon with her. So it was me running with her and I said, "I'll join you at the halfway point. I'm going to try and finish. I don't know if I can." But I met her at the halfway point and I did it and I ran that second half with her.

And she posted a picture of that that said, "Look how far you've come." And the of picture me, when I saw it, I was like, "Oh, wow, I've lost a lot of weight." I was definitely in the overweight category at that point. But I think the larger point I'm trying to make here is you just say, "Hey, I'm just going to start small and just try and be consistent," and then I think, over time, that just builds on itself.

So I hope that's the takeaway for everyone. It's a message I think we've tried to share with some of our listeners and when we've had some of our listeners on here as well, of just the value of consistency and really just enjoying the process, and then I think the results follow from that.

Scot: Congratulations, Troy. This is a very exciting moment for all of us, I think. I was excited when you qualified and I was excited when you were able to finally run it, and I feel a little let down now, I guess. So what are you going to do next? No, I'm just kidding.

Troy: Well, it meant a lot to me, Scot, to get done, and Laura told me afterwards. She's like, "Scot was texting me during the race. He's like, 'Oh, look how fast he was going. Look at what he is doing.'" But it meant a lot. It did. I am so glad I didn't know you were doing that, but it meant a lot to me after. And from everyone else, like family and friends and everyone who reached out and supported me, it was really cool.

Scot: Yeah, it was fun. It was fun to support you.

Troy: Thank you.

Scot: Hey, Troy. Congratulations. It's just awesome having you on the podcast, and what an awesome accomplishment. And now we'll never speak of it again, I guess. I don't know. You said you were never going to talk about running again.

Troy: Well, Scot, I'm going to wrap this up and I'm just going to say thanks for your support, and I am looking forward to the day I get to track your Boston Marathon progress. I'm expecting it's going to be in three years, so let's do it.

Mitch: Oh, man.

Troy: No pressure.

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