BZ 052116 Ogden Marathon 02-1

Runners begin their 13.1 mile race in the rain at the start of the Ogden Half Marathon in Eden in 2016.

I’m calling it “Diary of a Blimpy Kid.”

Not “Blimpie,” as in the submarine-sandwich chain, but rather, “blimpy,” as in “roughly the size and shape of a dirigible.”

A fitting title considering what’s about to go down here.

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Over the next few months, I’ll be offering up regular fitness dispatches as two mopes from the Standard-Examiner prepare for a date with destiny: the Ogden Marathon on May 19.

A couple of weeks ago, publisher Brandon Erlacher walked into the newsroom and asked me, in front of everyone, if I’d like to run with him in this year’s Ogden Marathon.

Nearly six minutes later — after 20 reporters, editors and photographers had finally stopped laughing, wiped our tear-stained faces and caught our collective breath — it began to dawn on everyone that he, in fact, wasn’t joking.

Brandon had obviously mistaken me for someone who, you know, exercises and stuff. Because asking a guy like me if he’d care to run a marathon is a bit like asking a snail whether it prefers iodized or non-iodized salt. Either way, it’s going to be a slow, painful death.

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” Brandon said, grinning.

Sure, fun for him. He’s a runner who’s done this kind of exercise-y stuff before. But me? I have, quite literally, never run a day in my life.

Which got me thinking. What would make the newspaper’s CEO pick the oldest, fattest, least athletic member of the newsroom for this task? Any number of theories spring to mind:

• My work boss and my home boss are in cahoots in a misguided attempt to get me healthy. That, or collect on the life insurance policy.

• The Standard-Examiner is looking to downsize, and exercising its overpaid columnist into an early disability retirement seems a lot less awkward than sitting him down in human resources and breaking the bad news to his softly weeping face.

• Vanity, thy name is Erlacher. Brandon’s a lot smarter than he looks, and he knows the easiest way to look faster and fitter is to train and race next to a man who puts the “pathetic” in “apathetic.”

Whatever the reason, it would appear I’ll be preparing to run May 19. I mean, when the publisher — basically, my boss’ boss’ boss — suggests you run a race with him, you run a race with him. Or die trying.

The latter being a distinct, high probability.

Over the next 15 weeks, Brandon and I will be training for the Ogden Marathon, and chronicling that progress here in the Standard-Examiner.

Now, when I say “training for the Ogden Marathon,” we’re not running the whole 26.2 miles. The GOAL Foundation offers a variety of distances at the annual event — including a marathon, half-marathon, 5K and various other races.

Brandon will be training for the half-marathon. Me? Given my starting point, fitness-wise, I won’t be doing a half-marathon or even a quarter-marathon. I’ll be attempting the 5K, which at 3.1 miles is essentially an eighth of a marathon.

And yes, I suppose when you say it that way, it doesn’t sound all that impressive.

We won’t be alone in this endeavor. Brandon, perhaps sensing his initial mistake in selecting me, contacted the folks at McKay-Dee Hospital for a little help in getting us ready for the race.

On Friday the two of us met with our newly formed training team — yes, we have a team to help us achieve our goals. Because while it takes a village to raise an idiot, it takes a team to get that idiot to do something spectacularly idiotic. Like running distances.

Our “Team McKay-Dee” consists of a registered dietician, a physical therapist, a marketing director and more public relations professionals than you can shake a rolled-up newspaper at.

I assume the latter are there if and when this whole thing goes south and the hospital requires some major spin/damage control. An ill-advised stunt such as this could easily become a PR nightmare for the hospital. I can see the headlines now:

• “What was McKay-Dee thinking? Hospital backs runner who doesn’t actually run”

• “Scandal! Security camera catches Team McKay-Dee ‘athlete’ exiting Uber ride 75 yards from finish line — eating a doughnut”

• “Hospital kills off beloved columnist; his dying words: ‘I should’ve gone with Team Ogden Regional’”

OK, so “beloved columnist” may be a bit of #fakenews.

I was surprised we don’t have a lawyer on Team McKay-Dee — this whole thing feels like a lawsuit just waiting to happen — but apparently, Chris Dallin, the director of public relations at the hospital, has got it covered. Early in our initial meeting he pulled out waiver forms for the two of us to sign.

“It’s just standard HIPAA stuff,” Chris explained as he slid a form across the table to Brandon. But then, passing one to me, I could’ve sworn I heard Chris mumble, “And here’s your HIPPO form, Mark …”

Really? HIPPO? The fat jokes are starting already.


Similar to Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan, Brandon’s initial advice to a novice runner such as myself was to just get moving — do anything at first. So for the last two weeks I’ve been taking a brisk 30-minute walk at lunch, getting my out-o’-shape shape accustomed to greater distances than couch-to-fridge.

Because if there’s one thing life teaches us, it’s that you have to crawl before you walk, and you have to walk before you run.

And apparently, you run just before you clutch your chest and collapse in an $800 heap of moisture-wicking fibers, shorty-shorts, wearable technology and overpriced running shoes.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at

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