I’m not an athlete, but over the past few years I have picked up running. It started out as a way to get in shape after I saw myself in that picture of me on the mechanical bull. I was in my early thirties, the prime of my life, but was more out of shape than I’d ever been. Goodbye high metabolism, hello calorie counting and exercise.
What I started out doing can hardly be called running. It was mostly walking, with enough running thrown it to make me feel like I was going to throw up. Over the first three months I experienced a lot of frustration and discouragement. I couldn’t run half a mile without having to stop. However, if I wanted to lose weight I was going to have to diet and exercise. It was a simple as that. So, I kept going.
Near then end of those first three months a good friend (also named Andy) encouraged me to run a 5K with him. The race was 6 weeks away and by that point I was consistently running 2 miles several times a week. So, I said yes. That shifted in my reason for running. Pounds were coming off, I’d dropped from 185 lbs. to around 160, but now I had the added incentive of training for a race. I started reading running blogs – my favorite, incidentally, was a vegetarian running blog called No Meat Athlete – and reading training plans to see what a more structured approach to running might look like.
My first race day came around and with Andy pacing me I finished the 5K in under 30 minutes. It was fast enough, in fact, to qualify me to run the National Half-Marathon in Washington D.C. the following March. I told myself there’s no way I could go from 3 miles to 13 miles in five months. Andy, however, said that I “owed it to the race” to register. I had posted a qualifying time, after all, and I’d been bitten by the race bug.
By that December, I’d registered for the National Half Marathon. I sought out a new training plan and hit the (cold) pavement. Training through the winter was difficult and sporadic. I ran injured through the half-marathon and was pleased that I finished the thing under my own power. The day after that race though, I signed up for the annual Peachtree Road Race on July 4th, 2010 in Atlanta. I fondly remembered this local race this as a staple of the cultural rhythm in Atlanta, (as well as the world’s largest 10K). That race is the last one I ran. That fall I started working on my doctorate and the time I used to devote to training for races became time devoted to studying.
I didn’t stop running altogether, though, at least not at first. I kept running because it felt good. I felt better when I was running regularly. I was able to keep running with some amount of discipline for another year and a half or so. I started traveling internationally and taking my running shoes and GPS with me. Runs in foreign countries because a sort of souvenir for myself. I ran in the English countryside, in London, in Germany, in Kenya, and in Ethiopia.
I haven’t run much recently. I’ve been working like crazy on my dissertation and I see a light at the end of that long tunnel. I have every intention of lacing up again after I submit my dissertation. It will be hard, again. I won’t be wheeling off 10 and 12 mile runs like I was at the peak of my training a couple years ago. In time, though, I think I’ll get it back. In time.