Whoops, I Am A Runner?
I was never a runner. I played city league soccer, street football, and tag, but runner wasn't a word you would use to describe me. When it was time to “Run the Mile” in Physical Education class, I was walking. This year I am running the Boston Marathon. I qualified in January 2015 by running fast and far. So what was it that turned the guy who only runs when chased to the guy who runs over 30 miles a week? A lot happened, but it wasn’t overnight.
I quit smoking in my mid 20’s. Unfortunately, I substituted food for cigarettes and before I knew it, I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now. I was fat and felt gross and I had to do something about it. I joined a gym and started lifting weights. Slowly I lost some fat and gained muscle, but I avoided cardio. It wasn't on purpose, I tried the treadmill a few times. I would do 10 or 15 minutes every few workouts but after a couple of weeks it would always end in a knee strain. Don't let the prior sentences fool you, I was no fitness guru. I went to the gym about an hour total every week. Oh and running still sucked.
Five years ago was the turnaround point for me. My social circle had expanded to include a few members of a local a running group. We would have drinks together on the weekend and they would suggest I meet them for a morning run. I'm not sure if it was the constant badgering or a few too many beers, but one day I begrudgingly agreed.
I knew that I wasn't in any sort of shape to meet up with real runners and do the running thing without looking like a fool. I definitely didn't want to look like a fool. I needed practice. I needed to pre-run before running so I did just that. I would lace up my cross trainers and run, outside, on the sidewalk, like a runner, for a paltry five minutes. Five minutes. I could run, if you could call it that, for five minutes before reaching exhaustion.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom; there was a benefit to only being able to run for five minutes. It is easy to go outside for five minutes without having to sacrifice your normal schedule. I was able to spare five minutes most days as soon as I got home from work. I knew I was ready when five minutes progressed to ten, then fifteen, and finally two miles.
Running with other people turned out to be the best thing for me. There is something about having other people involved that makes running not so bad. In hindsight, the benefits were twofold. Sharing an activity with others makes it more enjoyable, especially when it is hard. You have something to bond over, the difficulty of your current activity. Second is that by carrying on a conversation during a run I was keeping myself at a sustainable pace. It is easy to talk in complete sentences when you are running at an aerobic level.
Before I knew it, I was a regular at the group runs. I would meet every Wednesday for a run around A1A in Delray Beach and then again on Sunday for their weekly long run. At the time, my long run was about 3 miles, but it was 3 more miles than I had ever thought I would have run in my lifetime. It was great! I was looking forward to Wednesdays and Sundays, and I was enjoying going out there and running. Oh and I actually bought running shoes from a running store. Things were going well, too well. Something bad was about to happen. About six months into my new found running group, a friend dropped the bomb “Hey Josh, you should sign up for a 5k.”
Part 2 coming in February