I’ll start off by saying I use to be a cute skinny kid up until the age of about 5 or 6 years old. Blame it on TV or moving back to PA with my Gram and her Italian cooking (“You have to eat everything on your plate!”) or my own lack of self-control (probably more of the last one), but I became the heaviest kid from probably 1st through 12th grade, excluding the heavyweights on the football offensive line. I was fat, and I knew it and was picked on for it for all of my childhood and some of college (I put an end to that quickly, but that’s another story).
So, needless to say, I was a pretty inactive kid. Sure, I had a city playground literally in my backyard, but I preferred to stay inside and read books and play video games. My parents tried to get me active by enrolling me in Karate, Wrestling, Baseball (which is NOT an active sport!) and Football. The first two just weren’t my style, although I did win a couple wrestling trophies, but that’s because the other team had to forfeit that weight category 🙁
I did do pretty well in baseball, but never got past minor league. Plus, my weight and playing catcher didn’t work out together and I suffer a weird-looking knee to this day. I couldn’t keep up with the running in high school football compared to the 4 years of football before, so I dropped out and became the waterboy. It was embarrassing, but I was used to the abuse by then. I hated running and would do anything I could to get out of it, including faking injuries.
But then I got into running around age 27. Why? Because my wife wanted to run a marathon before she hit 30, and since I agreed to help her train, I figured I would sign up too. We gave ourselves 5 months from couch to 26.2 miles. My wife has a runner’s body, while I had a, um, football fan’s body. The kind of fan who is too lazy to go to the stadium for a game so he stays at home and watches on TV. Needless to say, it was a tough 5 months.
If you were here for my first post back in 2006, you would have read about whether I think running is really a bonding activity for couples. I wrote that back when my wife and I were training for our first marathon back in 2006, and for us, no, running is not a bonding activity. But for others, it definitely is. Why?
Well, I hate talking when I run. When I run, all I think about is “how much longer do I have to go?” or “am I breathing right, how is my posture, etc.?”. But most often, my mind is just blank, and I love that. I don’t like distractions because I need to focus on my pace, breathing and everything else my body is resisting.
Prior to about April 2006, I never ran more than a mile, and even then, I think I cheated out of a couple of laps back in high school. Every one of those training runs was torture, whether it was 3 miles or 23 miles (yes, we did one of those). The hardest part was starting and the best part was finishing…or the nap I would take later in the day. I didn’t train properly, although we really stick to the training schedule.
I started training for the marathon at 226lbs, and on the day of the marathon, I weighed in at 226lbs. I know marathon training isn’t a weight-loss tool. If you’re losing weight, you’re training wrong. It’s all about endurance and keeping the body stable, so if you’re losing weight, something is wrong. But when you’re 5’10” and 226lbs, you can stand to lose a few pounds, but I took the opportunity to take in the extra calories I was burning.
Why Do I Still Run?
So let’s get to the point. I hate running, so why do I do it? Like I said, the best part for me was the end, and the nap, but I went about 5 years since that marathon without running (and I herniated a disc because of it). But I learned that I love the pain. It sounds weird and sadistic, but I love knowing that the effort that I’m putting into the activity will yield results: faster times, longer distances and burned calories.
Over the last year, I’ve lost 25+ pounds and finally got under 200lbs for the first time since maybe early high school or earlier. The marathon was my first and only race until last year when I ran a 5k “obstacle course” filled with mud, fire, barbed wire and lots of pain. I said I would never do that again, but when you’re relaxing on the grass afterwards eating your turkey leg, you think “I think I can do that faster now that I know the course”. I recently ran a true road-course 5k to find out my base time, and met my goal by seconds. I’m even signed up to do another marathon, and I hope to knock off an hour or more. I’m doing this one solo though.
I’m not a competitive person with others. Some people think I am, but in reality, I’m competitive only with myself. I might use others’ times or achievements as benchmarks, but I’m not out to “one-up” them. If I did a 5k in 30 minutes, the next one I want to do in 29 or faster. If I did the marathon in 6 hours, I want the next one done in 5 or faster.
And this translates to the rest of my life. I’m not competitive with others in my job, but rather I rely on benchmarks I set for myself, whether based on experience or someone else, to try to attain more. I’ve nearly tripled my income since graduating college, and it was a a slow progression of job improvements, salary negotiations and, of course, job skill enhancements. We’ve gotten rid of $200,000+ in debt over the last 6-7 years or so, and that was through constant improvement and testing our wills and commitment.
I don’t run because I love the breeze in my face, the companionship of a fellow runner or the endorphins released during the run. I run because it’s painful but I know that pain yields results. I want to test my limits every time so that I can raise the benchmark and do better next time. I have to force myself to get off the couch and run, and when I’m running I have to force myself not to give up when my body is tired, but in the end, after I’m home, showered and changed, I feel really good about what I just accomplished.
The fat kid has run a marathon, two 5k’s and will be running another marathon this year. I never, ever would have thought I would or could be that person when I was younger.