It was about 3 years ago in April, I started back running. The Dashing Wife and I watched and cheered people at mile 25 (ish) of the Walt Disney World Mickey Marathon of 2010 (also known as snow-pocalypse as it was snowing in Orlando, FL). People were smiling knowing they were almost done, lots of people cheering, basically good feelings all around. We decided that we wanted to experience that feeling. I also realized that I was going to need to be a healthy dad to keep up with my then 3 year old son. It took us 2-3 months to find the right training program and get started (Dashing Wife started 3 weeks before me).
We both started with a Couch-to-5k (C25k) program which lasted 9 weeks. I had tried to take up running several times before this and every time my knees would hurt or I would injure myself in some way. This happened usually because I would try to run like I did in high school or college, push myself too hard and get hurt. The C25k program helped me ease back into running.
At the end of the program, I ran a 5k, and went into half marathon and then marathon training, and completed my first marathon by December of that same year. Of course, we only had one kid, who was 3 years old, and my wife was doing the same training (the infant makes it more difficult). We just alternated weeks of our long runs. The Dashing Wife completed Goofy in 2011 (half marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday), I completed the half marathon, but got hit with a horrible stomach bug before the full and could barely leave the bathroom, let alone the hotel room.
During training, the thing I found about running was that I enjoyed the independence of it. I didn’t have to convince anybody else to get out of bed at 5am, just myself. I love playing basketball (I am horrible, but I still like it), but trying to get even five other people, let alone nine for a full court game, at that time or anytime was damn near impossible. I also didn’t have to go anywhere, just out my front door. If I happened to run with somebody, that was great, but not necessary. I would just go out and enjoy myself.
Running is something that I can do with my kid. A lot of races will have kid’s distances, usually 1 mile or less, depending on the age. I usually run with the Dashing Son because he is now outrunning his mom. The Dashing Son has also done a couple 5ks. He walks most of it, but he does it on his own two feet. He likes getting the medals too. I think it will be great in a few more years when he can actually run these races. Even though I am faster now than I was in high school, I have been beaten by a 12 year old kid in a 5k (that kid ran the 3.1 miles in less than 20 minutes). I hope my kid beats me when he is 12.
Running is something I can do with my dog. Depending on your dog, they can train with you, and build up miles. Now, don’t take your teacup Chihuahua out running, or your 15 year old lab with a bad hip. I have witnessed dogs completing half marathons (a husky with sub 2hr finish), and have read about dogs completing marathons. I have a border collie, and even at 12 he can run about 3 miles with me, but will walk forever. He still likes to sprint the last 1/3 mile (at a 6:30 pace or faster) and drag my tired butt along. I had another border collie who at 7 years old, would run a hard 8 miles with me (sans water – couldn’t make her drink), she would drink some water when we got home, and 15 minutes later would be begging the Dashing Wife to take her running for another 8 miles. Even running a 7 minute mile, that dog would be doing an indignant fast walk, wanting to go faster. Sadly, we lost the girl dog to cancer back in November Dogs also provide a bit of security from bums, weirdos, and wild animals.
After running a few races, I realized that I didn’t need to beat the person in front of me, I just needed to get to the finish line. If I had to walk to the finish line, I would do it. I also realized that running is universal. I have seen all types of people out running. Old and young; men and women; fat and thin; all races and cultures; and everybody in between. Everybody has the same goal: finish the race.
A professional marathon runner can finish the 26.2 miles in about 2 hrs and 5 minutes. That is a 4:45 mile, for 26.2 miles. If I push myself, I can run a mile in under 6 minutes. They are running that mile a good minute faster than me, and keep that pace for 25.2 more miles. While this is really impressive, it is the people at the back of the pack that take 6, 7, even 9 hrs to complete a marathon (Honolulu marathon has a 9 hr time limit), they are my inspiration.
I know, I can hear you asking me, “How can somebody slower than you inspire you?” For the professionals, running is easy. For me, running is relatively easy. For a lot of people, running isn’t easy. They have to work at it much harder than I do, but that means they want the end goal that much more. I have done several out and back races (you run to the mid-point, turn around and come back on the same path to where you started) where the last few people are pushing their hardest to stay ahead of the sweeper (if the sweeper passes you, you’re done). Everybody I saw cheered them on, told them they were doing great and that they could do it. I saw a guy with 9 miles left on the run portion of an ironman, limping along (probably IT band issue). Tears were streaming down his face, and he was going back out on the course. He had completed 131.6 miles, and was determined to be an ironman in the three hours he had left. Guys in full military gear (50 lb ruck sack and body armor) and full fireman kit (with air tank) do marathons. They aren’t giving up, why should I?
Running is a good way to look at life. Don’t give up on things just because they are hard, or even if you are last. If it is hard, that just means the payoff at the end will be that much better. Also the last finisher, still finished (and got the same medal as the people who came in before them), and did better than the person who quit, who did better than the person who didn’t even start the race. There are tons of races you can do, from gimmicky 5ks (like the Color Run or Mud Run) all the way up to a 135 mile race through Death Valley, in the summer (www.badwater.com). Be sure to train for that one.