Why I Run

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970911_172085546290004_398626455_nBefore you read my blog, I implore you to read this link:

It has been a little over a year since I began my running journey. In that time I have lost over 100lbs, gained a lot of muscle and have made healthier choices when choosing food, drink, etc. I look better, I feel better. I’ve become a more calm person, a more focused person and my mind is free of smaller stresses that once would have ruled me. ¬†Am I a nutritionist’s dream? Absolutely not. Am I still a heart surgeon’s nightmare? No.

There are many reasons to run; health, stress release, etc and one big reason that is more un-spoken than the rest. It has been, at times, the only motivator I had left to put my shoes on and walk out the door.

Community.

Community is a broad term. It includes friends, family, even people you have never met. This last category is the one that most new runners focus on. I certainly did. As a large, out of shape man, I can relate to being described as the runner in the linked story above was. I remember avoiding eye-contact on the trail. I’d choose to run at 2am, or on trails I knew were deserted. I’d run where no one could see me. I was felt like I was being judged with every set of eyes that glanced at me. I marked everyone who passed me to make sure they didn’t look back at this shuffling fool. My normal mask of extreme confidence took a backseat when I ran.

One day, about three months in, just after I finished C25K and about 30 lbs lighter than I had been, I got passed on the trail by a familiar sight. Or should I say, a familiar back. I had been doing my runs on the same trails since I started, usually late at night as I mentioned or early in the morning, but by then, more often at dusk when I knew less people would be on the trail. I had been passed by her before, perfect runner’s body, sweat clinging to every inch of exposed skin, LuLu Lemmon contouring sculpted muscles. Basically a poster-child for exactly what a perfect runner looks like in every magazine you pick up. She stopped dead in her tracks ahead of me, spun around and stopped. Highly unusual obviously, or so I thought at the time. Then she spoke; “Sorry, do you have a minute? I’m really sorry to stop your run.” I trudged to a halt and said “sure”. Anyone who knows me would say I have very little trouble finding the words, especially for the opposite sex. In this case however, I was catapulted back to my days of being a member of the “guys-who-stand-against-the-wall-at-the-school-dance”. She continued, thankfully, because I had no idea what to say past “Sure”. “I live in the apartments about a mile back, my living room faces the trail. I’ve seen you out here every week for months while I made excuses about the weather. I can tell you are just starting out and I remember how badly it sucked when I started out, but I wanted to say thanks for inspiring me to stop being lazy. When I started running, I weighed 60 lbs more than I do now, and I never want to be there again so thanks.”

That was it. She said have a good run and took off. This was the first proof of the running community I experienced, but it would not be the last. Nor would I fail to inspire people as I would find out later.

Who Inspired Me?

Two woman in particular inspired me to start running. I met them by chance at a bar of all places and they would come in donning running gear. I had no interest in running but they would talk about it, how good it felt, what it did for your mind and spirit and health and a hundred other reasons. Not one to back down from a challenge, I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t need fancy equipment so I’d only be out a little money if it didn’t work out. (Sometimes I wish it hadn’t worked out, especially when I visit Run-On and go shopping).

These ladies would hound me, they would follow me on Nike+ and ask me why I wasn’t running, they’d rib me and they would challenge me. As I lost weight and built muscle, they’d comment on how much better I was looking. Sure, they are friends but they went out of their way. People like this, combined with those ever important “people in the community we don’t know but who positively inspire us” like the girl on the trail were at times the only reason I kept running.

Who did I inspire?

This part of the community is probably one of my favorites. I’m a Leo and we like attention, but we also like to help people. I love to help people. It’s a rush for me.

Over the past year I have found out I inspired others around me to start running. Some I knew about, some I would find out long after I had unknowingly inspired them whether through meeting them in person, following this blog or seeing my shared runs on social media. My “running-wife” is one who claims I inspired her to run. I suppose I did in part but I’m sure she had many other motivators. I would push her (hopefully not too hard) to try a little longer run and not care how long it took. I made a bet with her that ultimately cost me a $500 gift card (Well worth it to see someone excel at something as tough as distance running). I run races with her. With every race she gets more and more confident. At a recent race, full of hills, she stated that she ran more and walked less on this race than any previous races. Things like that make me happy. I inspired another woman who has surpassed me in training and in two weeks will run her first half-marathon. I’m in awe of her drive and accomplishment. More recently, my ex-wife (whom I am still good friends with) called me with running questions. I was shocked. This is a woman who hates to run, who is naturally fit and eats well but HATES exercise, especially running.

One of my favorite stories is from an old High School days friend. On Thanksgiving last year, while I was with my family, I got this note:

Happy thanksgiving to you, your family, and loved ones. I have been secretly stalking your running updates, and that plus a doctor scare, and a few others have inspired me. I haven’t been posting progress but in 2 months I have dropped 8 pounds and I ran a 5k today. I am not breaking speed records, but I do feel better. Actually ran into my doc at the run! This is my thanks to you . I have a long way to go, but I take each day and each workout one day at a time. Cheers!

I was completely without words. This is a guy with as much male pride as I have and here he is sending me a thank you note.

Currently he is still kicking butt. I follow his progress and he has lost weight, gained stamina and looks great. He has a young daughter and I’m happy that he made the decision for his health.

I’ve also heard from people around the world who have found inspiration in this blog. The blog was vetted on CNN for a time and I got tons of messages on my iReport account. Notes of encouragement and notes of thanks.

This is why I run. Sure I run for health, sure I like the flirting looks from the opposite sex because I look better, sure I love to burn 1000 calories so I can go eat what I want. But. At the end of the day, the community is the cake and the rest is icing.

Now that you’ve gotten through this post, make sure you take a look at this.

 

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