150 miles in 60 days

“Close the ears on your head that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes, there are other things to see, and hear…  a brilliant city inside your soul!”

Day by day, step-by-step, minute by minute, and one foot in front of the other. One step, ten feet, twenty yards… one hundred and fifty miles. 150 miles in two months. I’ve gradually increased my endurance and distance since running 60 miles during the month of July.

It feels good.

How does one start? How does one continue, keep going on, when things get hard. What pushes you forward, through the pain and mad stupor of slothful indolence. Like building a campfire in a tempest, sometimes the downpour of tasks and obligations make it all but impossible to kindle a fire.

There’s a line that comes to me in times like these: “you can’t make it stop hurting, the trick is to not mind that it hurts.”

I’ve run 150 miles since deciding on a random Sunday afternoon to go for a jog. That day and sixty-odd days hence have led me all over the place, and right back home again.

As I write this, I’m not sure I want to make this public… since this little endeavor has started, it’s taken on something of a community project. Rarely do I go on a run now without someone pulling alongside and waving, or tooting on their horn and bellowing some quip of genial encouragement as they drive by.

I don’t mind it at all, it’s endearing. Though I do wonder at it, and it gives me a little pause.

My concern is that it might come to infect the purpose and aim of what I’m doing. I am grateful for such kindness and cheerful words of support, at the same time I want to remember that it is not for their applause that I take to the streets night after night.

As my footfalls echo in staccato off the city streets, I am more alone than not. My town is a quiet rural community, nestled ‘neath woods lovely dark and deep. I must be motivated internally if I am to continue in this discipline, or it will be all-too-easy to let slide subtly into ennui and then inaction.

So much has changed since then, and I don’t want to go back to where I was. There is no going back.

This morning I took physical measurements to gauge my progress. I only do this at the beginning of the month, for no other reason than I simply don’t want to think about it during.

But according to the same scale I used July 1, I currently weigh 259.0 pounds. This is 16 pounds less than I weighed at the beginning of August, though still a ways away from my goal of 200 pounds. For a large-framed man of 6 feet 2 inches I think 200 pounds is a good weight, provided it’s sufficiently conditioned and kept up.

Since the first of July my weight has dropped 30 pounds, and I’ve gone down two sizes in my jeans. But more than the loss of some excess, has been just how the weight I’ve kept has continued to change. Old familiar lines along sinew and muscle have emerged in greater relief. Most impressive have been the muscles in my legs, transforming from pliable dormant muscle into something much harder and better defined.

More than this are the changes I continue to feel within.

I remember how one mile seemed an inexorable distance, and then how running two miles seemed so far beyond my capability. How I struggled, sometimes with both legs limping, to keep going even when the pain seemed to scream against me. How many morning I woke up sore, hobbled through my day, and returned to run again the following night.

This morning I arose comfortably, my body feeling taut and powerful, and worked outside in the late-summer heat of an East Texas day. As I have grown accustomed to running long distances in this heat, I find that leisurely working outdoors provides little challenge. A pickup game of basketball doesn’t leave me rubbing my calves late into the night. I can go, and keep going, with men a decade younger than I am… and sometimes even forget that I am only a few short years away from the dreaded milestone of age 40. I’m running in a 5K next month, and I’ve signed up for a 10K in the springtime.

But it’s not all glad-handing, back-patting, and accolades… there’s a lot to work on, and I am by no means standing upon the high plateau. No, I’ve just grabbed some footing from which to see how far I’ve climbed. A quick glance upward shows I’ve still a long way to go to get to where I want to be.

My diet needs to improve. I need to pull back mightily on the refiined sugar and white flour. I’ve still made no discernible changes to what I eat, though I’ve found this training has imposed a few involuntary changes on my diet. Because I run so much in the late afternoon and early evenings, I tend to want to get my eating “done” earlier in the day. I rarely eat at all in the evenings anymore, though I drink a tremendous amount.

I need to work out more often, and longer. Currently I’m doing a few sets of calisthenics before and after my runs, but it’s meager and perfunctory. It seldom strains me and I know it’s not helping me get much stronger. I need longer, better, and more regimented exercise. I need to be lifting weights again. I still need to stretch longer and drink more water before and maybe even during.

But this is now two months in, and I’m still going. I have to admit, I wondered if I would. I wondered if this would be some short-term summer fling that would be cast aside easily once the busier time of year began in earnest as August wore on.

It’s not always been easy but I’ve stayed at it, and time and time again I’ve found a way to make it work. I ran with a stone bruise and a twisted ankle that made each step a tiny torture. I ran in hiking boots during a camping trip because I stupidly forgot to pack my sneakers. I ran in the rain when a summer storm refused to go away. I ran late at night after a 16-hour workday. I ran when I was too tired. I ran when I didn’t feel like it. I ran when it hurt.

This isn’t going to stop, not while I can still put one foot in front of the other…  I’m going to run when I’m broken open, run when I’ve torn the bandage off, run in the middle of the fighting. I’ll run in my blood, and run when I’m perfectly free.

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