I never thought I'd say that. At least, I never thought I'd be able to say that with a shred of integrity. I can remember being around 5 or 6 years old, in the loft of our barn, running around. Not running laps, not exercising; just running around. I don't remember what imagination-laden scenario I was playing out. All I remember is running and playing. Things changed after that though.
Growing up I never saw myself as athletic because so many other kids were so much better. I can remember at school in P.E. class and assemblies and sporting events -- especially football and track -- noticing how other kids' bodies were changing. Muscles were growing and kids who'd been puny were now solid, with visible veins standing out on their arms. I wasn't puny any more either. You can see the difference between 7th grade skinny kid and 8th grade pudgy kid.
In 8th grade I wanted to have new friends and have a body like other kids did. I knew I wasn't fast enough for the track team, so I decided to try out for cross-country. We did lots of training runs and stuff. I remember the thrill of being at the end of the line and having to sprint to the front and yell "GO!" so the next back-of-the-line kid would have to sprint forward, and so on. I was breathless and tired, but I was doing something and it felt good. Until we did real races. Against ourselves or other teams, it didn't matter. I was always either last place or 2nd to last. As I watched the other kids' smooth-running bodies I felt "less than" again. Rather than a part of a team, I felt like a liability to the team. Shameful confessions time: At one race, I was tired and didn't want to continue, so I pretended to turn my ankle so I could quit. Another time, I pretended to have lime kicked into my eyes and in my faked blindness/pain I was once again excused from finishing.
That was the last time I ran competitively, unless you count the Navy where every year I had to run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes or less to pass a physical fitness test. I always did it, but also always came very close to puking.
I've never been a super active person, and my all-time high weight is 250# in Feb of 2002. I did WeightWatchers and got as low as 183# in mid 2003. But I put almost all the weight back on. Just like I always have as I've yo-yo'd over the years.
But then a couple years ago when I turned 40, something inside my heart clicked. I finally began to care about myself in a healthy way. Cathy'd been telling me for years I should take better care of myself -- I finally started listening. But it was a rocky start. I tried to run and lift weights and diet and all sorts of things but never really got anywhere but worn out and depressed.
Then we moved to Oregon in August '07 and it is like God brought my heart to life again. In Feb '08 I began learning from God how to listen to my hunger/satiety. By June I'd gone from 220# to 206#, and was feeling good. The way I eat now had nothing to do with what the scale said. The latter was simply a measure of the former -- but not a driving force like it used to be. But I also wanted to DO something active, just for fun and to help my cardiovascular system get healthy. So I started walking and running. I blogged here about finishing a 10-week training program and running a 5K. And then again here about finishing the 2nd 10-week training program and running 8K and then celebrating my 43rd birthday by running 10 miles!
Yesterday I completed the 3rd 10-week training series and can now run 10K in around 60 minutes. But there are no more 10-week training series. So what is next? I bought a book called Running for Mortals and have set my sights on running the Portland Marathon in Oct 2010. Between now and then I would like to run a half-marathon and also run a few local 5K or 10K races. This morning I read the first two chapters and cried 3 times.
The first tears hit me as I read this in the forward:
...we really learned everything we need to know about running before we even got to kindergarten. As soon as we learned how to walk we wanted to run. We knew as toddlers that the best way to get from where we were to where we wanted to be was to run there. It still is!It doesn't matter that I've lost 40# in 12 months. It doesn't matter that I am 43 years old and in the best shape of my life. It doesn't matter if I win any races, or even if I ever compete! What matters is that I have fallen in love again with the simple joy I first learned as that 5 year old boy in the loft of a barn -- just running because I could.
We knew as small children that running for no apparent reason at all was one of life's greatest pleasures. It still is.
The door would open, and we would run out. We ran around. We chased. We ran to and from. We ran until we couldn't run anymore, and then we stopped. That's still a pretty good plan.
I am a runner.