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Maybe it wasn't a lifelong dream, but it sure felt like it. Chiefland Citizen and Williston Pioneer photographer Dave Colón recently completed his first marathon, the big race that all runners dream of. It was the culmination of 10 years of learning and running, and, he hopes, the beginning of a long and wonderful adventure.
Colón started out as a baseball player, growing up in Miami and Tampa and playing against some of the best players in Major League Baseball as a youngster. In baseball, running is training; it can be fun or it can be a punishment, but it's always a means to an end, and never done for its own sake.
The baseball years ended, and though he continued to play pickup basketball, Colón wondered if his days as a competitive athlete were behind him. Years later, living in Denver and stressed by the high altitude, he decided to see if running would make things better.
“I found out that once I could run several miles at altitude, I became much better acclimated for daily living,” he recalled.
Returning to sea level in the move back to Florida was like a gift of extra oxygen.
“I couldn't believe how easy it was to run,” he said.
Living at first in Tampa, Colón picked out an easy daily run around a golf course, over a river and through a tunnel. It was a little like the Highline Canal Trail in Denver except with different trees, different birds and a lot more heat and humidity.
“When it got really hot, I'd run through the sprinklers,” he said.
Colón had started racing in Denver, with a 5k through one of the city's historic neighborhoods. The race was fantastic, and the food afterward, heavenly. He began to look for races as often as it would fit in his schedule – mostly 5ks. Three years ago, he got ambitious and ran the Miami Half Marathon. He wasn't sure how he'd handle 13 miles, but he surprised himself.
“I did way better than I expected,” he said.
“After getting off to a slow start, I ran almost flat-out the rest of the way, and was hardly even tired when I got in.”
That experience sparked the desire to run a marathon. Finally, late this spring, Colón found a good race. The Hall of Fame to Notre Dame marathon in South Bend, IN, was a short hop to where he'd be visiting family anyway. He stepped up his training, including a 20-mile long run from Chiefland to just east of Bronson. He was as ready as he could be, and headed up to Indiana.
It was cool at the starting line – about 50 degrees, compared to the 80-plus temperatures he was used to, but in a long race, the cool air was an advantage.
“I didn't start cramping up until after the 20-mile mark,” he said.
With Notre Dame's storied stadium in sight, he pressed on and finished, charging through the tunnel and onto the cool, green field as the announcer called out his name and his finish time.
“David Colón, finishing the marathon,” echoed around the concrete bowl.
Colón ate popsicles, he ate fruit, he drank water and Gatorade. He walked three miles back to his hotel and ate cheeseburgers, onion rings and frozen custard. Wiggling his numb and blistered toes, he thought about his race.
“I think next time I'm going to train more next time,” he said.
“I'm going to finish faster.”
This is the way a great adventure starts.