Sunday, July 09, 2006

Therapy, one step at a time

--Here is a great inspirational story to help you on your journey to running your first marathon.

A weakness for alcohol and cocaine led Jeff Turner to the doorstep of Boonville’s Valley Hope rehabilitation center on April Fool’s Day 2003. It was his second visit.

He was, as the saying goes, sick and tired of being sick and tired. The 1991 Hickman graduate was also 20 pounds overweight, and it had been ages since he had done anything more strenuous than work as a golf pro in Arizona.

Believing that he had a better chance of beating his addiction if he could show the willpower to get into better shape, Turner decided to go jogging on the nearby Katy Trail. He made it about 500 yards before he had to stop, gasping for breath.

He went back the next day and made it about a half-mile before stopping. He returned the next day, and the next, going a little farther each day, one step at a time. Running was therapy, his improvement proof that he could change for the better. By the time his month-long stint at Valley Hope was over, he was doing 3 miles. "I felt, and still feel, my chance for relapse would be much greater if I didn’t run," Turner said. "It’s the way I get my buzz now."

He returned to his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and continued to run. He got up at dawn to get in his miles before the heat became oppressive. He felt energized the rest of the day.
Turner even mentioned the idea of running a marathon. When a friend laughed at the notion, Turner became determined to complete the 2004 Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix. He had to walk in a few spots, but nine months after checking out of rehab, he finished the race in 3 hours, 49 minutes.

That was supposed to be the end of it. Point proven. But distance running was addictive.
He got more savvy about training, and by his third marathon, he shaved almost 30 minutes off his original time. Turner registered for this year’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego with the goal of qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon, which would require him to finish in 3:10.
Everything was progressing nicely toward that goal until three weeks before the June 4 race. Then he received a call that made running seem meaningless. His father, Tom Turner, had gone to the doctor to figure out the source of persistent leg and back pain. The news was devastating. Tom, the 57-year-old publisher of the Lake Sun Leader newspaper in Camdenton, had terminal cancer. It started in his lungs and spread to his brain and elsewhere. Jeff’s first thought was to forget about the marathon. His father disagreed. When Jeff visited his dad in Houston, where he sought treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, talking about Jeff’s goal of qualifying for Boston brightened Tom’s mood. Jeff decided he would run the race in his father’s honor. On two week’s notice, he raised $600 for cancer research through the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Turner began the race in good form. He averaged 6:55 per mile, and at the 18-mile mark he was on pace for a 3-hour finish. At that point, he knew he could play it safe and easily make the Boston qualifying mark. Or he could continue to push the pace and try to finish in less than 3 hours. The latter strategy carried the risk that he might flame out and fail to qualify for Boston.
He remembered how competitive his father was at everything he did, never wanting to lose at basketball, golf or even a game of pool. "I thought, ‘I can’t keep this pace up,’ " Turner said. "But in the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Well, what would he do? I’m in Boston safely. Would he back off or keep coming at you?’ " Turner powered through the final miles, finishing in 2:59. He was the 90th person to cross the finish line in a race that began with more than 21,000 runners.

Turner has since returned to Missouri to be with his father. Every marathon he runs in the future will be a fund-raiser for cancer research, especially the Boston Marathon.
Turner believes running saved him, and he would love for his steps to help save another life.

By JOE WALLJASPER Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor

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