There is no better way to launch “Our Inspiration” section than by featuring our good friend, Adam Harrison.
Occupation: Creative & Marketing Specialist
Preferred Exercise: Running, Soccer, Weight Training
“Necessary Evil” Exercise: Dead lifts, lateral rows, horizontal leg press, weighted box steps, arm extensions… Some days they all feel like necessary evils!
Favourite Sports Team: Manchester United
Ultimate Splurge Food: Apple Pie & Ice Cream
Favourite Travel Spot: I want to experience as much as possible in life, so I generally don’t go back to the same spot more than once. However I am a sucker for New York City.
Typical Friday Night: Live music with good friends.
Biggest Life Accomplishment: Graduating, being published, silver national advertising award, traveling globally, running a marathon… Best is yet to come 😉
Adam is a brilliant, talented and creative individual, and sports enthusiast. After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Rotman Commerce program at the University of Toronto, he worked at some of Toronto’s top marketing firms. As an account manager, Adam worked with notable clients including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and Mercedes-Benz.
In search of more creative expression, Adam became a regular contributing writer and photographer for several Toronto music magazines. In 2014, his desire to create unique and inspired content led him to co-found Born North Productions (www.bornnorth.com), a full-service Toronto-based production company.
Somewhere between producing, photographing concerts, writing for magazines, freelance graphic design, and globetrotting, Adam decided to further challenge himself by running his first Marathon. With only 12 short weeks to train, staying committed to his training schedule was paramount. Rain or shine, snow or slush, Adam’s Marathon training included a mix of running, weight training, and lots of stretching.
On January 10, 2016, Adam ran the Walt Disney World Marathon race and finished in only 3 hours 43 minutes and 35 seconds – among the top 2.5% of racers. After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we had to congratulate him on his incredible accomplishment and ask a few questions about his experience. Read our conversation below.
I decided to run a marathon simply because I knew I could. In my mind, I could do it, so I had to do it.
- CleanWorkout: Congratulations on completing your first Marathon (42 km) in only 3:43:35 – that is only 5.3 minutes per km! What made you decide to run a Marathon? Did you have a specific goal in mind while you were training?
Adam Harrison: Thank you for the kind words and featuring me on your blog. I’m truly honored.
I decided to run a marathon simply because I knew I could. In my mind, I could do it, so I had to do it.
I may be a tad competitive (ok, maybe that’s a slight understatement) and I like to push my own strengths. I’ve competed in numerous 10km races and a couple of half marathons, so naturally the full marathon was the next step… but a mighty big one. The amount of training required, the toll it takes on your body, and the contradictory effect it would have on the weight training I’d been progressing in over the last few years were all reasons I would say, “Ok, maybe next year.” But in the back of my mind, I would nag myself because I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of committing to myself, signing up, and doing it.
I did set goals for myself for both training and race day. I actually finished a little slower than I had hoped (under 3:40:00). Generally I run a 4.5-5 min/km in training. But obviously once I started hitting distances above 20km, and heavy legs set in, I would slow down to about 5.25 min/km. I trained up to 30km before the race, so I didn’t know what to expect after that. And let me tell you, nothing can prepare you for that last 10km (more on that below). But I literally gave it everything I had and finished in classic Harrison fashion (burn everything on the final stretch), so I was happy with my time and result.
- CW: Were there ever times during training or the race itself where you felt like giving up? What kept you going?
AH: Nope. Giving up never crossed my mind. Don’t get me wrong; it was every bit as hard as I thought it would be. But my mind was set; I was finishing that race without stopping.
I had one horrible experience during training… My goal was to run about 26km. I missed my original turnaround and got to 15km before I could turn again. I also need to mention that I run as bare bones as possible (I’d run in my undies if it was allowed). So I had no money on me, no phone, no food, and no water. At about 20km in (and 10km away from home), I realized that having no water was going to be an issue. I debated stopping at a Tim Hortons or Starbucks for a cup, but I knew that if I stopped, my legs would stiffen right up and I wouldn’t be able start up again. So I kept going. I thought I was going to collapse at every traffic light and I even experienced hallucinations for the last 6km or so. I cared about nothing else but making it home. My loopy mind wondered why little old ladies with walkers weren’t clearing my way. “How could they be so selfish??”… We can safely say I will never make that mistake again.
- CW: We know that you do not like running with headphones or music. What kept you motivated during the marathon? Do you have any helpful distraction techniques for people that want to get into running or are racing?
AH: Let me clarify, I definitely train with music; I’m not that crazy. But on race day the ear buds stay at home. It just helps for staying focused and keeping a consistent pace. It’s also courteous to fellow runners trying to pass. To be honest, after 15km or so, I forget that I’m even listening to music anymore.
For new runners I’d say you don’t want any distractions. Stay focused until you become comfortable in your pace. I also find running itself a distraction from the real world. When I’m running I don’t have to think about work, due dates, responsibilities, that girl who hasn’t responded to my text, or anything else for that matter. At the same time, it’s also when I get some of my best thinking done. Some of my most creative ideas have come to me while running.
Some of my most creative ideas have come to me while running.
If it’s your first marathon, like it was mine, I’d definitely recommend picking a race that will keep you entertained, motivated and enthused. The Walt Disney World Marathon was excellent for that reason. Not only because it’s fun to run through all of the parks and there are characters and scenery set up along the course that make the magic of Disney apparent even when torturing yourself for a silly amount of distance. But compared to a major city hosting a marathon, Disney World is a gated community and all the competitors stay within that footprint. So you meet participants from all over the world who inspire and encourage you. There are several other shorter races that take place, so the RunDisney event occurs for almost an entire week and you can wear your race shirt and medal around with pride and collect high fives for days afterwards.
- CW: Take us through your thoughts before, during, and after the race. What were the hardest mental and physical obstacle(s) to overcome?
AH: Well to start off, due to high occupancy that weekend I could only get one boiling hot hotel room for our family with only enough beds to share and a 4am wake up call to go run 42km. I think that counts for both a physical and mental obstacle.
As I arrived at the race, I definitely had butterflies. I was nervous and excited all at once. I had some knee pain in the months leading up to the race and my hamstrings and IT band were already tight from all the training, so the thought of injury did cross my mind. But I tried not to focus on that – I was taped up, I prayed to God for strength, and I was just going to run my race my way and whatever happened, happened.
During the first half of the race I didn’t think about too much. I had great pace for the first 17km or so (probably should have kept some of that in reserve for the final 10). The Disney characters provided a nice distraction from time to time, and running through Magic Kingdom in the middle of the night with hundreds of supporters cheering you on was one of the coolest, most encouraging experiences of my life. In the 5km or so between parks I had time to zone out and think about the rides I wanted to go on over the next couple days, the feast I was going to eat at lunch, and the Cinderella waving at me at the next turn. I was feeling grand, one police officer even asked me how I was still smiling after all the miles I had already run.
When the legs started to get heavy I would think to myself that I only had to keep this going for the morning, it would eventually end, and then I would never have to do it again. But I had experienced those pains before. As a runner, you hear about “the wall” and you usually hit it in the last 10km. I remember exactly when I hit my wall. I was coming out of the ESPN Wide World of Sports, enroute to Hollywood Studios with about 9km left. My legs started to tingle. “This is a new feeling,” I remember thinking. Then a few minutes later, my legs just locked, like a machine that had just been decommissioned. That last 9km lasted forever. I must have looked at my watch every minute, feeling myself slowing down, but pushing with everything I had. At the 34km mark there was a hill… “Are you $%&*ing kidding me?!” They had a tank and an army sergeant stationed there to motivate runners to make it up and deter anyone from walking. (I’m surprised that an anxious, loopy, ‘I’ve been doing this for 3 hours now’ runner didn’t punch him in the face.) Despite the feeling (or lack there of) in my legs, I was in a great mood, and I had feeling in my arms, so I gave the ol’ sergeant a fist bump.
In the last 3km I apparently ran around the world, or Epcot’s world showcase, but anything other than the amount of kilometres sloooooooowly clicking down on my watch was a blur. I kept comparing the remaining distance with landmarks the same distance from my house and thinking, “you run that daily,” or “you could run that in your sleep.” With about half a kilometre left, I could feel the end near and I got this sudden burst of invincibility and my pace jumped. My parents were standing at the final turn, they yelled and cheered at me, but apparently I was so fixed on that finish line I wouldn’t have noticed Big Foot and the Lock Ness Monster doing the Drake dance together. I somehow managed to sprint to the finish and unleash the biggest fist pump I’ve ever bestowed in my life.
Then it was over. It was so surreal that I can’t even remember what I was thinking. I saw my cousin in the crowd a few moments later and I came back to Earth. When I reunited with my family at the race I was overcome with joy, pride and accomplishment. Yet again when I was able to read all the encouraging messages I had received from family and friends at home…. Then the stiffness and blisters kicked in.
When I reunited with my family at the race I was overcome with joy, pride and accomplishment.
- CW: Your account of the race is incredible and is so inspiring! It sounds like you had practice preparing for the race from years earlier. Have sports and fitness had any impact on your professional career? If so, how?
AH: Of course. Networking and relationship building are essential to any professional career. People love sports and they love talking about sports. It’s a common denominator and a connection point between people. Whether it be chatting with a client about last night’s game, or comparing workout routines with your boss, or participating in an office wide softball game. You can make possible sports connections during work, and make possible work connections during sport.
In addition, goal setting in fitness and career building are comparable. You also exemplify team-building skills on the pitch the same way you would in the office, on a project, or during a presentation. A similar drive that makes you successful in sport can make you successful in business, or whatever else you do. Hard work is hard work.
A similar drive that makes you successful in sport can make you successful in business, or whatever else you do. Hard work is hard work.
- CW: What is your next fitness goal?
At the moment my goal is to regain the muscle I lost in preparation for the marathon. I continued to lift and even build strength in preparation for the race, but you can’t prevent that kind of mileage from shedding a few pounds off you.
I haven’t picked my next major milestone just yet, but I want to continue to surprise myself with my own strength. At the gym, on the soccer field, on the track –perseverance is the goal. Like everything in life – always be learning and always be growing. I said before the marathon that I would probably never do it again. But now I’m not so sure… Besides, I still have to hit that time below 3:40:00 ;).
7. CW: You’re a madman, but we love your dedication and drive! Any final words for experienced or future runners?
AH: If I could give one piece of advice about running, it would be to always have a positive mindset about it. Don’t ever think you’re too slow or can’t reach a certain mileage. The best thing about running is that it’s all about personal achievement, accomplishing your own goals, and overcoming your own barriers. It doesn’t happen overnight, but eventually, you will get there. On race day there will be spectators to cheer you on and other runners will motivate you and that feeling is inexplicably helpful. Likewise, if you see a racer walking or struggling, tell them “Hey, you got this – just keep going!” you just might be the motivation they need to hit their goal or overcome their wall.
The best thing about running is that it’s all about personal achievement, accomplishing your own goals, and overcoming your own barriers.