July 7, 2011

Repost: Running for My Life

We're on vacation this week, so I'm reposting a few past pieces that I enjoyed writing. You can catch our latest adventure on Twitter, @BazingaJournal.

I was out for a run in the warm Virginia air of early spring yesterday, when I realized that it had been ten years since I took up running. So happy anniversary to me.

I've always been captivated by runners. Many of them make it look effortless, gliding on down the road. But a couple of past attempts at it hadn't stuck for me. I'd gotten started and worked up to a mile, but eventually I'd quit, never getting over the hump and into real distance. As much as it looked like those runners I'd admired were enjoying their workout, for some reason I didn't stick with it.

Returning from a trip to Las Vegas ten years ago, I was unhappily staring at the bathroom scale. I don't mind sharing that the dial had read 181 when we left, but now it was showing three pounds more. I had been working out at a local gym for a couple of years, mostly for strength training, but my weight had ballooned and now I was feeling downright crappy about it.

I had made my way through all of my gym's cardio equipment in the months before the trip. Now I was on the stationary bike, wondering what else I could try. (Jeez, I hated that bike. Nothing in a gym fills me with more dread than a stationary bike. The monotony of it is awful.) I noticed a couple of runners using nearby treadmills, two women who, as usual, were making it look easy by chatting as they ran. They were slim, obviously healthy, and enjoying their run. I figured I'd give it another try.

I fired up a treadmill on my next visit, dialing it up to a ten-minute mile. My first goal was a one-mile run. About halfway through I was sucking wind. My previous cardio routine hadn't put me in good enough shape for even a short run. I pushed on and finished the mile, but just barely.

I hit it again a couple of days later. And again, a couple of days after that. Gradually it got easier. I pushed up my time until I was running three miles, plateauing there for a while. It seemed like I couldn't get past a thirty-minute run, until I tried a slightly slower pace. I remember how good it felt to hit my first 45-minute mark, then an hour.

I've done a couple of registered road races since then, one a half-marathon, and run the 13.1-mile half-marathon distance just for the hell of it a few more times. Most of my runs are five or six miles long, with the occasional seven or eight-miler on warm weekend mornings in the summer.

My weight dropped about twenty pounds in the first year or two and has bounced around a six-pound zone since. I lost about three inches around my waist and everywhere else became lean muscle. Clothes fit better, and just felt better on me.

I don't know why running stuck for me this time around. Maybe it was knowing and watching other runners at the gym. Maybe it was the challenge and satisfaction of accruing more time, on a treadmill early on. Wearing an iPod helped quite a bit, making the run less monotonous. I still go out for a run without it now and then, usually in springtime, to enjoy the sounds of an outdoor run.

It's good to get off the treadmill and back out on the road each spring. And it's amazing how quickly time passes when I'm out for a good run. Most of them are good, but even after a crappy run I can look back up the road and think, "I did that."