Friday, August 19, 2011

Always On the Run

Recently, I mentioned I have really gotten into running. Well, “gotten” into running is an understatement, I have really made it a near daily activity. It’s really one of the last ways to unwind from the fast paced day to day activities and an opportune time to clear my head of all things work and just run. I will admit though, there is more of an incentive than just the “me” time. This October my wife and I will be running our first half marathon at the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Florida. Secondly, I will be participating in the full marathon at Disney World in January. What other place would be better for your long run firsts than Disney? Needless to say, I’ve been training hard.

But that’s getting ahead of myself, maybe I should start at the beginning…..

Last October, my client at the time, sponsored a 5k in one of the Chicago neighborhoods. As a sponsor we received free entry to the run and thought it would be fun for the team to participate. So, I started running to get in shape, but not giving it that much effort since, when I was younger I was always the one of (if not the) fastest in sports, so I felt like I had an edge. Boy was I about to get an unbelievably rude awakening.

So race day is upon us. It’s a crisp, clear fall day with the temperature around 55 degrees (perfect running weather). The group meets up and sets off to the corral to start. Headphones in my ear with the quintessential running mix of perfectly cut motivational music to put me in the lead, I was confident, conditioned. I was ready.

Off goes the starting gun and we are underway. We started mid-pack, but quickly I was moving up the ranks, easily overtaking groups of runners at a time. 1 mile down, no worries, I had this thing licked. About 10 minutes into the race I started seeing runners coming back towards me on the other side of the street, to which I thought to myself, “The turnaround is just around the bend, making pretty good time.” Unfortunately, the turnaround was nowhere in sight and for quite awhile. Then it hit me, I was nowhere near the leaders of the pack.

“I must be near the turnaround since I’m getting so tired.” I pleaded to myself. All of a sudden, my chest started to feel like my heart was trying to escape, much like a person buried alive grasps at the coffin, and my legs started to act as if they were being possessed. I thought I was going to die. “Ugh, something must be terribly wrong with me!” I had to slow down to a walk losing precious spots against the runners and walkers I easily surpassed just moments earlier. There was a lump in my throat that made me gag every time I tried anything more than a brisk walk. This was embarrassing. All of the symptoms could have illustrated some type of injury – a pulled muscle, a broken bone, a stroke! Yep, it was none of those. Turns out I was severely out of shape and my ego just defaulted on a check that body certainly could not cash. So there I was stuck in neutral, feeling sorry for myself while falling deeper down the results page. I decided to walk just a little bit more and muster up whatever energy I had left to finish this sad 3.14 mile journey strong. I began to jog, which turned into a healthy run. I started feeling better. At the 2.75 mile mark I could see the finish and with all the energy I could summon in my worn out body, sprinted like a demon towards the end.

When the results were posted I viewed my time with a timid one eye open. 27:53. “Not bad. Not great, but not bad,” I thought to myself. Then I saw the winning time which was just a shade under 16 minutes. Bah! To get anywhere near that I was going to have to get serious, but it wasn’t the winning time that set me ablaze. TWO, yes, two of my colleagues finished ahead of me!!!! “No, no, this is all wrong,” I exclaimed, “I’m the fast one!” I was mortified. Here I was a shell of the athlete I was once fading into running obscurity even against my office mates. Granted, I have about 4 years on both of those guys and their times were marginally faster than mine, but I couldn’t let this happen. Call it ego or call it fear of becoming irrelevant, but right then is when I decided to get serious.

Post race.

Getting up and running (no pun intended) was actually pretty easy, staying motivated was the tough part. But after a few steady runs I saw the benefit of getting out and putting some miles behind me. What also helped was having a specialty running store near me to get the proper setup (yes, you should really get fitted for the proper shoes) and discuss best practices to running.

I’ve been consistently running for about a year now, except for 8 weeks off due to a stress fracture (which is being stubborn), and even my wife caught the bug. I highly recommend it as a good way to stay in shape and clear the cobwebs.

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