A first-time marathoner's success story


Editor’s note: Fernando Rodrigues is one of my coaching clients. He posted the following on Facebook, and I was so inspired by his journey I asked for his permission to post it here. Please read Fernand’s account of the journey to his first marathon, the New York City Marathon in November 2022.


By Fernando Rodrigues


My passion for advertising and running started simultaneously about 30 years ago when I saw that ad.


It was a close up of a woman’s face. She was running and you could see things flying off her back: a broken fridge, an angry boss, the super loud alarm clock, etc. Although, I still didn’t have the same problems, that was a brilliant representation of what running was for me: a moment of escaping from reality.


In the last 30 years, I had an internationally awarded marketing career because I can do hard things at work. Meanwhile, my runner career had an embarrassing score of 0 (zero) official races. I was searching for running playlists when I saw the “Running as Self-Leadership” Marathon Training Academy episode. I listened to it and got hooked by the tagline “You have what it takes to run a marathon and change your life.”


I thought, “Who would create a tagline that is marathon-long when people’s span of attention can barely remember three words?” But I had a lot to catch up on my running career. A marathon, based on that tagline, could be a way to heal mentally and physically from years of work-life imbalance and recent disturbing life events.


'Trust the process'


One of my principles at work is “aim high,” which translated to running meant “why not make the NYC Marathon my first official race?” I hired an MTA coach and got a call from Henry Howard 18 weeks ago.


More important than creating my training plan (starting from the couch), Henry made me believe that I could run a marathon, and I just needed to “trust the process.”


I called him the week before the marathon to ask what to do if my calf started burning after mile 20. His advice was to recognize the pain and “smile” because these little demons that crawl up to our shoulder telling us to stop don’t like when we smile. He reminded me that I had already achieved all my objectives and changed my life during the training, so the race was nothing more than my “victory lap.”


That was exactly my mindset when they shot off that cannon and I heard Frank Sinatra singing “If I can make it there I can make it anywhere.” This song has a special meaning in my life, but that’s a story for another day.


'Go Nando!'


It was hot! The crowd was insane. I couldn’t believe that hundreds of strangers were cheering me with a “Go Nando!” I ran at easy pace during 26.2 miles just to enjoy it. I high-fived every kid and touched every sign that said “touch here to power up.” I saw a runner balancing a pineapple on his head and thought that he was probably the only one having more fun than me.


I was running up the bridges while lots of people were walking, which made me realize that Henry did a wonderful job during my training cycle.


The Queensboro bridge was my most special moment of the race. It has to do with the WHY I was running. Before the race, the only memories I had of that bridge were from the many hours I spent looking at it from the window of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, waiting while my wife, Kelly Rodrigues, was going through cancer surgeries.


This time, I was looking at the exact same window from the opposite angle, knowing that I would find my wife cheering for me somewhere at the exit of that same bridge. The fact that I was running with Fred's Team - MSKCC to raise funds for cancer research made everything more special. My T-shirt turned into an armor after I wrote the name of loved ones who have fought cancer. The crowd gave extra love for people running for a cause. I knew I had family and friends tracking my race and that gave me even more energy to run.


I re-entered Central Park and thought, “Oh no, the fun is almost ending.” Before I could finish that thought I heard someone shouting my name from the sidelines: there were my two boys running with me to the finish line just to make everything even more memorable.

I crossed the finish line after 4:58. No pain, except for the facial muscles I used to smile for 298 minutes.


The NYC marathon was my first official race. The best is yet to come!


Thank you Angie Danzer Spencer, Trevor Spencer and the MTA community for the inspiration and coach Henry for the incredible support. PS: That tagline works fine.


Thank you Fred’s team for making me part of the team and giving more meaning to my miles. I will not ever forget this.


Editor’s note: I enjoy helping athletes like Fernando achieve their running goals, regardless of their prior experience level. Right now, I have coaching spots available, either through Marathon Training Academy (learn more here) or my own coaching services (email me here).