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Why They Ran: Three Stories from the 2012 Chicago Marathon

A 72-year-old on his 35th marathon, a novice wheelchair racer, and a young man with an epiphany

(page 3 of 3)

David ColigadoDavid Coligado runs marathons to raise money for charity and to help others take the first step in long-distance running. But above all, the Bucktown resident runs to hold himself accountable.

It was only 10 years ago that the 34-year-old Coligado weighed more than 300 pounds with 40 percent body fat, smoked a pack and a half of Marlboro Reds a day, and lived off fast food. He knew nothing of accountability. A life-changing moment that occurred on the third floor of his apartment building stairwell—when he was so winded from the brief walk that he needed to take a smoke break—provided a mental snapshot that served as motivation to change.

A decade later—including 26 marathons and six ultra-marathons in the last four years—Coligado looks and acts nothing like his old self. After raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation his first two Chicago Marathons, in honor of his father who died of brain cancer, Coligado ran Sunday’s marathon as a pace setter for a local Lululemon running group he’s been working with.

“Everyone hit a [personal record], which made the past five months worth it,” Coligado said. “That, for me, is why I love this race.”

Meanwhile, Coligado finished in 3 hours, 50 minutes and 44 seconds—and is already signed up for next May’s Outer Banks Ultramarathon in North Carolina. His brother, Darwin, raced in the wheelchair division, and his sister, Deborah, ran the marathon on Sunday.

Long-distance running is an active meditation for Coligado, who is on the road for more than 100 days a year as a cloud architect for Dell. He didn’t start running until 2006, which was three years after his epiphany. Coligado said that not a day goes by in which he doesn’t think about how far he’s come—and how it’s something he has to continue to work at to keep going.

“There’s days when you’ll put in a 12-, 14-hour day, get to sleep at 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock at night, and know you’ve got the same kind of day tomorrow—but you just know [running] is not something you can put off,” he said. “It’s a real slippery slope. If you don’t hold yourself accountable for one day, you’re not going to hold yourself accountable for a week—then a month, and before you know it…”

Coligado didn’t finish his sentence. He’s already familiar with that outcome.


Photograph: Chris Silva


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