But it’s also amazing, healthy, inspiring, and just downright fun when you set your mind to it.
Traditionally speaking I have never been a runner. I am not a tall man, with a naturally lean build, and long lower appendages. So running was never my forte’ or something that I particularly enjoyed.
In my earlier years I played sports. Football, track, and lifting heavy things. All took great amounts of focus, effort, skill, and hard work. They focused around short bursts of relatively brief, but very intense concentrated energy and effort. Or in other words, I was kind of lazy.
However, three years ago I entered into the Portland Shamrock Run. It was a 15K, (or 9 of those things called miles, because the united states enjoys our completely arbitrary and confusing measurement system) and although I had never ran that far before in my life, I was eager to challenge myself and compete again after high school. And being a former athlete, I figured I would just breeze through the whole thing no problem.
Boy was I wrong….
I signed up for the race with a month and a half until race day. By the end of my first week of training, I thought I would do a “long run” and “push myself” for a whole 5 miles. Even though that is beyond laughable for me at this point in my running career, by the end of the run, I was jogging at such a slow pace that walking actually might have been a more efficient use of my time.
This purposeful killing of my spirit and body continued for another few weeks, and slowly but surely my lungs stopped hating me as much and my cardiovascular endurance improved. So much so that I thought it would be a good idea to take the last week and a half off from running before the race.
When the big day came, and I had to run that 9 miles as fast as I could, it was one of the hardest things i’ve ever had to do athletically. My body and mind were challenged to continue on even when both were in a constant battle of wanting to quite or not.
I will say this though, despite how tough it is to get up and run everyday, and even complete a distance like that, I finished, and it was ridiculously exhilarating.
Now let’s fast forward to the present. I have completed three 15Ks, three 5Ks, two half marathons (13.1 miles), and ran hundreds and hundreds of miles more in my free time. Recently though, I just finished two half marathons within the last two weeks, and I thought i’d paint a picture of just what was going through my mind mile after mile for the second and most recent race I did.
“This is it? I’m killing everybody right now. Seriously, I’m not even a little tired, my pace rocks, and it’s a beautiful day. All i’ve gotta do is do this 4.3 more times and i’m good!”
Miles 4 and 5:
“Alright, slowing down a bit. But that’s ok! I’m just figuring out my pace. Those people passing me are just showing off a bit, they’re gonna regret it bigtime later on in the race.”
“Almost getting close to halfway…..I hope that’s not a cramp I feel coming on. And where are these water station people? Don’t they know that I’m in need of their services??”
“Whoop Whoop! Halfway done. Nothing can stop me. This race is practically already over. Just need to keep up the good work and glide on in to the finish line”
“Really starting to feel it now….my knees are going to hate me after today…why is this fun again…?”
“Whoa. Just forgot I had legs there for a second. One foot in front of the other Kenny, just keep swimming…swimming…swimming. That’s what Dory would want. We’re almost there…”
“There are people cheering for me….why are they so happy? There is nothing pleasant about how I feel right now…Oh wait! The finish line is close! We’ve got this! Yeeeeehaaaawww!”
I don’t even remember what went through my mind. I blacked out for the last mile, and woke up to an amazing garden full of beer, chipotle finishers burritos, and a bunch of happy, sweaty, and exhausted folks, and I was one of them. I had done it.
Running long distances wasn’t something I had ever planned on doing with my life. But now, it’s something that I cannot picture my life without.
Taking yourself to your limits like that, and then perserving through willpower alone is a feeling unlike anything else. And I feel like running reinforces that, and then rewards it. Getting done with my half marathons were easily in my top most proud moments of my life. Doing them makes me feel like anything is possible, and gives me an amazing sense of accomplishment.
So that brings me to the future. I have a full, 26 mile, and absolutely terrifying marathon up at crater lake, Washington in one month. This will be twice the distance of both of those already pretty tough races.
There are no words to describe my grab bag mixture of emotions towards what’s in store for me on this upcoming run, but I will give it my all, and leave everything on the course.
That’s what runners do. That’s what runners live for. That’s what runners crave. And I am runner now.
Who would’ve thought?