A month ago I decided I was going to go for a run. Every day.
Initially my goal was just to run a mile a night. I figured that would be a good baseline from which to determine where I was, and where I needed to go. But I soon found a mile left me wanting, yearning for more.
Strange as it may seem, the more I ran the more I wanted to run. One mile became a mile-and-a-half, then two miles, next thing you know I had run my first 5K since Clinton was in the White House. With each push, I felt pulled further along.
I still feel pulled along. What started as a light diversion, a way to relieve tension and perhaps help improve my overall health, has become a minor compulsion.
“…we swing ungirded hips and lightened are our eyes. The rain is on our lips, we do not run for prize. We know not whom we trust nor whitherward we fare, but we run because we must run through the great wide air…”
As a consequence, I’ve noticed some changes in myself. Physiological, of course, but in my spirit as well. Nothing so radical as a “born again” experience mind you, but something far more subtle. My emotional resolve grows deeper, my temperament has evened out somewhat, and I am more calm within.
There’s a fiery red demon that I wrestle with during my runs, he beats on my legs with heavy rods and roars in my face with a hot suffocating breath. But by the time I return home I find I have left him gasping in my wake.
I find each night brings the elation of sensing that I am running farther with less effort. That I can keep going, striding calmly, where I once had been gasping for breath. I can actually feel myself growing more healthy from one night to the next, from one week to the next.
My sleep is deeper, my dreams more vibrant and elaborate. My hunger has quieted somewhat, replaced by an unquenchable thirst. I’m thirsty most of the day, though I find it extremely difficult to eat anytime after about four o’clock in the afternoon.
The thick muscles in my back and legs, though never vanished, are emerging forth in a gradual tectonic shift. In a dizzyingly short amount of time I feel my body is already growing leaner, harder, and more defined. My lungs seem to be expanding. A deep breath seems to push my ribcage out further than it did four weeks ago. My shirts hang looser over my waist and my pants seem a little baggier with each day.
Of course, this is only the beginning. If it appears that I am content with this first glance and a few negligible improvements, be assured this is far from the case. I think of this as merely an auspicious beginning rather than a completed goal. I still have a long, long way to go.
“…with the rain on our lips, we do not run for prize, but the storm the water whips and the wave howls to the skies. The winds arise and strike it and scatter it like sand, and we run because we like it, through the broad bright land…”
I want to run without slowing down. I’m not there yet. Most of my runs this past month consist of short intervals of medium-to-high speed punctuated by longer stretches of light jogging, almost indistinguishable from walking. I want a steady pace from beginning to end, then I want to be able to converse while doing so.
The rest of my body also needs to make some adjustments. Standing a hair’s breadth under 6’2″ in my bare feet (74.35 inches from heel to crown), I currently weigh 274.9 pounds. While this is down 23 pounds from where I measured on the first of July, this is much more than I need to be. I’d prefer to stay right around 200, though I could tolerate 225 pounds if it was as proportionately muscled as it was my senior year of high school.
I need to eat better. I’ve made no adjustments to my diet. I need to do more calisthenics. I need to do more pushups and stretch longer. I don’t want to finish a run and feel like I’m about to die. I want to run with more control, more speed, more discipline, and better control of my breathing. I want my body to weather the pounding of the uneven roadway without so much aching.
Since the first of July I’ve had to run with strained muscles and sprained ankles. I’ve had to run quite slowly a few times, with a herky-jerky hobbling motion that’s had passers-by stop and ask me if I needed a ride to the hospital. I’ve run while pressing my fist deep into the side of my abdomen to offset the sharp stabbing pain of a stitch that reminded me why I don’t eat in the two hours prior to a workout, or that I need to stay hydrated through the day.
There’s no short-term goal here. I’m not trying to reach some specific endpoint. This is a lifestyle change. This is something I’m going to do for as long as I am able. When I picture myself twenty years from now, it’s as someone who runs a few miles each day and occasionally pushes himself beyond his usual routine. This is not something I’m going to take up for a season, only to abandon after a time. This is the new normal.
I’ve run a little over 60 miles this month, and that feels like a lot, but it has really just shown me how much further I have to go.