Dr. Ivan McLaws' children offered up a running challenge that has become a life-changing event.
"They wanted me to run in a marathon and I hadn't run more than 100 yards in 30 years," the 51-year-old Payson podiatrist said. "But now running is part of my lifestyle, I'm never going to stop."
McLaws had little time to prepare for the challenge. The race, Salt Lake City's Run, Bump and Boogie Marathon was only seven months away.
"It wasn't much time to train and my best friend Dan Anderson, who is a runner, told me I was nuts and stupid," McLaws said.
His first crack at running, alongside Anderson near Green Valley park, turned into an exercise in futility.
"We ran about 3 miles and I thought I was going to die," McLaws said. "My heart was coming out of my chest."
Despite the initial pain and frustration, McLaws continued to train, gradually increasing his mileage and speed.
As the Payson doctor eased his way into the sport, he learned that nutrition would play a key role in his training.
"I found a website that had a lot of good information about eating different and training," McLaws said. "I also found out how important replenishment drinks are for long distance runners."
By the time the marathon rolled around, April 28, McLaws had increased his training sessions to about 6 miles a day and his confidence was increase with each outing.
McLaws' first competitive event began on a crisp, clear Salt Lake morning with the snowcapped Wasatch mountains in the backdrop.
McLaws' daughter and daughter-in-law joined him in the field of 3,200.
About 8 miles into the 26.2-mile course -- which began on the campus of the University of Utah and ended in the Olympic Plaza --cLaws said he was running well and enjoying the thrill of the event.
"The people were incredible and the crowds were huge," he said. "Almost everyone was cheering for us."
At the 13 mile mark, McLaws was determined he was going to finish.
"I thought ‘I am half way through and if I only feel twice as bad as I do now, I'll be OK,'" he said.
When he passed the 18-mile marker, McLaws' wife and relatives were there to greet him.
"They wanted to know if I was ready to quit," he said. "But I told them I was going to try and finish."
He questioned that decision about 22 miles into the race.
"I hit the wall, the last few miles it was just one foot in front of the other," he said. "I was just running on adrenaline.
And as many long-distance runners will tell you, his mind began to play tricks on him.
"My feet were really hurting and being a foot doctor I wondered if I had a stress fracture," he said. "Finally I convinced myself it was just pain."
The agony of the first 26 miles turned into a distant memory during the final stretch of the run.
"The last two-tenths of a mile was so emotional," he said. "The feelings I had are indescribable."
McLaws now looks back with joy and pride on finishing his first marathon.
"It was just like the Olympics and the people were fantastic," he said. "I remember just before the finish line being cheered by a group of gang bangers. They were yelling, ‘come on, you can do it.'"
The thrill of the marathon has convinced McLaws that he is ready to take on his next challenge -- the Rock 'n' Roll marathon in Phoenix.
"I want to do that one and another in St. George (Utah)," he said.
Billy Joe Winchester, a patient of McLaws, praised his doctor's commitment.
"I can't believe what he did in just a short time," Winchester said. "Not many could do that."
With running now an important part of his daily routine, McLaws makes sure he takes time out of his busy medical practice for jaunts around town.
"I don't feel my day is complete unless I have my run in," he said. "I guess I've come a long way since that first 3-mile run when I about died."
For more information about running, visit www.runnersworld.com.