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The Anchor

Why do I run. Question or statement?

I’m not sure.

Why don’t I NOT run? I know. Awful grammar, but I think it might be the more appropriate question.

Why don’t I not run…

Because when I don’t run, I physically feel like crap.

Because when I don’t run, my mood turns dark.

Because when I don’t run, I feel gravity dragging me down.

Because when I don’t run, I feel less productive, less motivated, and less connected with myself.

It didn’t begin this way. For almost 39 years, I merely flirted with running. I ran a little track (110 high hurdles/330 IM hurdles) and cross-country (3 miles) in high school, but even then I didn’t really like it. I liked that I was competitive in my small pond in the 330’s but that was about it (I ran the 330’s because I didn’t have the endurance to run the quarter mile nor the speed to run the 220). When I got to college I hung up the cleats and rarely looked back. I would go out for an occasional run of 2 or 3 miles, suffer the leg pain for the next few days and then throw the running shoes into the closet until I had forgotten the aches. There was no consistency.  I was consistently inconsistent.

After college my running became even more sporadic. I ended up teaching at a small ski academy in Maine (actually had a few future Olympians as students), and began power lifting with some members of the alpine ski team. The weight piled on. I had gone from 160 lbs in high school to 190 in college to a whopping 220 as a young adult (the scary part is that the last 30 lbs were between my chest, arms and neck). After teaching for three years I took a job in a New York City law firm and began working 80 – 100 hour weeks. Running went from sporadic to almost non-existent. I would work out when I could, but rapidly all of the muscle I had put on power lifting with the skiers went soft.

***

Flash forward 15 years and I’m married with 2 kids.

Leading up to this time I preached exercise but seldom practiced it. My wife and I had been dealing for sometime with our younger daughter’s diagnosis of autism; each in different ways. Despite putting on a good front, I was adrift and lost. My wife on the other hand had found focus in her blog – a diary of a mom. It was (and still is) an outlet for her and, in many ways, helped her find some sense of peace and purpose. It turned out she was good at writing and connected with people not just in the Autism community, but beyond. She gained an audience. She not only was helping herself, but she was now helping others as well.

I continued to drift, lost in a sea of uncertainty and doubt. Yes, I was the at home parent, taking care of my children during the day. It was and is the most difficult “job” I have ever had. That said, I was disconnected from adults and foolishly worried about how I would be remembered. True, my purpose was my children, but that is the case with any good parent whether they work or not. My focus began to unravel. That was until my blogging wife wrote this: Eye of the Tiger.

Go ahead. Go read it. I’ll wait.

***

So, if you continued to the comments section of her post, you saw that I jumped right in there with her (if you didn’t read it, the short version is that she declared that she had signed up for the 2009 Hyannis Half-Marathon). Truth be told, it wasn’t just the distance that worried me.  After I read it, I called the wife and asked her if she realized that Hyannis in February was probably a little on the cold and windy side.  She didn’t budge.  She was determined.  I remember feeling that I couldn’t let her do it alone.  As independent as the wife is, I wasn’t going to let her fly this mission solo.

So I told her if she was going to do it, then dammit, I was going to support her all the way. The very next day I dusted off the treadmill in our basement and got to work.

3 miles. 30 minutes.

OH CRAP! THAT HURT!!!

That was Friday, October 24th, 2008. I gave myself the weekend to recover and promised myself 3 days of running the following week.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 3 miles. 30 minutes.

By Friday the lungs didn’t burn so much. The following week I did the same. I thought one more week of this and I should be able to bump it up a little.

But a funny thing happened that Wednesday, November 12th. The night before had been poker night. Occasionally one of the members of our poker group will bring a nice bottle of tequila. The night of the 11th happened to be one of those nights. Several shots, several beers and way too much junk food later, I woke up with an awful, AWFUL hangover. I managed to get the kids to school on time and went about my day.

I looked at treadmill after drop off and walked away. After a morning of errands I again looked at the treadmill, but my pounding head told me to walk away. Finally, after lunch I forced myself, my headache and my now sour stomach down to the basement for a run.

I wasn’t letting Jess do this alone!

When I hit 3 miles I wasn’t paying attention. I looked down to see that I was at about 3.25 miles.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can do 4?

I hit 4.

If I keep going I might be able to do 5.

I hit 5.

Maybe I should see if I can do 6…

I hit 6.

Wow! If I keep going I could hit…I looked at my watch.Dammit! Gotta pick up the kids! I don’t know how far I could have gone, but I…felt…GREAT!!!

The next day I did another 6. The following day the same. I very quickly (and foolishly) started cranking out the miles to see just how far I could go on the treadmill. I started doing 8 and 10 miles runs on the treadmill like it was nothing, occasionally sprinkling in a 12 miler.  I went from almost no miles in October to 110 in November to 130 in December.

I was hooked.

I felt good.

I rapidly dropped 20 lbs and nearly 4 inches off my waist. I secretly began thinking about running a marathon – about qualifying for Boston.

Running helped bring the rest of my life back into focus. Whether it was the endorphins or just the almost daily breaking of a sweat, I felt like there was balance back in my life. I was able to take the nervous energy that was distracting and tiresome and harness it in a way that gave me more productive energy on a daily basis. I didn’t want to go back.

I finally found that I wasn’t drifting anymore.

That is why I don’t not run. And just like any other physical activities, if you don’t just do it, you lose the motivation to keep doing it. I refuse to let that happen.

Is it ironic that I stopped feeling like I was running in place by hopping on a treadmill and literally running in place? Ultimately there are many, many reasons why I run or don’t not run. Several of those reasons are intertwined with each other, but finding a touchstone, an anchor if you will, was a big one. Running has become one of my anchors.

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Why do you or don’t you run?

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