“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”~ Theodore Isaac Rubin
I don’t often look back because I feel like what happened in the past can’t be changed. Tomorrow is gone and I only have today. I can plan for tomorrow but remember that it is not guaranteed. Although I am not guaranteed tomorrow, I am secure in my relationship with Jesus Christ and know that because of His sacrifice I will spend eternity in heaven with Him. Because of that security, I really don’t have anything to fear. At the same time, I can’t take anything for granted. That includes my health. For a number of years, I was simply a lazy slob. From an exercise perspective, other than playing some softball, I did absolutely nothing. And it showed. I was overweight and always sluggish. For several years, I knew I needed to make a change. I just wasn’t willing to do so. Until one day when I was finally willing. My weight hit a point that I thought it would never reach and it scared me a little. I knew the time had come to either accept that I was going to be big or make a change. A friend of my wife told me about Danny Haralson (see blog post from 9 June).
I started Danny’s “Couch to 5K” program through Run University on 5 May 2008. I’m not going to lie. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I came home from Day 1 and told my wife, Caroline, that I couldn’t do it. She convinced me to stay with it at least until the 5K. I reluctantly agreed. I did every single run on Danny’s schedule all the way through the C25K program. For six of the seven weeks, I hated it. Truly hated it. The week before our 5K (Race to the Courthouse), we ran the route through downtown Birmingham. For the first time, I had a “good” run. When I finished, I realized that the run was not too bad. In fact, I enjoyed it.
That next week, I ran that first 5K and then ran a second one a month later. That led to a 5-mile trail run known as Fat Danny’s Trial by Trail. In October 2008, I ran my first 10K and then a second one a few weeks later. Suddenly, I began to think that I might be able to run a half marathon. Danny also told me that I could do it and he would help since he had a group that would train for the Mercedes Half Marathon in February 2009. We increased the mileage each week and Danny made sure we kept our eye on the goal of the half marathon without being intimidated by the distance. He assured us that we had plenty of time to build up to the 13.1 miles. I was skeptical but trusted our training and ran that half marathon. I ran two more half marathons a couple of months later and decided I wanted to try a marathon. Just one to say I did it. The Birmingham Track Club was taking a group to Baltimore in October 2009 so I decided to make that my marathon. I finished it. The first 23 miles were great. The last three? Not so much. But I finished and got my medal.
Funny thing about marathons… I would say this just relates to me but I have a number of friends that have had the very same experience. You run one marathon and you end up running another one. And another one. And another one. There’s just something about pushing yourself to complete the 26.2 miles and crossing the finish line that others can’t understand if they’ve never done it. I can’t describe it adequately. My non-running friends look at me the same way I would have before I started running. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy. If it were, everyone would run a marathon. It takes weeks and months of dedication to train and build up your mileage. But it is so worth it. Trust me.
Looking back over the past four years, I’m amazed at where I was and where I am today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not overly fast but I can cover the distance. I came up with the following quote a couple of years ago: “There are two kinds of distance runners: thoroughbreds and pack mules. I’m perfectly happy being a pack mule.” I sit here today having run 16 marathons (including two 50K trail races and a 10-hour endurance run where I completed 38.5 miles). In addition, I’ve run 20 half marathons and numerous 5Ks and 10Ks.
If you had asked me before 2008 if I would run any distance, I would have laughed at you. I probably would have rolled my eyes too. One of my C25K classmates, Janet Watkins, forwarded a link from December 2008 to the “original” Village Runners the other day. I had forgotten about the article. When I reread it, it reminded me of just how far I have come as a runner in a relatively short time. If you’re interested, you can read it here. The article is about Danny but the writer interviewed several of us to find out about our experience in his program.
If you’re still with me, I apologize for the lengthy trip down memory lane. I want to wrap up by saying that it’s never too late to make a change. You can do anything that you set your mind to. If you’re willing to work at something, you can accomplish so much more than you could ever imagine. Your only real limiting factor is you. So don’t put off doing something for yourself or others. If you need to, take baby steps. Life is a marathon. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’re always moving ahead!