Lacey and I were at dinner with a friend last night, someone that we are having the great pleasure to get to know better. I found myself talking about how I have signed up to run my first ever full-marathon in San Diego at the end of May. I’ve run half’s before but never the 26.2 mile distance :)
Every single person in my life in NYC now, knows me as a very physically fit and healthy individual, in fact many of my friends (and indeed my lovely fiancée!) I met at the gym Nobody is surprised when I say that I’m racing, nobody except myself. It wasn’t until I heard myself explaining at dinner why exactly I have become so excited about the prospect of running it, and running it well that I fully understood it myself.
It was about five years ago that I decided I should probably get a new life, because the one I was living didn’t feel worth the cigarette smoke filled air I was breathing. About three days later I stepped into Central Park wearing the single pair of running shoes that I owned and which I had barely worn in years. Central Park has a number of different running loops, and I figured that I’d start out easy and just run the 1.2miles around the reservoir. I think I made it about 100 meters (if that) before I was doubled over wheezing and had to repeat a long and arduous walk-run which took rather longer than expected. I literally threw up from the strain.
I was genuinely surprised because I’d been an active kid, but looking back, the years of not eating or eating crap, smoking and general physical abuse that I’d put my body through had obviously taken its toll. I do not joke when I say that there were several 70+ year-old runners in that park who could easily out run my young self. Humiliating!
Initially I ran because I had gained weight and was having a very hard time with that fact, and with my reflection in the mirror. Then I ran because I couldn’t believe that people older than my grandparents were in better shape than me. Then because it gave me a sense of calm at a time when my life was anything but. I ran and I wheezed and I went early, or late or whenever I though no one would notice how bad I was. And I hated parts of running for about 6-9 months!
But gradually I could feel differences. I could run the 1.2mile loop without stopping, then the 1.5 loop. The other runners started to smile at me like I was one of them. My body started to change, but much more surprisingly so did my attitude towards it; I didn’t WANT to smoke the cigarettes I used to live on because I knew it would be so much harder to run the next day. I DID want to eat real food so that I could feel stronger when I ran, and I could be OK with that food because I knew I was revving my metabolism up to burn the calories off efficiently.
And eventually it genuinely became fun for me to run. Not always before I started, and usually not for that first mile (which is still tough for me to this day) but after that… and when I was done I felt and feel AMAZING! It turns out that I’m actually a pretty good runner. Who knew? Certainly not me
My point is that I used to look at people on the treadmills at the gym, or running past me as I walked to work in the morning and think “There is no way I could ever run that fast or for that long”. I would think that they had OBVIOUSLY been fit their whole lives and that if I tried running on the treadmill next to them they would be laughing at me huffing and puffing and think that I was pathetic.
NONE of that is necessarily true and much of it was just an excuse for me not to try it, to not put myself out of my comfort zone. But the fact is that with fitness (As with most things in life) we only get better at something if we push ourselves just a little bit further than what we believe ourselves to be capable of. I didn’t start out to run a marathon. I just focused on wanting to run for 1.2miles without stopping. And the sense of accomplishment on the day that I first did that is still with me today. It still makes me smile
That’s why I want to run the marathon, for the tangible representation of a journey that has been my new life for long enough that it is now just MY LIFE. Because it shows me just how far my health and fitness has evolved, gradually, over years and for all that the journey had given me and continues to give me; friends, self-esteem, physical and emotional health, focus, ambitions and an amazing woman to share all of that with. Because it took time, and because it is meant to take time, and because the journey is never over but it can get a whole lot more fun!!