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 particularly gifted athlete, but I didn’t quit. For that, I have my mom to thank. In the first week as a new swimmer on the team, my muscle soreness had me wanting to quit. She would have none of it! I started running in middle age, part of a circuitous journey to fitness.
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.
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.
I got connected with coolrunning.com‘s Couch to 5k running program — 9 weeks from couch potato to a solid 3.1 mile run. 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!), and it took about two and a half years before I finally ran a full 5k.
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!
This essay was originally spoken as a speech in February of 2014, at Toast With Confidence Toastmasters club.
7 Things You Can Do
- 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 or 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 do it too, and they’ll be inspired to consider the possibility for themselves.
Also published on Medium.