Saturday Spotlight- Michael Flaherty

When I initially became a Warrior and learned of the designation of WOTW, my immediate thought was, “I will never participate.” For one thing, I tend to be a private person and, further, my story is neither very interesting nor unique. What changed my mind was seeing how much Lou does for us. I decided if the request was ever made, there was no way I could say no to him. Additionally, the former WOTWs I know have found the experience to be liberating and cathartic. So, for better or for worse, here is my story…
1973 – 1986, ‘We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun’

I grew up at a time when kids played outside all day. Running was an integral part of most every game we played as well as a very effective mode of transportation. I was the fastest kid on my block (small block) and one of the fastest kids in my class (small class). When sports were finally introduced in 7th grade, it made sense that I would join the cross country team. Once we started racing other schools I quickly learned that I was not that fast after all. Nonetheless, I continued to run track and cross country each season until graduation. Unfortunately I put as much effort into running as I did my schoolwork, just doing enough to get by.

1986 – 2010, ‘Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years’

My habits changed pretty drastically once I went to college. I was taking classes full time, working full time hours spread out over 3 jobs, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and partying as many nights a week as I could. After college I started working sedentary office jobs and did no exercise whatsoever. Needless to say, 25 years later I was very much a different person.

2011, ‘A strugglin’, bubblin’ overweight lover hurt prone’

I’m willing to bet that everyone remembers what set them on the path to becoming a runner. For me, the credit (or blame) goes to my wife. She was brutally honest and told me that she did not find me as attractive as she had due to my increased weight. That hurt to hear I and I resolved to do something about it. I changed my eating habits and started running at the gym on occasion but in the course of the year I only managed to drop from 215 to 200 pounds.

2012, ‘Let’s get it started’

I missed running the entire month of January because I was sick. I suspect it was a walking pneumonia but my condition went undiagnosed. My doctor prescribed a cough suppressant, an inhaler, antibiotics, and steroids. The bright side? I didn’t feel like smoking anymore. After being a smoker for 26 years I was able to quit cold turkey and my withdrawal symptoms were masked by the fact that I felt like crap every single day. Once I recovered, running became much easier. First I was able to go farther and then I was able to go faster. The more I ran, the more weight I lost. The more weight I lost, the easier it was to run. I became hooked and made enough progress to sign up for my first 5K in November. It was awful (more on that on Monday) but I finally felt as though I were a runner.

2013 – 2014 – ‘Good times, bad time, you know I had my share’

2013 was a very uneventful year. I was running on a consistent basis and managed to log 1,800 miles. My long runs were getting longer and I figured since I was running so much I might as well sign up for the 2014 Long Island Marathon. I remember refreshing the registration page over and over until entry opened and immediately signing up before I could think myself out of it. I was assigned number 26026 and I thought it was a good sign.

2014 started out on a very positive note. I was down 50 pounds from my 2011 start weight of 215 to 165. My marathon training went off without a hitch. I completed my daily runs on the treadmills at the gym and my weekend long runs at Massapequa Preserve including several which clearly showed I was the only person running that far in the snow which made me feel like a badass. I finished the race just under my goal time and was looking forward to doing well in the Long Island Summer Series until I was struck with a case of plantar fasciitis. Every time I rested and it felt a bit better, I would race again and immediately be crippled. So the next time I would take a little more time, then race, then not be able to walk again. It wasn’t until the last race that I was finally able to run without pain. I tried to pick my running up where I left off and was struck with my bouts of shin splints. Once I got past that and my training was finally starting to pick up, I suffered a flap tear of the medial meniscus in my left knee which sidelined me for another 2 months until I was able to have surgery. Between April and December I managed to gain 27 pounds, jumping back up from 164 to 191.

2015 – ‘Don’t call it a comeback…’

Starting the year from what felt like scratch probably would have been a good time to quit had I thought about it but I was focused on getting back to the shape I had been in. I eased backed into it and the miles gradually increased and the times gradually decreased. I was making slow but steady progress and I remained uninjured. 2015 was actually a pretty boring year. Until October, that is, but that’s a story for another day. (Tune in again on Thursday.)

2016 – ‘The times they are a-changin’

My running life went through a complete overhaul in 2016. I started running with friends instead of on my own all the time. I was introduced to the Selden Hills Warriors via a track workout I was invited to and started showing up regularly on Thursdays. In July I ran the famous hills for the first time. Races became more competitive instead of just being fun. My entire mindset toward running had changed.

2017 – ‘The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades’

This has been a great year so far despite the dreaded return of plantar fasciitis that had me on crutches for a week. I have lowered my 5K PR three times and I finished the Long Island Half Marathon two minutes faster than my goal time. This summer has been brutal for me but I am hoping to get back to racing well once fall arrives.

Thanks so much if you took the time to read this and my apologies to my best buddies Kristy and Sarah for lying and saying I was never asked to be the WOTW. I wanted it to be a surprise!

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