Start Running for a Reason: One Runner's Unexpected Journey

Ready to start running

Before you lace up your shoes, take a minute to think about WHY you're doing it. 

You know...

  • Lose weight
  • Improve your physical health
  • Give your mood a makeover
  • Make friends
  • Be a positive example to your kids
  • Create experiences
  • Collect race T-shirts and medals
  • Get a job (for some jobs, you need to pass a fitness test)

Maybe your path to start running began a long time ago. Or maybe you're new to the sport.

Either way, everybody has a reason to start running. But it might not take you directly to the finish line.

That's what Fayetteville, N.C., native Brandon Mccormick discovered when he starting running more than a decade ago.

Here's what happened...

Fayetteville, N.C., resident Brandon Mccormick quit cigarettes and started running to get healthy and create a better life for his family.

Start running for a better life

Brandon Mccormick grew up In Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg.

It's the largest military based in the U.S. with more than 238,000 soldiers and civilian employees, and even more contractors.

If you don't work directly for the U.S. military in Fayetteville, you know somebody who does.

And if you want to join the U.S. Army, you need to be able to run.

"About 12 years ago, I decided I wanted to join the military to better my family," says Brandon. 

"I grew up with asthma. I was smoking cigarettes at the time, and I had never really done any serious running. But I decided to see if I could get into the military."

The Army Combat Fitness Test requires you to run 2 miles in under 21 minutes.

How fast can you run 2 miles?

If you're trying to pass the Army Combat Fitness Test, you'll need to be able to run a 2-mile course in under 21 minutes.

That means your mile-pace-average needs to be 10:30 or better.

  • Could you pass this test?

Before Brandon could join the military, he needed to pass a series of medical exams first because of his asthma.

  • He was committed. 
  • He saw the military as THE path to a better life for his family. 
  • And he was willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

So he went to see the doctor....

Brandon Mccormick quit smoking cold-turkey and ran every day for a month to try and qualify for the military.

Doctor's orders for the next 30 days: Start running

Brandon didn't pass those initial exams.

But his dreams of joining the military weren't over. Not yet...

"The doctor told me to stop smoking cigarettes," says Brandon. "He also told me to run for at least 20 minutes for the next 30 days. I needed stronger lungs to pass the tests. After 30 days, I'd come back and retest."

Here's the thing...

  • When you go all-in on a goal...
  • When you commit...
  • When you make up your mind to do something...
  • When you refuse to let any kind of distraction get in your way...

It's easy to think success is nearly 100% guaranteed.

That's the mindset Brandon left the doctor's office with, and he went to work...

"I quit smoking that day and started running," says Brandon. "And I'd go just a little further every day. I ran to the mailbox. Then the next street over. Then around the neighborhood, and over to the next landmark."

Over the next 30 days, something unexpected happened...

"I started to love running a little bit," says Brandon. "I realized it was a great stress reliever. I felt good after every run. And my day went better when I ran."

Time to retake the test

After 30 days of running and quitting cigarettes cold turkey, Brandon felt stronger, healthier and more confident than ever.

He was sure, he'd make the cut to join the military.

He took the tests and waited for the results

"You improved, but you still failed the test," the doctor said. 

"I don't think you'll ever run long distance in your life. And you won't be able to join the military based on your condition with asthma."

When a military doctor told Brandon, "I don't think you'll ever run long distance in your life," he had to rethink his career plans.

You never know where your next run will take you

How do you handle defeat, rejection, failure, and disappointment?

Brandon felt all those things that day in the doctor's office.

"I was kind of in disbelief," says Brandon. "When the doctor said, 'I don't think you'll ever run long distance in your life,' that really struck me the wrong way."

He didn't know it at the time, but it proved to be a tipping point that sent him on an entirely different run than he expected...

"I took it personally," says Brandon. " My military dreams and ambitions went out the window, knowing I couldn't get in."

Go for an angry run

He went home, shared the news with his wife, and did the only thing he could think of.

"I went for run," says Brandon. "And I ran angry. My pace was up. My heart was really pumping. I set out to blow off some steam, and I knew running could do that for me."

He ran longer than day than he'd ever gone before.

When he made it back home, his feet hurt, his lower back hurt, he was tired and out of breath.

He was still upset, but somehow felt a little better, happier, and ready to find out what happens next.

After running solo for a long time, Brandon started running with the Fayetteville Running Club in Fayetteville, N.C.

This way to your first marathon

Take it one day at a time.

That's the only thing Brandon could do after the military was off the table.

And then a friend introduced him to the Fayetteville Running Club.

Until now, running was a solo experience for Brandon. 

  • He didn't know a lot about shoes, gear, or pacing. 
  • He didn't know anything about fun runs, 10Ks, or marathons.
  • And he didn't know there was an entire community of runners in his hometown

"I started running with the Fayetteville Running Club," says Brandon. "Other runners started helping me out, giving me advice, and encouraging me."

And it was easy to meet up with other runners between work and family for Brandon, because the Fayetteville Running Club hosts at least two runs a day, morning and afternoon, for every ability.

"You can meet up with runners every day of the week," says Brandon. There's trail runs, road runs, beer runs. It was a whole new world I didn't know existed."

And then he found out there was more...

"They said you can pay to run a race and get a T-shirt and cool medal," says Brandon. "That blew my mind. Are you serious? I was like, 'take my money. I will pay you to run a race.'"

Little by little, running was pointing the way to his next adventure...

  • He ran a local 5K and celebrated at the finish line with his wife and kids
  • If a race was within driving distance, he signed up and took his family
  • He got certified as a personal trainer and REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ coach
  • He worked with sprinter and Olympic-hopeful Semaj Street
  • He got a job as a shoe fitter at Fayetteville Fleet Feet, geeked out about shoe design, running performance, training, and more. Then took over the store as owner/operator.
  • And he ran his first marathon...
Brandon Mccormick ran his first 26.2-mile race at the Chicago Marathon.

Running the Chicago Marathon

Did you know an estimated 45,000 run the Chicago Marathon every year?

That's where Brandon decided to find out what it takes to run 26.2 miles.

He stepped up to the starting line in Chicago's Grant Park with plans to cruise through 29 city neighborhoods to the finish.

But that's not exactly what happened...

"It was amazing," says Brandon. "But it wasn't what I dreamed it would be or what I expected."


He made the trip from South Carolina to Chicago, picked up his race bib and packet, checked into a hotel, and made his way to the Health & Fitness Expo.

"It was mind-blowing," says Brandon. "Just picking up the race bib was a little intimidating."

By bedtime, he was nervous and excited. Sleep was intermittent. And his mind was racing, thinking about running 26.2 miles.

On your mark, get set, go...

Brandon lined with 45,000 other runners at the Chicago Marathon in the starting area based on his projected finish time.

"My emotions are going crazy," says Brandon. "I look around, and everybody else seems like they're kind of feeling the same way."

He turns on his Apple watch so family and friends can track his progress.

And then boom, the gun goes off to start the race...

"I take off really excited, and things seem to be going well," says Brandon. "I've got my headphones in, music playing, and I'm running like 7-minute miles."

He backs off the speed a little and settles into a comfortable pace. He's still feeling good at the half marathon mark, and expects to cruise all the way to the finish.

And then something happens...

Mile 18

"I have a vendetta against mile 18," says Brandon. "More than 10 years later, I'm still nervous about mile 18 after what happened in Chicago."

One minute, he's cruising along running a comfortable pace. And the next minute, his right quad locks up.

"I grabbed my right quad," says Brandon. "It was hurting so bad. Cramping, Charlie Horse, whatever you want to call it. My right quad was shutting down."

  • Until now, he'd never experienced muscle cramping like this during a run
  • He stopped.
  • He thought about quitting.
  • He thought about the military doctor telling him, "I don't think you'll ever run long distance in your life."
  • And he refused to give up...

"I made it to the next aid station around mile 19.5," says Brandon. "A woman gave me a salt stick, and said it would get me to the next aid station."

"I got some BioFreeze on my quad and it started to do it's thing," says Brandon. "I spent a long time at that aid station. But I was finally able to go from limping into the aid station to jogging."

But the race wasn't over...

Mile 22

"My left quad jumps up and bites me," says Brandon. "If I could just make it to mile 22, I could get BioFreeze again. So I try to psyche myself out to keep going no matter what."

But it doesn't work. Out of nowhere, both legs buckle and he falls to the ground.

  • Did you know an estimated 1.7 million people line the Chicago Marathon course from start to finish, screaming and cheering for every runner from the elites to the very last finishers?

"That's what really got me through" says Brandon.

Right after he fell, a spectator left the sidelines, helped him up, and the crowd filled him with motivation to keep going.

He made it to the aid station. He got another BioFreeze treatment. And he ate one of his least favorite foods...pickles.

The Finish

Step by step, he made his way back to Grant Park, crossing the 26.2-mile finish line in 4:24.

And he realized the news at the doctor's office many miles ago led him to this moment.

Brandon Mccormick is a personal trainer and personal trainer and REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certified running coach

Start running & never give up

"Running changed my life," says Brandon. "It put me on the right path. It help me quit drinking and smoking, and put my family first."

Later this year, Brandon plans to open his own running store in Fayetteville to sell running shoes (he personally owns more than 100 pair), help runners chase their goals, and support the running community that's given him so much.

"Running opened doors for me that I didn't even know were out there," says Brandon. "It gave me something to look forward to. And it still does every single day. I'm always going to be a runner."

Brandon Mccormick owns more than 130 pairs of running shoes. He's a Nike fan, but he runs in other brands, too. He's planning to open a running store in Fayetteville, N.C., later this year.

Fun facts about Brandon Mccormick

Facebook: Brandon Mccormick
Instagram: @CardioKing

Favorite running shoes

# of running shoes in my closet


Favorite running watches

Longest distance I've ran

101 miles on a treadmill

Longest distance on land

31.4-mile ultramarathon

Average miles per year

No less than 1,300

Bucket-list race I'd like to run

Athens Marathon

Pro runners I'd like to meet

Advice for runners

"Don't compare yourself to the next runner. Do what you can do, and keep improving. Trust the process. Becoming a better runner takes time. Progress happens one step at a time, even for the elite athletes."

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
2 Following

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


David Moore Thanks for sharing your story with us Brandon!! I can relate to a lot of this. I'll be honest though, I'm pretty jealous of your shoe collection

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