When I went to the doctor back in November, I had known something needed to change for a while. I had been operating at such an unsustainable level that I knew that there was a breaking point in my not too distant future. Turns out I was right.
While the doctor didn’t paint any grave picture of my health, I have an easy time doing that just fine myself. I can admit that I gravitate towards being a hypochondriac. Anyone who knows me well enough knows about all of my ailments. Even my good friend said to me the other day, “You just have to have at least one ailment at any given time, don’t you?” Yup, that sounds about right. The jury may still be out as to whose fault these ailments are and whether or not I exaggerate, but there are certain things that you just can’t exaggerate.
It was almost as if I had just been looking for an excuse to get my butt in motion. Now, I’ve never been a big runner in my life. I did track when I was in high school, but I mostly did field events and if I ran, it was never more than a 400. Distance was never my thing, I was a sprinter. But I still thought that running might be the way to go. Running is big in my community and it seemed like the best way to start.
And start I did. I had a friend draw up a training plan and schedule for me and I was off. I ran three or four times a week. I ran in the rain, I rain in the cold, I had the beard icicles to prove it. I was determined.
As one of those “creative” type people, I’ve never been big on early mornings. Early mornings were reserved for travel, sunrises, and people who loved those things. Late nights were my zone. In college, grad school, and seminary I would stay up into the wee hours of the night. My productivity level seemed to go up as the night waned on.
I made a few efforts to run in the evenings but it just never worked. I think my energy level was gone by the time the evening hours came around. So, I set off to get up before anyone else was up in order to run. Once I got into the rhythm, I just went with it.
I can’t say that I really enjoy running. I enjoyed the time allowed for the discipline of running, but I don’t have a gift for running and other than the time alone out in the dark while the world is waking up, there’s not a whole lot appealing to me about running.
I have friends who are talented runners, it seems that running comes naturally to them. Me, not so much. I had to work to try to get myself to a pace which barely beats other people’s walking pace. I wasn’t running for records, I was running to get myself in gear and moving towards a healthier lifestyle.
My friend told me to sign up for a 10K in Richmond as I started out. I thought to myself, “6 miles? Really?” Biking 6 miles was never a problem, but like I said, distance was never my thing and I didn’t even know if I could run a mile, let alone six.
Pride can be a very good motivator and it certainly proved to be just that. I wanted to make sure that if I did this race, I would finish and I wouldn’t have to stop and walk along the way.
I trained and trained, and trained some more. I found that I was able to do more than I thought that I could. With the help of social media, I had a lot of people supporting me, tracking me as I posted my weekly runs. I got advice from people who had been doing this way longer than I had, I got encouragement from others who had been before where I was now. I was spurred on to better things with the support of the digital world.
Driving downtown Richmond on Saturday morning, making my way towards the beginning of the race, there were butterflies in my stomach. That’s not something that happens to me very often, I just don’t generally get nervous about things, but it was actually not the first time that I had experienced that over the weekend (but that’s another post).
Where do you put 30,000 people?
The city was bustling and billowing with all the people. Even for an extrovert like me, it was a little overwhelming and intimidating, especially for the first time.
I met up with my buddy who had been my informal coach. He had offered to run the race with me, which would set him back substantially from his normal pace. Quite a sacrifice, I thought. It’s nice to have friends like that.
He stayed with me the entire race, past mile marker after mile marker, looking back to make sure he hadn’t lost me, to make sure that I was still there and hadn’t stopped.
Mile 1…Mile 2….Mile 3….Mile 4….
There were costumes everywhere too, it was part of the culture of this particular race. He spotted a panda bear and made his way over to me. “You’re not going to let a panda beat you, are you?”
Of course not. How could I?
Keep running…..keep running!
And so, I kept going and going….all the way to the finish line….and the panda didn’t beat me!!!
I had set my sights fairly low, like I mentioned, simply wanting to finish and not walk any of the course. Secretly I had wanted to try to finish in less than an hour, but that didn’t happen. It took me just under 5 additional minutes to get it done.
But I look back and see that I was able to accomplish something that I had set out to do. Not winning any awards, true, but personally, it was a victory for me, and you know what, I might just have caught the bug.
Someone’s mentioned another race in just a few weeks, and while I’m signed up for a shorter one in less than 2 months, another 10K in between might be something that I can do. After all, I’ve come this far, why stop now?