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Oh no!  Not the dreadmill…

– My friend Mollie when asked last Spring if I should run outside in the rain or on the treadmill

It’s been about a year now that I have been running regularly.  During that time I’ve had an on again off again affair with the treadmill.  The treadmill is what got me into running.

Last November when my wife proclaimed that she had signed up for a half marathon…on the Cape…in the middle of February…I decided that I was not going to let her run it alone.  Up until that point in my adult life I had run in fits and starts – a month here, a few weeks there – but never more than a couple of months at a time.  I was in relatively good shape.  At six feet tall and weighing in at 205, I was doing okay for myself.  I exercised sporadically but ate well.  The idea of 13.1 miles, never mind in the dead of winter, was daunting to say the least, but if my wife was going to do then I was going along for the ride.

So I started running.

I looked at the treadmill we had bought when we first moved into our house but decided to run outside.  A good friend from down the street had told me about a 3 mile loop in our neighborhood so I decided to give that a try.  I reached the halfway point in just under 15 minutes, gasping for air.  The realization that I had to do that all over again was awful.  Once I got home, I very quickly decided that until I got my legs under me, I was sticking to the treadmill where no one could see me.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was starting to turn and the fall television season was kicking into gear.  So I ran – 2 miles here, 3 miles there.  For about two weeks this was my training – 2 or 3 miles, 3 days a week.

Then something happened.  I woke up on a Wednesday morning with a mild headache (too much poker and tequila the night before) and contemplated skipping my run.  I thought of my poor wife running that half marathon* alone and dragged myself down to the treadmill.

3 miles in and I was actually feeling kind of good. 

Huh – maybe I’ll do one more mile.

After which I felt even better.

Let’s see if I can do five.

Wow!  I was feeling great. 

Alright, just one more.

Just as I finished the sixth mile I realized I had 5 minutes to pick up the kids from school.  Who knows how far I would have run that day.  Point is, something clicked.

I was hooked.

I very rapidly – too rapidly – went from 8 – 10 mile weeks to 20 then 30 then 40 mile weeks.  That 10% rule?  Yeah, completely ignored it.  I would eventually pay for my speedy rise in miles months later, but in the meantime I had found something that I loved.  I couldn’t wait to drop off the kids and then go home and pound out 6, 8, 10, 12 miles on the treadmill.  I would put my favorite shows on the TV and just zone out (it actually helped that at the time my wife was into shows like the bachelor and such because I’d end up having to record my favorites and watch them later).  On the DVR my favorite dramas would last about 44 minutes which turned out to be the perfect amount of time for me to log in 6 miles.  Double feature of Chuck and Lost?  Perfect for a 12 mile day.  I loved the combo of the treadmill and the DVR.  It didn’t hurt that in 3 months I lost 25 pounds.

But then Spring returned and the television season ended.  I finally discovered what running outside was all about.

Wow!

Having built up the leg strength and stamina didn’t hurt either.  How peaceful and meditative it was to be able to glide 6 – 10 miles outdoors.  Soon thereafter I discovered the Vibram Five Finger Unshoe (as my wife calls them) and that was it: the treadmill and I were officially broken up and I wasn’t ever going back.  The one place that I have found difficulty running in my Vibrams is on the treadmill.  It just doesn’t work for me.  So that was it – no more treadmill.

I ran all summer outside in my Vibrams.  I became a Vibrams/Born to Run apostle.

But then the swine flu decided to pay a visit to my house last week.  Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Oh, joy.

My wife was down for the count.  Kids were home from school.  I managed to get out of the house for one short run, but I was afraid to leave the house for a much needed longer run.

So I peeked downstairs and looked at our old treadmill.  I checked the DVR and whaddaya know, 2 new episodes of Numb3rs.

What to do, what to do.

I had recently done a short 5 mile barefoot run on the treadmill, but the mechanics of it just didn’t work for me.  I went to my closet, opened the door and stared at my old running shoes.

Ugh.  Really?  Am I going to put those clunkers on?

I did.

I felt somewhat ashamed putting on regular running shoes, but I had no choice.  If I was going to stay well I had to run, and I had to stay close to take care of the sick family.

In 7 days I put in 63 miles.  Yes, on the treadmill, in regular running shoes.   I know….the horror!!! It was a perfect storm of sick family members and early bedtimes for the wife.  If I was going to sit and watch TV while everyone slept, I might as well do it on the treadmill.  63 miles in 7 days and no pain.  I’m pretty sure that running barefoot style has finally fixed my form.

So are the treadmill and I back together?  Heaven’s no! But at least now I know I can fall back on her if the world conspires to keep me off the road…and maybe the regular running shoe isn’t quite as evil as I thought it was.

*We never did run the half marathon on the Cape this year, but with a couple of half’s and a full under my belt, I’m seriously contemplating doing the full.  Stay tuned.

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