Run from you problems.
That is usually the opposite of what people say to do on the face of adversity.
A person of strong character should, and often does face their problems without shifting responsibility. However, sometimes a quick reaction is not always the most prudent. It is often necessary to make calculated, rational decisions in daunting situations.
That is where the running comes in….When the going gets tough, the tough get going….or rather, the tough get running.
There is a zen like experience that happens when you are running. It is a transcendence from the hustle and bustle of modern life – of technology, computers, the noise of life – to a place of serenity. If you haven’t felt this yet, then I suggest you seek it out.
We, as humans, are designed to run. Physiologically, mentally, and emotionally. We are healthier when we run. We are happier when we run. We are better people when we run.
Do you remember what it felt like to be a child, to just take off on a whim and run till you were out of breath? The rush and surge, the elated feeling of being alive. If you have never taken off your shoes, taken to the grass of a park or the dirt of a trail, and just let go of what holds you back…I suggest you try.
But first, you must find a place where you can chase this elated feeling. The place I finally found the will to let go of my burdens and truly start to live, was the farthest place from all that I previously known in life, and just about the farthest place from serenity.
The First Steps
In 2010 the face of running started to change. I was a smoker then, but had ran in middle school and high school and enjoyed it. I wanted to get healthier, quit smoking and get in better shape, so I started to run at work. I was in the military so finding time to run was easy and encouraged.
I started with 3 mile runs and built up to 7 or so miles with a loop around the base. I felt great, emotionally free, but physically bound. My knees and back would give out, they hurt like they had never hurt before. But that is when I found the Vibram Five Fingers. I saw them in a running article in the newspaper, and found some online running resources proclaiming the benefits of barefoot. I dropped my shoes in favor of the vibrams and that was it. I was hooked.
After a few months of online study, practice, and physical trial and error, I was able to run comfortably in them for 7 miles with no pain. I felt free in a way that I had not felt in a long time, but now it was 2011, and I was still in a bad place. Locked into a bad relationship, I was unhappy, still smoking, and eating poorly. Duty called, however, and off I went to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
My job was “behind the wire” working on computers, nothing physically demanding. However, the spaces in which I worked and lived in were claustrophobic. Confined to a base in a cramped tent, with a tiny bed, no room to my own, and a barely reliable internet connection that only seemed to cause more stress, and I was going out of my mind.
About a month in to my time there and I lit my last cigarette, never looking back. Supplanted with a crippling addiction to running and coffee, I was ready for new things. I needed an outlet. It began with a 3 mile loop. Over a mostly dirt road through dust storms, and the potent exhaust of convoys coming back from hell or going out to find it. I also started to focus more on what I put into my body, which was relatively impossible given the quality of the food out there, but always made exception for donuts. There was a Tim Horton’s on the installation…somehow…magically…as if by an act of some gracious hockey jersey wearing Canadian deity, and it was glorious. Donuts and coffee…I can still taste the maple glazed goodness…every time I return to the north east, a stop at Timmy’s is always in the itinerary.
Trading Bad Addictions for……Good…Addictions?
Amazon. I love those guys. They happily ship all kinds of stuff out to APOs. I had my text books, vitamins, snacks, and all kinds of useless stuff shipped out to me. One thing I ordered was the one book that has become very important to me, Chris McDougall’s Born to Run. I read it whenever I could. Each section, each tale, each anecdote, statistic or physiological fact brought excitement and a thrill to me, realizing that the only limitations I had, were the ones I set. I could do anything I wanted.
There was no training plan. I ran what I felt. I didn’t focus on weekly mileage, or tempos, mile splits or anything. I ran when I needed to clean my head and my spirit and I ran as long as it took. I became enamored with the voice of my GPS feedback. Every time she read off a new mile, the more excited I was to continue. Eventually I built up to my crowning achievement. 30.1 miles. It took me 12 hours. The first ten flew by, but once the sun came up I was battling dehydration, filling up my camelbak every 3 miles and taking an hour break to recover when my pee came out the color of coffee. I broke my foot out there, a stress fracture from running with a poor training plan, and poor form from being distracted. I know that know. There is a time and place for “spiritual” running….and there is a time and place for knowing what kind of training pace you can handle.
Even with a hurt foot, I ticked away 20+ runs and even a 30+ day. Crossing those hurdles helped me later in training for races when I knew there was no question if I could run the miles, all I had to focus on was how fast I could run them.
That’s the origin story…Far less interesting than most, but it is where I began to relive my life. I have been running ever since and I feel great. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Starting with Thanksgiving 2014, I have set myself on a year long journey to accomplish a swing of races, hitting some of the major distance marks, on my way to one day getting into one of the truly legendary races. I set that goal as a sort-of-target, based off the difficulty required to achieve it. Something like the Western States is not easily completed and working towards that will prove to be a true challenge. I will not stop there, however, but continue to find ways to push myself to any limit I am able to. So long as I am breathing, I intend to move.