I wasn’t raised on running. The longest I remember purposely going as a child was the mile run during the middle school physical fitness test. A 6:45 mile. Respectable. Even though I wasn’t compelled towards this particular activity, I kept fit through hockey, bike riding and weirdly running in circles like kids seem to do. There wasn’t any need to run outside the desire to get somewhere in a hurry.
After high school, hockey and biking surrendered to binge drinking and excess eating. My priorities changed as my invincible teenage attitude persisted. The result was as ugly as one might expect. I remember trying to play a men’s league the spring I graduated college, 65 pounds heavier than any point during my adolescence. The shame of allowing myself to retreat so far into sedentary abyss prompted a personal revolution. As Sam Cooke sang, “I know a change gonna come.” I dropped the weight that made me border on obese and fluctuated after that at various levels of “functioning overweight.”
Weight training and dieting are essential components to large scale weight loss, but this post obviously isn’t about them. I can wax poetic about how working out automatically improved my outlook and burned fat quickly. Unfortunately, weights don’t require great levels of sustained activity. They helped return me to human acceptability, but didn’t drive me back to youthful activeness.
For the longest time, whenever somebody would mention running a 5k or a half marathon, I’d dismiss it as something pseudo-douchey people do to flex their superior fitness in other’s faces. Like all things foreign, what we don’t understand is often what we end up hating. My disdain was envy, directed at those who never allowed unfounded excuses prevent real accomplishment. Running requires effort and that’s the point.
My race experience thus far has been minimal, but seeing progress as the fruit of hard work is rewarding as hell. After posting a disappointing time at my first 5k in October, one where underpreparedness and bad allergies forced me to walk parts of it, I could’ve been discouraged from further participation. But I decided to register for the Boston 5k, which I ran this past weekend, and attempted to improve. Improve I did. Three minutes and thirty seconds faster than October and my fastest mile was the final.
Watching runners compete in the Boston Marathon on Monday, the perseverance required not just on race day, but in a half year or more of training, is motivation enough to want it. A marathon isn’t a physical feat, it’s mental. Any person’s body can be crafted into the ideal form for such a challenge, but even the fittest can’t simply show up in Hopkinton and blaze 26.2 miles of trail into Copley. You have to be willing to make running a significant part of your identity. And when it’s done and you think you’ve accomplished something great, you can still do better. Both the male and female winners of this year’s B.A.A 5k set American road records. Others, like me, set personal ones.
Improvement is always possible, not just on the road but in every aspect of life. Continuous effort is essential. Complacency sets in quickly if you’re not careful. It’s so easy to say, “I’m not going to run today because…” and this is the most dangerous thing you can do. Once you start in on excuses, you’ll convince yourself of anything. Instead, get up and go. Running made me accountable every single day and I can honestly say it has transformed me. Let it transform you, too.