I enjoy running. There. I said it.
Don’t panic, however. Those of you who have known me for a while may be tempted to, but let me assure you, I have not been abducted and replaced by a body-double, and I have not lost my mind. Well, the last one is a distinct possibility, but nevertheless, I have discovered I enjoy running.
This does not mean running is fun. There is a difference.
I have never enjoyed running. Ever. If I was running, I have frequently joked, then so should you because it means I am being chased by something I can’t defend myself from. Even if running had been fun for me, I had not been able to run for a number of years, even before I had back surgery several years ago. After the back surgery, I had been able to get back in the gym and get back in pretty good shape –good enough to fit into a Batman suit again for Halloween, anyway. But even then I couldn’t run without it hurting my back, or more accurately without having the fear of it hurting. I took up boxing, hit the weights, and walked at a pretty good speed and ridiculous incline on the treadmill, but no running.
Fast forward to August of 2017. I’ve been out of the gym for over 14 months since we moved back to Florida, and my body is showing it. So my wife, Lea Ann, and I get signed up at a gym here in town and get to work. She gets back into shape much quicker than I, a fact I attribute to her extreme athleticism during her high school years and the fact that she isn’t fat like me. This fact doesn’t deter me, however; it actually serves to inspire me. Because she gets into shape much faster than I, I don’t want her to be looking all svelte but be stuck with a chubby hubby, so I’m working pretty hard.
Which brings me to the running thing. I realized that if I want to get a year’s worth of sedentary lifestyle off in less than a year I was going to have to make some changes and push myself. I’m tracking calories (which hurts my feelings but really helps the working out thing), I’m doing 4 sets of 15 of everything, and I’m running. Well, running and walking, but I’m running more everyday. And my back hasn’t hurt yet. My knees, ankles, shins, toes, and hips hurt, but not my back.
A funny thing happens when I’m on the treadmill at the gym now. I can see a hazy reflection of myself in the window near my treadmill. I’m 46 now, and the beard that I have grown on a lark earlier this year is a lot grayer than when I let it grow in years past. I think back to the last time I really ran, back in 2000-2001 when I had been recruited by a government agency to come and work for them (I wound up not going). Lea Ann, who had been a track star in high school, was my coach, teaching me everything I needed to know about pace and stride length. I would run 3 or 4 miles a day, every day, rain or shine, because I had to. If I was going to be able to meet the physical requirements of the job I was being recruited for, I needed to be able to perform. Now, I have a different–and perhaps better–motivation.
I want to do this. I want to prove to myself that I can. I want to do because I can do it.
For years I gave a lot of reasons as to why I couldn’t run, most of them revolving around my fear of re-injuring my spine. The fact of the matter was that it was just excuses. Fear really is just an excuse. And I was making excuses when I should have been making progress.
So why do I now enjoy running when I so desperately hated it before? Because I see it for what it is –a privilege. I run because I can. Not everyone has the privilege of high-speed bipedal locomotion, and while I’m not exactly high speed I am up to 6 mph and a little over three miles at a time (alternating roughly 1/3 walking and 2/3 running). When I’m on the treadmill or running in our neighborhood, I try to push myself a little farther each time. Mind over matter. And boy, do I say some nasty things to myself when I think about stopping.
How many things do you and I miss out on because we make excuses? Because it might not be fun, or it might actually be uncomfortable for a little while? How many times do we lose the argument with ourselves and quit too early, just short of the goal? If you have the opportunity to run, then run. It may be running physically, but it may also be exercising your potential spiritually. Don’t let the fear of what might happen keep you from doing what you can. Start running and pumping those legs physically, emotionally, spiritually, until you find your stride–you may actually find that you enjoy it.