30 Days of Gratitude – Day #28, The Simple Joy of Running

gratitude

Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for my ability to get up, go out and run.

Day #28 – You Better Run All Day and Run All Night

One of he consequences of my second struggle with weight gain and loss was having to start again with running. For most of the people reading this let me say – no, you really don’t get it … and I don’t mean that as an insult. I have taken days and weeks and even months off during the previous 23 years of running, especially during very busy work times, having kids, buying houses and so on. And I wasn’t prepared for the suck.

Losing fitness and gaining weight always makes restarting running a challenge – and of course dealing with winter cold and snow (where we lived in Massachusetts was one of those ‘snow centers’ that always got more than the top of the estimated snowfall ranges) made it even harder to stick to a routine.

There were a couple of times when I started gaining weight, and lost track of my running for a while, and had to restart. It is never fun – your body hates you, your lungs scream, and after one day you feel like ‘wow, this was GREAT!’ … then after two you regret your very existence, and by the end of the first week you curse yourself for ever stopping running before.

But to be honest, nothing prepared me for March and April of 2012. I knew I had gotten really heavy, and my fitness level was absolute crap. Whereas when I was young I still played intramural football and soccer in college, now I did nothing. Even the days of Little League and youth soccer and basketball were gone, so I was never really moving very much aside from walking around at work – and being a statistician meant loads of desk time.

Running History - Oct 20121

I don’t know how many times I nearly broke down and cried as I tried to run those first few weeks. It was awful – and my body was having none of it. I would occasionally stop while running, not know what to do – because I had NEVER stopped like that in the previous 23 years. It was the absolute depths of despair for me – not only was I more than 100lbs overweight, I felt that my old friend running was no longer there for me … when I needed it so very badly.

And I don’t know if it was better or worse when I ran with my brother over Easter – I was just starting to get into a bit of a groove, things were just beginning to happen again … and then he and I ran while he was in the best shape of his life. And I realized that I was only running ~2.25 miles each day. I thought that based on the time I was running at least 4 … which then informed me about my pace.

And I have written about it many times before, but there I was the Monday after Easter, realizing I was running 2.25 miles per day at a pace that wasn’t even a 15 minute mile (heck, Lisa and I do 19 minute miles walking the dogs, and faster than that just the two of us!).

Over the next 6 months I cut more than 33% off my pace, got my average daily distance over 7.5 miles, my weeks up over 50 miles, ran my first ever road race, then another and another, then a 5 miler, learned a lot running a half-marathon … then ran my first marathon at 46 and was incredibly proud of myself. Because in that moment I was no longer just some guy who would jog a few miles for weight control and health … I was a runner!

And I call this time ‘Running 2.0’, because it is totally different. It has been more than 2.5 years since I got back into running, and it is now an important part of my life. It is one of my biggest hobbies, and running in great weather is one of the great joys in my life. When I go somewhere new it is a great way to explore – to the point that running around my alma mater was like an entirely new experience compared to living there for four years.

I have no idea what lies ahead for me in terms of running, racing or anything else – all I know is that I have been changed forever by my relationship with running. It has been with me more than half my life and pretty much my whole adult life. It is something that makes me appreciate my body and my health every day.

At the Finish With My #1 Supporter

At the Finish With My #1 Supporter

How good are you about being TRULY grateful for your ability to run?

And avoiding the cliche running videos … THIS is the one I thought of first!

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16 thoughts on “30 Days of Gratitude – Day #28, The Simple Joy of Running

  1. I am one of those people who loses fitness relatively quickly, it seems. I also had periods when the kids were babies where I did no exercise at all for extended periods of time (I actually did not exercise between Jan 2007 and Sept 2009!) so I definitely remember the feeling of starting from square zero. It’s true that remembering when running felt horrific makes you appreciate the ability so much more. I actually thought about struggling around the track in high school when I ran the marathon last Sunday, to put things in perspective for myself. Definitely helped me appreciate the ability to run that marathon!

  2. This post reminds me of my 20 year break from running. I ran for about a year when I was 23-24, got pregnant and couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to restart after giving birth. But I always wanted to start running again. It was the pain of restarting that kept me quitting again after a few runs. I finally decided about a year ago enough was enough and I WAS going to run that half marathon I’d been dreaming of running. The thing that kept me going (aside from the fear of being old and sedentary) was remembering I’d loved running once, even if it was 2 decades in the past.

    I’m glad I read this post to remember both the pain of restarting and the joy of running — especially since I’ve got a 16-miler to do today and I’m not really feeling like lacing up this morning.

    • The memory of the pain of restarting is something I hope I never lose … because it is incredibly motivational. Good for you coming back after so many years! Motivation is never easy – I know I waited a few hours Saturday morning for the temperature to get into the 20s before I headed out ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. How long had you taken off when you restarted in Spring 2012? For some reason I had thought that you’d always run, even as you gained weight the second time.
    “running in great weather is one of the great joys in my life” — that is one of the truest statements for me too, and it’s funny because running in not great weather is still a joy, but maybe more of a triumph than an actual joy. But those great weather days are just unbeatable!
    I’ve never really restarted, but I’ve only been running for about 12 years. The longest I took off was about 4 months in early 2006 from an injury, and I actually didn’t do any marathon that year. So not an experience like yours, but I feel like I lose fitness quickly and sometimes coming back after a few weeks and ten-ish pounds of vacation feels like I’m trying to scale a mountain.

    • I tried to put a real bracket around my ‘off’ time and it is hard – much of 2007 I wasn’t running, but I would start and stop on occasion. Late 2007 I had stopped (thyroid), but in spring 2008 when we moved here I joined the gym (but never really used the small track or treadmill … just the elliptical). After fall of 2009 our schedule made my gym attendance erratic, and by fall 2010 I had quit and was trying to restart running (fail). Tried again spring 2011 (fail) … and then about every other week or so after January 1st 2012 until I finally locked in on running in late March. So in some ways it was a 5 year struggle, in others it was more like 1.5 years ‘off’.

  4. I am, right now, in the midst of a time when I am running both because I know that it is good for me and that it will reward me (as in, not all miles are perfect, and sometimes, I don’t want to get out there), but also simply for the joy and gratitude of the ability to do so. I’ve learned these lessons both as a result of my body (from a digestive/holistic health perspective as well as from the multitude of injuries that I have dealt with) as well as my mind (the pride of being able to do what is, in all honesty, something truly incredible). I don’t run for glory (pride in one’s own self determination and commitment is very different than running for glory) or podiums; sure, I would love the BQ, because I am competitive enough to know that I can get it, and thus want it, but I don’t run the miles just for the sake of doing so. Otherwise, i would be taking serious time off, rather than running more miles during the week than I did during marathon training. I used to ride just for the sake and love of riding, and I got to a point where it no longer did the same thing for me. So I am trying to milk my running and love of it for all that it is worth while I have it. Cause I’m in the suck period of strength training, and I would rather put that off from running as long as possible!

    • Thanks Susie – that is a great perspective ๐Ÿ™‚ You have a number of things that could easily be used to justify not running – yet you do. I never take for granted that I have none of those – there is nothing physically stopping me going for a run every day, and for that I am blessed and thankful.

  5. I saw a programme on to last week about a guy who they followed for a year, who was following a diet and exercise programme. He was 500lb at the beginning and he lost over 50% of his body weight. It was really humbling to see this 500lb man going out for a run. Ok he was only 24 so he had a young fit heart but I wondered how he did it. The nicest thing was seeing him grow in confidence, not so much because of his body changes but because he had taken control of his life ( he had been quite depressed because his mother had died). At most I have only ever been about 40lb overweight ( though to lose it would be over 25%) so I can’t claim to know what it would be like. I imagine however that running in snow would be very difficult. We don’t get much snow in the UK but when we do people are slipping and falling a breaking bones all over the place. Fear of falling would stop me from running. So I take my hat off to you ( that’s praise and admiration in English), for running in snow, for running consistently, for taking control, for seeing it through on all the hard and difficult days. You deserve all the positive things you have gained, you made it happen. Well done!

    • Thanks Julie ๐Ÿ™‚

      In many ways I wish I had pictures from running when I was at my heaviest, but at the same time I would NEVER have let anyone take them! I just can’t imagine.

      I always say that my two ‘no go’ conditions are ice and active lightning. I don’t have YakTrax yet, but probably will this year. If I go out and it is too slippery, I head home. Snow is easy enough … I just don’t like the extreme cold!

      Thanks again for the great comment!

  6. I’m sort of living the old “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” cliche right now. Not being able to run because of my foot really stinks. I feel a little misplaced, because running has been such a huge part of my life the last few months. It’s never easy and it doesn’t always feel good, but it’s important to me and I miss it.

    • “Itโ€™s never easy and it doesnโ€™t always feel good, but itโ€™s important to me and I miss it.”

      That looks like a motivational poster ๐Ÿ™‚ But it is so true – and I absolutely feel that way. I don’t like not running for any reason, and always fear when I am dragging in the morning that I will start dragging it out more and more over the winter and eventually stop going out. Then I remember it is always that first threshold that I must get past.

      And I hope that all of your difficulties (stomach and foot) resolve soon – hate reading about it!

      • Thanks, Mike. I called my doctor’s office and there are some same-day appointments available tomorrow. I just have to call first thing in the morning to hopefully get in.

  7. I love when you post things like that because it really puts things in perspective. While I have not experienced the same struggles as you, coming back to running after having Ashton SUCKED. I ran until I was 30 weeks pregnant and strength trained and spun until the day before he was born, but taking time off after having a c-section and coming back nearly killed me. When I ran that first 1/2 mile after I was cleared to work out, I cried, I was also sucking wind so hard I thought I would pass out. It was really tough physically but more so mentally for me. I felt like I’d never get back to where I was before I had him, but funny enough, I am much faster now than I was pre-Ashton. Looking back at just a few years ago, where I was and where I am..it makes me very thankful for my health and fitness, my ability to run, spin, do yoga, etc. I think when you go through hard times like this, you learn to appreciate it more than if it has always been easy, etc.

    • Definitely agree about gaining appreciation! And after watching Lisa recover from 2 C-sections, I can imaging the suckage it would be trying to run ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Pingback: 30 Days of Gratitude Revisited | Running Around the Bend

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