I’m stubborn. Not about a lot of things, actually, very few things. I compromise daily with my wife, 75% of the time yielding to what she wants instead of what I might want, if they happen to be different (she usually folds on what movie I want to see). Stubbornness comes in handy when you are working toward a major goal. I watched my ten year old step-son save up almost $1000 over a 6 month period of time to buy a touch screen laptop. He was always doing chores for his grandparents, asked everyone for cash for Christmas and his birthday, delaying the instant gratification that the normal pile of loot would bring. He went almost 7 months without spending a penny on anything to get what he wanted. That is #awesomeness!
Just a little about me to preface the rest of this post. At 45 years of age, and ~75 pounds overweight, I’m NOT the guy that’s suppose to take up running. I’ve spent most of my adult life carrying around 50-100 pounds of extra fat, making every excuse in the book not to exercise. “I’ll watch my eating first, THEN, I’ll start an exercise program” was my standard reply. And, sure enough, I’d lose 25 pounds monitoring my intake, but I never took that next step.
In June of this year, my step-son had a soccer camp each evening at the local fields. The field has a track around it, and on the first night, my wife started walking with one of the other moms. I felt a little left out, so I walked a pretty fast lap to try and catch up. Oh my gosh! I had never felt the power of shin splints before. I couldn’t even walk a single lap at a quick pace. I shuffled the rest of the lap, feeling slightly embarrassed when a 70+ year old woman eased by me, asking if I needed help.
That’s the day the change happened. Not in my body, but in my mind.
The rest of the week, while soccer camp was going on, I would vary my pace and form, and I thought the shin splints were over as long as I went slow. Oh, you innocent little boy!
On the June 18th, the week following the camp, I decided I was going to tough it out and just run. How hard can it be, right? I’m seeing people almost as big as I am on the track running lap after lap. My wife and I started out the first lap with a walk. When we hit the starting line, we took off at a very slow pace. At the 1/8th mile mark, I felt and heard a pop in my right calf and although I didn’t go down, I knew I was hurt. I hobbled to the edge of the track and plopped down. I started rubbing the area, but it was too sensitive to apply much pressure. My wife helped me to the vehicle and I took a handful of Aleve (2) and put an ice pack on it.
For the next 3 days, I kept ice on it around the clock. My wife kept her walking/running up at my insistence. On the 4th day after the accident, I began walking again…albeit VERY gingerly.
It was at this point in time that I decided to give myself some encouragement. I set a goal for myself by registering for a 5K in September and another in December. I wasn’t going to quit.
A week later I was down again, this time because of extreme shin splints.
I tried walking in my tennis shoes, my Crocks, a new pair of running shoes…I went to a running store in the city where I work and they analyzed my gait in slow motion and recommended yet another pair of shoes. My shins AGONIZED me whenever I took more than a few steps at a fast pace.
In frustration, I tossed off my shoes and tried walking barefoot. What was this? No pain? You’re kidding me? I began walking barefoot. First a mile every other night, then two. One night I looked a the bottom of my feet. It looked like I had been walking on fire and glass mixed together. To top it off, I had a blood blister about 3 inches long on my right sole. Something had to give.
I had toyed with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers several years ago as a novelty more than anything. They rubbed my feet in an odd spot and I eventually gave them to my 16 year old son. He loved them and ran in them during football conditioning.
The selection of Five Fingers has really exploded and there are many more designs and styles than when I had looked before. I tried on several other shoes, but kept coming back to the Vibrams. They made my feet feel like they were singing! After I made the mistake of sharing a photo on Facebook of my new found treasures, I was promptly asked to turn in my man-card. I took a lot of ribbing, but it was a small price to pay.
I began to run/walk a few more yards each time I went out, running for 20 seconds, walking for 20 seconds, and growing those numbers. I was making slow steady progress. Eventually, the doctor’s appointment I had set for my accident rolled around, and I was told I had ruptured a muscle in my calf that I can’t pronounce, much less spell. And since I had already started walking/running again, it wasn’t a career ending injury.
The next evening, July 18th, the day after I turned 45, I started another run, and on the 2nd lap, SNAP! I injured the OTHER calf in the exact spot. You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!! I hobbled over to my wife where she was talking to some friends and gruffly said you’ve got to get me home.
I took a full 2 weeks off running because this one felt much more serious. I did some walking, but with very small steps. The entire time all this is going on, I’m watching my wife progress with jealous pride. I was very proud of how she was progressing, but felt sorry for myself at the same time because as her pace increased, I was stuck hobbling around.
It never occurred to me that a 45 year old, obese man shouldn’t take up running. My stubbornness had kicked in and I refused to quit. Massaging my legs before each visit to the track seemed to let me go a little further each time. We started going nightly instead of every other night. I watched my fast walking time splits get better and better.
A week ago, I started trying to run again. On Sunday, I was able to run a complete lap around the track before I started walking. Monday I pushed it up to a lap plus a quarter…Tuesday, a lap and a half. I was drenched in sweat, gasping for air after those small runs.
Then yesterday, September 3rd rolled around. I only slept 3 hours on Tuesday night, so I was really tired yesterday. Several issues at work left me feeling drained. I went to my in-laws for dinner, where I not only ate “non-clean” but I also ate too much. When we got home and started getting our running clothes on, I told my wife I wasn’t expecting much because of all the above listed reasons. She promptly told me to stop complaining, it wasn’t allowed. She was right.
When we got to the fields, I spoke to a few people and made my way to the track. I physically and mentally felt rough. My only goal was to run 2 laps before I started walking. I rearranged my play list to make sure I had the right music at the front to carry me through those two laps, started my RunKeeper App, and took off. After 25 steps or so, I knew I wasn’t going to make it 2 laps. Eating so close to run time was going to kill me. I told myself that I was at least going to make it one lap.
I made my way around and when I crossed the one lap mark, my inner voice told me not to wimp out, because my wife was running too and I didn’t want her to see me fade. So I pressed forward.
I travel on the outer lip of the track to get the most distance out of each lap. It’s a mental trick, but it works best for me. Unfortunately, it seemed like EVERYONE using the track was running in lane 7, meaning I was having to constantly go “excuse me” or “coming around”.
I managed to get through the first lap without passing out, however the bloated feeling was taking it’s toll on me. I kept running. Slow pace. Focused on the music. I noticed I was passing the 2 lap mark and I asked myself if I could make it one more lap. Boom. Lap 3 was finished.
I made a new mental goal. I was going to run 5 laps. If I could do 3 then I could do 5. I reset my music to start back over because I needed to hear those first songs again. My wife passed me on the left and I gave her a little nod to let her know I was OK.
Wait a minute… I lost count. Was that 4 or 5 laps I just finished? I’ll just think that it’s 4 and that way, if it were 5, I’ve got an extra one under my belt.
I had a stretch with no other bodies on the track and while maintaining my snail’s pace, looked at my RunKeeper App. WHAT THE CRAP? I’d already gone 2.2 miles. I wasn’t keeping up with the laps. I was just running.
New goal. Run 5K. 3.1 Miles. If I had come that far, I couldn’t stop. Oh there’s someone I know on the track that look like they are going to speak to me. I look down and keep going (sorry about that!!!). I can’t stop. If I do, I’ll never start back. My wife is walking off the track to go sit down. I gasp out to her that I haven’t stopped yet.
I cross the 3 mile barrier. I thought to myself, I’m actually going to make it. That last 0.1 miles, my feet like they had concrete blocks tied to them. I glanced at RunKeeper and it said 3.11 miles. I stopped and thought I was going to pass out. My head was very light, and my legs felt like Jello. I managed to get to where my wife was sitting and I asked to borrow her chair.
I did a screen shot of my stats and posted on Facebook and the support was overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as many likes on a post before. That meant almost as much to me as actually accomplishing something I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do.
My first “OFFICIAL 5K” is 17 days from now, and I know I can do it. Over the next 17 days, I’ll focus on shaving a minute or so off my time. I have no illusions of winning or placing in this race, or any race in the future.
It doesn’t matter.
I’ve already won.