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I chose to become a runner in middle age, as part of a circuitous journey to adult fitness. Here’s the path I followed. It was more about not quitting than being brilliant, efficient, or elegant. I’m not extraordinary, but I had incentive. If you’re so inclined, you can start running too!
Other than one season each of basketball, soccer, baseball, and flag football, my childhood athleticism amounted to competitive swimming from 3rd grade through high school. I wasn’t a gifted athlete, but I didn’t quit. For that, I have my mom to thank. In my first week as a new swimmer on the local swim team, excruciating muscle soreness had me wanting to quit. She would have none of it!
Sedentary for 25 years
Then, after 25 years of mostly sedentary lifestyle through college and well into adulthood, I was resisting buying 42 inch pants for the second time in my life. I realized I was getting older and fatter, and my health outlook was not good. This observation was underscored by a string of family members having strokes or heart attacks, and dying in their early 60s. So began my foray into middle age athleticism.
I initially determined to buy a bike and get fit through cycling. Since this was activity, I figured it’d even help me lose some weight my doctor’d said I should consider losing. After 3 or 4 months of 3 or 4 rides a week, I hadn’t seen any real change in my size, though I’d slowly been able to increase my ride distances from 3 miles up into the 20s. This was an amazing development for me: for more than 25 years I’d been a couch potato. However, one hot evening I came in the door, sweaty, following a ride after work, and I knew this riding for fitness wasn’t going to continue, even if it meant poor health and potentially reduced lifespan.
Become a Triathlete To Become A Runner
I realized I needed something more immediately inspiring than ‘health’ or ‘fitness’ or even ‘long life’. I’d been intrigued by triathlon since I’d first read about the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, as a kid. In that moment when I knew I wouldn’t continue cycling, even if it meant ill-health and early death, I resolved to complete a triathlon. Heck, I’d even bought my house at the time, in part because it was a block away from a lake where a triathlon was held annually, though I hadn’t set any plans to register before then. For reasons I could never have predicted, the plan was coming together. Of course, this meant I’d have to dust off my swim goggles, and it meant I’d have to become a runner for the first time in my life.
Just Start Running
I’m not sure how I got connected with coolrunning.com‘s Couch to 5k running program — 9 weeks from couch potato to a solid 3.1 mile run. Either way, I’m glad I did! The plan is very approachable, since many workouts include a significant amount of walking. I took every opportunity to take days off running:
- sore muscles,
- shin splints,
- bad weather, and
- even days where I decided I’d rather ride my bike or swim.
In the end, I re-started the program twice, stopping over two winters (no mom to force me to keep going!). It took about two and a half years before I finally ran a full 5k, in a triathlon!
A week or two later, I participated in a 5k race. That very week, my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to run a marathon. This was the bucket list item that I’d probably never have fulfilled, but she made it so easy to just say ‘yes’! In 6 months, I went from 3 miles to 26.2. On the way, I experienced severe knee pain. A detour through Luke’s Locker‘s injury clinic and a pair of orthotics from Rebecca Kern Steiner at New Dimensions Physical Therapy resolved it immediately.
Possibility, Intention, And Action
I never intended to become a runner, and for a few years I thought of myself more as an athlete (which also took a while to believe) than a running specialist. I’ve written before how I hated running from childhood, but I’ve found extreme value and pleasure in it. As it’s become a more social aspect of my life, I’ve made friends and accomplished some things I never predicted. I’m still amazed at many of my achievements (like completing 5 marathons and several triathlons). I ultimately did three things:
- invented an inspiring possibility that disappeared my objection to running (complete a triathlon),
- created an intention driven by that possibility, (complete a sprint triathlon), then I
- did whatever I had to do to fulfill that intention.
That’s how I became a runner, and how you can too!
Click here to read more about Why I Run, my journey to fitness, and how you can get fit too.
This essay was originally spoken as a speech in February of 2014, at Toast With Confidence Toastmasters club.
7 Things You Can Do To Start Running
- Join us sometime!
- Choose: Select an audacious goal. Anything less isn’t inspiring or motivational.
- Believe in yourself and your ability to solve the small problems that come up every day on your path forward.
- Keep Going: Do something every day that you know will move you in the direction you’ve chosen.
- Get help. Join a program or get a coach. Contact me below if you need advice, encouragement, or more information.
- Get social. Join a meetup group or a club, get a partner, or meet the people in your program and participate.
- Share your advice, information, and referrals below. I appreciate your contribution, and you’ll be helping somebody else too!
Purpose Of This Post
Inform: My audience will be able to name some aspects of my journey to becoming a runner.
Inspire: My audience will see they can become a runner, and they’ll be inspired to start running themselves.
Also published on Medium.