Gay Games marathoner is always setting new goals

George Melichar - Dirk Albarez

Three years ago, George Melichar could not finish a 5K. But he now looks forward to another marathon at the Gay Games in Cleveland.

Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here - be part of the fun with George and other LGBT athletes!

The first time I crossed the finish line of a marathon was Feb. 13, 2011. Months before I could not finish a 5K Turkey Trot race, but was determined to accomplish my athletic goal to run a marathon and finish.

One of the first things I did was call my closest friends and family members to rally their support in pursuit of my athletic goals. I got a lot of responses like "OK George. When are you going to cut off that Mohawk?" "What did you do to your face with those piercings?" "Doesn't that hurt?" I felt emotionally defeated.

So rather then feel sorry for myself, I made a commitment to the commitment of my athletic goal. I would wake up around 3:45 a.m. and run the Saint Charles street car tracks before the heat of the day. Running in New Orleans was awesome because I discovered the city like it was my first time visiting. I trained at my athletic club and pushed myself daily to do the best workout possible. By the time I went to work, I was exhausted for my eight-hour shift, but I did it over and over again until race day.

Race morning I arrived at my assigned group. I was so nervous! When the race start horn blew, I forgot how many miles a marathon was. I saw a running friend, Michelle Johnson, and talked with her until our group was released. I ran focused on finishing. The on-course energy and local community cheering me on gave me motivation to finish. I crossed the finish line and emotion took over. Tears built in my eyes but after getting my medal I walked away thinking what next?

After finishing my first marathon, I began traveling more to run races. My dedicated friends and fans helped me gain my first sponsorship with the "Got Chocolate Milk" campaign in late 2011. As I traveled, my journey became more about global sharing then crossing a finish line. I do not run with headphones because I want to enjoy the not manicured experience of a race, the community, and the people. I joined Team in Training and raised more than $5,000 for leukemia and lymphoma research, but I was not willing to stop at this accomplishment.

Crossing a finish line is an opportunity to set new goals. I created a long-distance Ultra run called the "Krewe du Shoe," which I use as a platform to raise money for my philanthropic goals. In raising funds for historic landmark preservation and the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, my journey has always lead me to advocate for children.

I have been out since I was 18 years of age. It is important that I run in the Gay Games 9 marathon because I am George Melichar and I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I want my friends and fans to feel equally the same pride in themselves as I do in myself. We are all as one in the journey of life.

Gay Games 9 is going to be a fun, busy, and relaxing week. I look forward to the GG9 opening ceremony, the 5K, 10K, and marathon, cheering for athletes in sporting events over the week, and the closing ceremony at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. I am pumped to try new restaurants, the theater distract, GG9 social events and the Cleveland nightlife. Cleveland and Akron have a lot to offer. Lets go all out and show the world love has no boundaries and equality has endless possibilities.

Gay Games 9 is going to "ROCK"!!! A marathon may have one race winner... WE ARE ALL WINNERS! I am looking forward to the race experience in Cleveland with my fellow athletes and spectators who will cheer us on. Cleveland bring out the noise makers and inspirational signs because I am ready to Run-Love-Rock!!!

George Melichar lives in New Orleans. He will be competing in the marathon at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland. He can be reached on Facebook.

Photo by Dirk Albarez.

Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here - be part of the fun with George and other LGBT athletes!

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