He also didn’t want to disappoint his coach and inspiration to start running—professional runner Gabe Grunewald, a U.S. indoor champion at 3,000 meters who has inspired thousands by continuing to train and race through her four bouts of cancer. Grunewald, a fan of the show, spotted Gaines in New York City’s Central Park last October and shared her story with him. That chance meeting was the spark Gaines needed to run his first race ever, and it’s also why 100 percent of the profits from the race will go toward much-needed research on rare cancers.
Gaines, who is a little more than a month away from running his first marathon, answered some questions from Runner’s World about overcoming the pitfalls of starting from the beginning, how he makes time for training while maintaining a busy life and work schedule, and the best advice he’s received from his coach along the way.
Runner’s World: As of the last week in February, you’re about 10 weeks out from your first marathon. Where are you at now, and how are you feeling?
Chip Gaines: Last weekend I accidentally ran just over 11 miles on my long run day. When I say “accidentally” I mean that I was supposed to run somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 or 9. I still don’t know how I got that flipped around, but it actually felt really good.
— Chip Gaines (@chipgaines) March 12, 2018
RW: Many people who start from scratch with running would think about doing a 5K or half marathon first. But you went all the way with a marathon. Any regrets with that decision, or have you been able to embrace the challenge?
CG: I don’t typically lean toward doing things the traditional way. Don’t get me wrong, after diving straight into the deep end I can see why some people take the slow and steady path. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever put my body through, but for me, running is a mental game. I’ve learned that if I can convince myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, then I can run as far as I want to.
RW: Describe your best run so far… and also the worst run so far.
CG: There was one run, I don’t even remember the distance now—maybe around 7 miles, that I finished and thought to myself, “I think I could run two more.” Let me be the first to tell you that there’s nothing quite like that feeling of surprising yourself with your progress. On the other side of that, my very worst run was definitely the first one. It was 1.7 miles, and I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Not only was it not a piece of cake, but it was the moment I realized I could actually fail at this thing. That was scary because we already had everything in place to announce the Silo District Marathon here in Waco, and that I was running it. I’m just glad I laced up my shoes the next day and tried again. Some advice from a beginner: never judge your full potential based on your first run.
RW: You mentioned in your blog that you thought the people who did marathons were a little crazy. Does that still ring true?
CG: The gratification you feel from making tangible progress while running is just about unparalleled, so I understand why people love it. But it’s also hard, grueling work. Those feel-good benefits have to be earned four to five times a week. So I’m still thinking marathon runners are a little crazy, but I now understand what people mean when they say they’re chasing the runner’s high.
RW: Any noticeable changes to your health after these first several weeks of training?
CG: I’m down around 10 pounds! And the fact that I’m not sucking wind at mile 1 is probably a pretty good sign, too.
RW: Any unsolicited advice from other celebs or other runners after they heard you were running a marathon?
CG: No running advice is ever unsolicited—I’ve accepted it all with open arms. Starting from scratch is like getting an education. It’s been great. And I like that running has its own community. As soon as you tell a fellow runner that you’re training for a marathon, there’s always tons to talk about.
RW: What things go through your head when you’re on a longer run?
CG: I don’t listen to music when I run, I like the quiet. It gives me time to think about my family, our businesses, the farm—there’s not much I don’t think about, to be honest.
RW: With your business, four kids, and another little one on the way, how do you even find the time to train? It seems almost impossible.
CG: Everybody has stuff going on; everybody is busy and it’s easy for us all to find excuses. It’s about making a commitment and sticking to it no matter what. And trust me, that “no matter what” part is a real kick in the pants… especially at five o’clock in the morning. But my family is so supportive of this whole thing—my kids are excited for me when I leave on a long run, and they can’t wait to ask me how it went when I get back. If anything, they’re helping me hold myself accountable.
RW: Motivation wise, it probably helps that so many people and commenters are supportive of your decision to do a marathon. Is it also a little weird that so many people are able to follow your progress?
CG: It’s been exciting. I like sharing it. I’ve always pushed people to chase their goals, no matter how big, and it’s about time I put my money where my mouth is. Hopefully this all convinces someone else to do something they think is impossible. That’d make it all worth it for me.
Two of my favorite guys right here! You really never know who you’re going to run into in Central Park. Or how much one day might be so much better than the previous day. ❤️ @chipgaines obviously had no idea how much I needed a little pick-me-up today, he just thought we were two crazy runners who could give him a little a running advice (which we did, at his request of course!). I’ve already hired myself as his personal coach for #runninggaines #fitnessgaines or whatever else he has in mind, haha. He wants to do a marathon but I’m going to convince him that a mile and/or a 5k would be a great place to start! And then I’m sure @justingrunewald1 will start pitching the 50k or so with #elevationgaines. We will just have to see! I was also able to sneak in a high five with the incomparable @joannagaines, but I had to keep running to make this flight! . Anyway, thanks to @chipgaines for the friendly chat, genuine interest in our running, and cheering for me at the end of my run! As this cancer fight continues I will take all the good vibes I can get, and if you’ve ever watched #FixerUpper, you know the Gaineses are basically overflowing with them, so this was a thrill. . #chipgaines #capitalgaines #bravelikegabe #centralpark #nycrunning #fitnessgaines #fixerupper #runhappy
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RW: How often do you check in with your coach, Gabe Grunewald?
CG: We’re in communication weekly. She checks in on my progress, and I ask her any questions I have. She’s helped me navigate this whole thing.
RW: What’s some of the best advice she’s given you so far?
CG: After that first day I told her, “It’s worse than we thought. We’re going to have to adjust the schedule.” But she wouldn’t. I know that’s not technically advice, but that was kind of her way of telling me to buck up and remind me that I could do it, even if it felt impossible at that moment. She wants me to enjoy race day and getting me prepped is a big part of that.
RW: Have you done any runs with her? If so, what’s it like running next to a professional runner?
CG: We went for a short run in New York. I can’t tell you what it’s like running next to her—I was just doing my best to keep up! She was born to run, there’s no doubt about that.
RW: Your chance encounter with her in New York is crazy. What about her story really made the lightbulb go off in your mind that it was time to take on a challenge like this?
CG: A part of me has always been kind of interested in the whole long distance running thing, but—as you know—I’ve always thought runners must be a bit crazy. It was always impressive to hear people talk about running this or that marathon, and a little part of me would always think, “I bet could do that.” So I guess you could say that hearing her story was the thing that finally pushed me over the edge. She has overcome so much, and given what she’s gone through, I had no excuse not to give this thing a shot.
RW: I’m impressed not only that you’re training for a marathon, but what is also tough is creating a brand-new marathon: the Silo District Marathon in Waco. Has putting on a race been something you and Joanna have thought about before?
CG: I can tell you that a marathon was never something that crossed our minds before, but the more we thought about it, the more we saw it as a chance to really shine a light on the Brave Like Gabe Foundation and everything those folks are doing to raise awareness and funding for rare cancers. Safe to say we can’t wait for May 6! It’s not too late to sign up online and come run this thing with me in Waco, Texas.