I Didn't Want To Run Today
Fellow RunJunkEes Sponsored Athletes Megan and Andrew inspired me with their blog posts today, this is the result. Many mornings this is what I go through, and why I run even when I don’t want to.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t want to run today. I woke up before the sun came up and I was too tired. I am having a bad week at work and the extra sleep would be welcome. My calves hurt because I have increased my training and decreased my rest days. When I got out of bed to turn the alarm off I was hit with a terrible headache. My knees were stiff as I made my way to the bedroom door and headed downstairs. As I put my running clothes on my back ached. Mentally exhaustion had set in before I even began stretching as I looked at the unanswered emails on my work phone. As I did my warm up stretches and settled into the fact that my run was happening, as I worked out the aches and pains of yesterday’s miles, and last week’s miles, I still thought: I don’t want to run. After my stretch I laced up my shoes and you know what I did: I ran anyway.
Why did I run? I ask myself a lot. This is why.
I ran because I used to be a quitter. Anything that was hard I quit. It’s a miracle I finished college and ever started my career. I didn’t make the commitment for my currently scheduled races and training to go back to being the man I used to be. Everytime I hear the voice saying “I don’t want to run” I know it’s him. He will be there every day, and every day I will do the same thing: I will run anyway.
I ran because I survived a suicide attempt. I died and was given a second chance. A second chance that I am not going to waste. I don’t know all the answers to why the powers that be gave me a second chance. I do know some of them: to be a husband to my wife, a father to my children, and as I have found my passion, a runner. I am not going to waste any chance I have to be one of those things, because what I don’t do today I may never get a chance to do tomorrow.
I ran because of those I have lost to cancer: my mother, grandmother, nan, other relatives and friends. When I am at my lowest point on a run, when I can’t breathe, the sweat is burning my eyes, my lungs are on fire, my calves and knees want to buckle, that’s when I am closest to them. If my mother can fight cancer to be with her children a few weeks longer, I can run another mile. If my grandmother can smile at me even though she is close to death, I can pick up the pace. If my nan can battle cancer for close to 30 years I can sure as hell put in 7 miles before breakfast.
I ran because of my family. I never had a great role model growing up. My role models were getting high and drinking. So guess what I grew up to do? Get high and drink. Smoked 2-3 packs a day. Great role model for my kids. Great path through life. Always in the way, doing something stupid, apologizing for mistakes I don’t remember. That’s what I grew up with. That’s what I was. No more. Now instead of waking up late with a hangover I wake up and train. Instead of sleeping away the weekends I take my kids to the zoo. They will never know the man I used to be, the failure. My wife will never wonder when I am going to be home or worry about how drunk I am going to be again. They will only wonder how fast I will make it to the finish line, or what I am going to do to make their life better today. If I don’t run in the morning I lose time with them in the evening, so the choice is made, get out of bed and go. I can’t protect them from the hardships in life. Bad things can and will happen, to everyone, every day. But I can protect them from the greatest villain of my own life: myself.
I ran because of my dreams. I want to run a sub 3:00 marathon. I want to qualify for and run the Boston marathon. I want to find out how fast and how far I can go. I won’t get there if I listen to the old me, if I hit snooze, if I go out for a drink, if I smoke a cigarette, if I quit. I have given up on so many dreams in my life, I am not giving up on this. The only way to make it reality is to fight for it every day. To be willing to go an extra quarter mile, half mile, take on more hills, one more turn on the trail. Nobody is going to do it for me or give it to me. I have to lace up every day, put in the work, and take it.
I ran today because of some of the people who inspire me. People from online running groups like RunJunkEes, my fellow RunJunkEes sponsored athletes, people in my life that I have run and raced with, and the strangers I see during my runs. The everyday struggle every one of them went through and goes through to get their run in, their training, time with their family, work, etc. Seeing the weight loss transformations, the ultra-running accomplishments, the new PR, someone’s first race, someone’s first 12:00 minute mile. Stop and think about it. It’s all amazing, and it reminds me of how happy running makes me. I am constantly inspired and amazed by what others can accomplish, and when I run, I am a part of it.
Finally, I ran because I am a runner. Not because of how fast or how far I can run. Because I love the physical pain, the mental struggle, the accomplishments, the failures, the times when I amaze myself and the times I disappoint myself. I love the constant challenge to be better today than I was yesterday, and be stronger tomorrow then I am today. Because I am a runner, every mile, every step, every day.
I am a runner. I didn’t want to run today, but I ran. I ran yesterday, I will run tomorrow.
I hope you’ll join me.
There is no finish line.
Time to Commit
I haven't made a blog post in the last few days because I have had a lot on my mind. I have been taking a long hard look at a lot of things, not just myself as a runner, but as a husband, father, friend, brother, etc. There has been a lot of talk about commitment lately (especially by someone who inspires me a lot, Joshua Turner). I have realized that it is time for me to commit. Not just to my training, but in all aspects of my life.
I am committing to doing a better job at being a husband and a father. I need to focus and not allow myself to get so easily frustrated, I need to leave work at the office, show more patience and compassion, and help more around the house. I need to do a better job of supporting my wife everyday with our kids and our pets. I need to remind myself everyday of the example I want to be, the example I never had. Continue to focus on the positive and move beyond the negative everyday. I constantly give 100% to my training, I need to give 110% of myself to my family. Less time online and more time playing with the kids. Less time complaining and more time complimenting my wife.
I am committing to eating healthy. I don't have many vices left, but food is one. I have gone from 225 to 188 since January of 2013. My goal racing weight is 165. Starting today lots of fruit, vegetables, salads, chicken, and fish. No ice cream (this may kill me) or any of the other crap I have a habit of eating. I won't be giving up my Sunday long run stack of pancakes and the occasional box of sno caps when we go to the movies as a family, but that's it. Additionally, I have changed all of my weight training workouts to focus on getting leaner. For several years I have been lifting to build more mass. This is pretty counter productive when trying to get faster as a distance runner. Goal for June is 5 pounds, which would put me at 183.
I am committing to running 200 miles in June (this would be my highest ever). May's mileage was 160 miles, and included some recovery time after the Pittsburgh. Built a good base heading into the beginning of my Chicago marathon training. This si the strongest my legs have felt at the start of a training program. I am starting the Hanson's program this month so there will be some interval training and tempo run for speed (I have never done interval training, this should be interesting). I am not a huge fan of warm weather running so My first race as a sponsored athlete is this month, the Peace, Love Run 13.1, a half marathon on 6/22/14. Looking forward to representing RunJunkEes officially at a race. To test my progress I ran 16.26 miles on 6/1/14 at a pace of 8:29. I will repeat that 16 mile run on 6/29/14 with a goal of hitting a faster pace.
I am committing to reconnecting. I don't have a lot of family left, none of them live near me, and I don't speak to or see any of them regularly. My brother, my sister, my stepfather, and my best friend. Every week I need to call, catch up, connect. I know from experience how quickly people can be gone, I need to show the people I care about how important they are to me while I can.
I hope everyone can commit to doing something positive for themselves this month.
There is no finish line.
I Am A Cold Weather Runner
Believe it or not, this blog entry is about running in the summer heat. However, I wanted to be up front, I am a cold weather runner. I live just outside of Pittsburgh, and while everyone was complaining about the winter I was loving it. I will take below zero, snow, ice, etc., any day of the week over the heat. All of my PRs are in races that had a starting temp of 55 or less, some in the low 30s. My ideal running weather is 40 degrees and overcast. Because of my preference for running in cooler temps, running in the heat and humidity of Pittsburgh spring/summer is not easy for me, but I love the challenge. Here is a little insight into how I keep it going in the heat and humidity (those things do really exist in the North, after this winter nobody may remember).
One of the biggest keys for me to run in the summer temperatures is motivation. The best way for me to stay motivated is to schedule races. I have a half at the end of June, and that half kick starts my training for the Chicago Marathon in October. I will probably add a few halfs at the end of the summer, and some local smaller races along the way. I take training commitments very seriously, so when I have races on the calender and training runs scheduled I am guaranteed to get my runs in. I know this doesn't work for everyone, so you may need to work on the motivation piece. Find something that works, it will give you the extra push you need when the temperatures start to rise.
Something else I have found helpful is finding out when the best time to run in the heat for me is. Personally, I like the morning better. The humidity is higher, but the temps are a bit lower. I struggle a great deal with trying to run in the heat after a full day of work. Running in the morning allows me to get a better workout in because I have more energy, can run at a better pace, and on the off chance the heat is really bothering me I can cut my run short and make up the mileage in the evening if I would like. I also run better on an empty stomach in the heat, another advantage that running morning offers me. This will obviously be different for everyone, so don't get discouraged by a bad run. Try different times of the day and see what works best for you.
Route changing is something I also start to do in the heat. When temps are cooler I run a lot of routes that on my long runs can have me as far as 8-10 miles form my car. When its hotter I will run more loops or shorter out and backs to stay closer to my car in case I overheat or need to cut a run short. Thankfully neither of these have happened to me yet, but I take the precaution anyway. Additionally, when I travel somewhere to run in hotter weather I bring a cooler with water, some type of sports drink, and something to eat in it. I always bring more then I will drink in case I run with a friend or see someone who really needs a drink. I normally don't eat after a hot run, but I would rather be safe then sorry.
Hydration is a big issue in the heat for obvious reasons. I will admit, I do not bring water with me enough, and I am challenging myself to do a better job of that this summer. I own a Camelbak and have only used it a handful of times (always on longer runs). I normally run with no water at all regardless of distance, but I am working on it. Hydration during a run is all personal preference. The Camelbak bothers me the least (it still bothers me) so I went with that. Outside of my runs I have trained myself to constantly stay hydrated. I drink a lot of water, Nuun, and juice, and constantly have a bottle of water with me. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but my goal is to be hydrated so I can go for a run whenever I want, even in the heat. I also drink a lot of water after a run to replenish.
For running apparel in the summer I don't change things much. Even in the heat I do a compression shirt and shorts underneath a running shirt and shorts. The compression helps me with chaffing as I have never really had an issue with my chest or lower areas. I personally like the compression clothing instead of body glide or another anti chaffing product because I don't like the way they feel on my skin. I wear Injinji running socks, which are toe socks so I don't normally have blister issues on my feet. I shave my head so I have had issues with sweat getting in my eyes, I will be sporting a RunJunkEes hat this summer to deal with that issue.
The final important thing to remember when running in the heat of the summer is safety. Know your body. Don't be afraid to stop running if you don't feel right. Bring your phone and call if you need help. Let others know where you are running, when you are running, how far you are running, how long you are running, etc. It doesn't hurt to have a backup plan either. If you belong to a gym or own a treadmill and the heat index is too hot, take it inside for the day if necessary. A lot of runners will post about there running accomplishments in the heat this summer, but don't make comparisons. Know your limits and push them when you can, but be smart, be safe and run happy.
There is no finish line.
My Favorite Part of Racing
Every one has their favorite part of a race. Some love the experience of the race itself, taking in the crowd support, the scenery, the mental and physical challenges. Others love the finish, the accomplishment, the medals. I love all of those things, but my favorite part of every race is simpler then that: the start line.
Whether it's a 50 runner field at a small local 5K or 40,000 runners from all over the world at a marathon, we are all equal as runners and standing as one at the starting line. All of our running journeys have lead is to the same point. Pace, weight, ability, experience, none of it matters. Everyone at that starting line had the courage to do what millions will never do.
We race for fitness, in the memory of others, to accomplish personal goals, to raise money for charity, and yes, to win. At the start, no matter the reason, we share a common bond, we are there together. This is when one of my favorite things about the start line happens, what I call chance meetings of awesome.
I have met so many people at the start line and discussed goals, found out about locals races, shared training and nutrition tips, joked about the line at the port-a-potty. At an out of town race you might get tips about the course or valuable info about the city and local food or entertainment. These conversations will last from 10 seconds to 10 minutes with complete strangers, but as runners we share a common bond and many times it feels like talking with an old friend. The more you race the more people you will meet, and will begin to recognize people, especially locally. This strengthens the running community, and makes the start line feel like home.
Most importantly, there are no comparisons at the starting line. Fast or slow, couch to 5K or hundreds of miles of training, 5:00 miles or run/walkers, wheelchair participants, we are all together. We all feel some combination of fear, nervousness, anticipation, hope, courage, and pride. We have all worked hard to be there. The differences between us unimportant, runners at a starting line are a family.
The race and the finish come with their own victories and defeats, but always remember how important the start line is, and how amazing you are as a runner for getting there.
There is no finish line.
Where to begin?
Since this is my first post, I thought I'd start at the beginning.
I was never someone that I would consider an athlete. I played sports at different levels growing up, none of them particularly well. I was always preoccupied with something and never fully committed myself to a sport, or anything for that matter. Once I finished college in 2002 and all the beer and pizza had really caught up with my belly I started running and lifting to get in shape.
I ran off and on for years, and form 2007-2009 was up to 8-10 miles a day 6 days a week, but I never raced. I didn't really understand racing, I only thought you'd sign up for a race if you had a chance to win. After some health issues in 2009, followed by my mom becoming terminally ill, I stopped running, stopped being active, let life overwhelm me and got lazy.
In 2010, I started working out again, but not running. I tried Insanity, P90X, and the like, but was never really into the programs and always got mediocre results because of it. In early January 2013, I decided I was going to get back into running. Some people at work had been talking about the Pittsburgh Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay runs coming up in May, 2013. I thought a race sounded intriguing, and a way to keep me on track and give me a goal to work toward.
On January 13, 2013, I threw on an old pair of gym shorts, some beat up basketball shoes, and set out to do something I hadn't done in almost 4 years: run 1 mile. It was terrible. It took 15 minutes, I couldn't breathe, my quads were on fire, I threw up, and sat on the sidewalk in tears when I was done. And I loved it. For one of the first times in a long time I didn't quit, I pushed myself as hard as I could, and I accomplished my goal. After that I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, along with 5 other half marathons, the Philadelphia Marathon, and the Disney World Dopey Challenge, all without ever running a race. The voice of doubt in my head that always told me I couldn't do things had been replaced by a voice that said I could do anything.
Since that first run last January I have run over 2000 miles and 27 races including 3 full marathons. In that time I have met and been inspired by so many people both online and off and accomplished more on these two legs then I ever thought possible, and this journey is only beginning. I am currently beginning my 3 year goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. There are a lot more miles to run before then.
There is no finish line.
Every day, every minute, every mile. Make them yours, no one else is going to do it for you. "There is no finish line."