I've decided to start writing about running. I know full well that there are a million blogs out there but I don't really care if anyone reads this, it's more for me. I want to track my journey in more than just short bursts on Daily Mile and hopefully if I learn something maybe 1 other person might be helped. I've been inspired by guys like Greg Strosaker or Brian Vinson who use their blogs as no doubt a personal catharsis but also as a platform to communicate. So, from here on out, there will definitely be things written about my family and about my beliefs, but this will primarily be a running blog.
A little less than a year ago I was finally fed up; sick of the excuses, of looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a slightly rounder, chubby version of myself. I was tired of running 2 days and then doing nothing for 15 and even more importantly, it was hard for me to believe that I felt that 5 miles was a long way to run. It took a long time to get here, 7 years to be precise. Sure, I had run during those 7 years. I had completed 2, count them, 2 5k races in 18:45 and 18:32 respectively and I had probably run a week of 30 miles at some point in there before taking a month off in order to "save time" for other things. It wasn't always this way.
In February of 2002 I found myself in the middle of a snow covered field on my college campus sitting in a wheel chair. I couldn't go anywhere and was going to be late to class because the wheels kept spinning on the snow and the brutal Indiana wind was cutting my skin like a knife. I got to the point where I started just yelling out "some help here!" and one kind soul came and pushed me over to my building. My girlfriend Rachel, who later became my wife, got pretty good at pushing me around during that 6 week period although the attention wore off quickly and for a guy who hates being the victim, I was sick of explaining the situation.
Back up. The injury started normally with some little shin splints in the middle of a routine 8 miler in December of 2001. I had just completed my third season of college xc and had set a PR of 26:30 for a xc 8k. I was feeling invincible, eying the low 15's in the 5k for the 2002 track season after having run 15:35 the year before as a sophomore. But those shin splints turned into more than an annoying ache. It got to the point where I couldn't drive because the motion of putting my foot to the ground in the car sent such a severe shot of pain through my leg that I would jerk the car and be sending a line of profanity through the windshield. The thing is, I was 20, about to turn 21 and I thought it would go away. So I continued to log the miles and run the workouts until one day during a 10 miler I couldn't do anything but limp. No stride, no jogging, nothing but hobbling. I finally went to the athletic trainers who I respected but to be fair, most of them were young college students, and they told me to ice it and it would be fine. Long story short, after a lot of visits around, I finally got a bone scan. The doctor told me before looking at the results that if we saw any blackening on my shins it was bad because that meant stress fractures. When he held up the scan both legs were completely dark with multiple lines down both shins. The only option to heal, in his opinion, was a wheel chair.
I never really recovered from that injury. The track season in 2002 was shot. I ran one xc race my senior year, in the fall of 2002 after nothing but cross-training with one (yes one) run on a tread mill. The race was not fast. I had put on pounds that would never come off. Well, until 2011. The only saving grace in college was my attempt to get in shape to run some 800's in the spring of 2003 when I finally broke 2 minutes again but I felt like I was running in slow motion, and compared to the past, I was.
And that's why I took 7 years off. It wasn't just because of the injury or the fear of getting hurt again, it was that my running pride had been broken. The thought that I was fast and unstoppable had been shattered and the weight that I gained prevented me from just showing up and crushing it like I did when I was 18. In the past I ran for the wrong reasons. I ran to see my name in the paper or to win or to get the attention of a coach or a girl or just the respect of my teammates. I never ran to run.
Last year I decided to swallow my pride and start over as if I had never begun. For 3 months I ran slow runs and finally built up the ability to run about 8 miles. It felt amazing. I was listening to books on my iPod as I ran like "Born to Run" and "Once a Runner" who re-inspired me to think about making this a serious commitment. Then 2 major things happened in the summer of 2010 that sealed the deal. In June, while back in the States for a speaking trip, a friend gave me the Garmin 305 watch which transformed everything. Then a little later in the summer my friend J.B. invited me to join a site called Daily Mile which I sloughed off as yet another time waster on the internet. The combination of knowing my workouts with the Garmin and the encouragement of accountability and community on Daily Mile has given me a new love for running.
In October of 2010 I ran my first half marathon, got hurt again the winter, rebounded for a decent half in March, and then completed my first marathon in April of 2011. That was a tough experience but that's a story for another day.
The reason I run is because I believe that God has created these legs to move. I believe there is something more important going on when I hit the road in my dinky running shorts and HR monitor than splits and mile repeats. I believe that I am learning again what it means to live the way I was made, with humility, with grace, with courage, and with guts. I believe that just like I experienced to a much more profound degree in the spiritual sense of the term at age 14, I have been re-born.