“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
February 4, 2010.
That’s the day I quit smoking. Thirty-three weeks, 2 days, 9 hours and 52 minutes ago as I write this.
I was tired of feeling sluggish. I was tired of being a fatty. I was tired of not feeling my body. I was just tired. So I decided it was time to quit.
I knew I needed to two things to succeed: Commit lozenges and an exercise regiment. The lozenges were easy. Just go to Wal-greens. The regiment required a bit more mental toughness.
Fortunately, I was an athlete of some sort in a previous life so I feel comfortable in the gym. Unfortunately, I travel often and didn’t know if I’d stick to my routine as I jetted across the planet. But I did. Nearly every day I was supposed to run, I did. In Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, California, Ohio, Indiana. In Berlin, London, Sheffield, Northampton and Brighton.
And that’s when everything changed.
I got stronger each month. I could feel it. Slowly I ventured deeper into the runner’s world. I bought a Garmin to track my runs. I bought the Vibram Five Fingers (which were a HUGE hit at the race today!). I bought running gear for inclement weather. (I bought MATCHING running gear, which is a whole different story.)
I’ve overhauled my diet. I have fruits and veggies every day. I’m eliminating meats (mostly). The mantra for runners: eat like your poor. Rice, beans, tortillas, fruits, veggies. Basically the things you can grow and harvest easily. (Aside: I am neither growing nor harvesting anything.)
Now I work out twice a day, six days a week. I’ve found a new running buddy in Muncie. I hope I’ll be joining a few more folks in Indianapolis. My life is quickly becoming one built around health and fitness.
And it’s changed everything about my life as well. I spent the race high-fiving the military volunteers, the cops and the aid station folks. I said hello to just about everybody I could who lined the streets. I was cajoling and running with people who were struggling.
This race was just full of complete joy. In the past, I would have tried to mute that in myself. Push it down and just be cool. But I think those days are over.
I had a huge smile on my face the whole time (even mile 10 when the first cramp set in.) I was in love with everything around me. I loved the cheers and the struggles and the adventure of it all.
I didn’t think too much about my time, either. I had a goal – 1 hour, 47 minutes – but I knew I’d already trained as much as I could. No amount of stressing today was going to make that happen.
When I struggled through the first mile – 8 minutes, 46 seconds – I was a bit despondent. Instead of getting glum, though, I just focused on the people around me and a strange thing happened. I started blasting through the miles. I ran sub-8 minute miles the rest of the way and with every “hello” and high-five I felt myself getting stronger.
In the end, I finished with an official time of 1:41:14. I was 50 out of 229 in my division and 259 overall out of 2908 people. Which far exceeded my expectations. But it’s hardly what I’m going to take away from this event.
What I now know is that I love running. I love being around runners. I love the feel of the ground under my feet. I love the camaraderie you get on the course (particularly near the end of the race).
So, like Remo Williams, let the adventures begin. I’ll be the dude high-fiving people along the way.