My dad is the smartest person I know. He taught me to ride a bike, to play chess (we played until I beat him and then…we stopped), to love chocolate and a good debate, and of course, to run. Some of the best parts of me come from him, and even after 36 years, I still learn something every time we talk. He’s been running as long as I can remember, and as much as I would pout about going to races on chilly Saturday mornings as a kid, I was always proud of my fit, fast, dad; who looked and acted way younger (and cooler) than all the other dads.
I’m super excited to feature his words here today, and if they inspire you even a little bit as much as he inspires me every day, you’ll be so glad you stopped by.
A guy can consider himself pretty lucky to be living among the people that inspire him the most. That’s the case with me. My wife and kids have influenced me more than I ever could have imagined. That’s why I thought it was so nice that Elizabeth, one of my favorite kids, asked me to contribute to her blog. She asked me to write about running and how it has affected my life. Elizabeth’s running and other sports as a high school athlete played a big part in my running. It was something we shared besides the TGIF television schedule, popcorn, and nervous stomachs. Her experiences as an adult have also inspired me to seek out the things that make my life happy and healthy. I figure if I am at happy and healthy that’s a pretty good place to be.
With that in mind this won’t be a blog about how I overcame severe obstacles in life to drag myself out for a run and found salvation in a pair of Nikes and a Goretex running suit. It also won’t be a before and after picture of me and my resting heart rate, VO2 max, cardial pablicavications or any other critical body data that has improved through running. But if reading this gives you a nudge to go for a run, bike ride, swim, walk, or do a sit-tup during reruns of Friends, good for both of us.
Eileen, my wife, and Elizabeth’s mom, starting running not too long after Elizabeth was born and her body had recovered from the experience. I openly mocked her. I guess I was jealous that she was starting a fitness program and I had little interest in sweating or breathing hard. I was an athlete through college and thought that the fitness level I had at 22 would certainly last me until I was 90 without any effort on my part. Wrong. So, inspired by Eileen, and not being able to button my pants without a big sucking noise, I ventured out on my first run and have been running ever since. It has been close to 35 years now and I have enjoyed it very much.
Like Elizabeth, I enjoy making lists, so if you are still with me here is my top 10 list of the best things about running.
1. I wanted to look better. This is the one and only reason I started out on my first run. I had gained about 25 pounds since Eileen and I got married. It wasn’t pretty muscle weight. It was rolly-polly Michelin Man weight. I tried dieting but that involves will power all day. With running all I had to do was suck it up for a half hour a day. My first run was a mile on a freezing February 1983 morning. I wore every piece of clothing I owned as it was -50 degrees out there with a 130 mph wind. No exaggeration. Interesting note here. My poor route planning meant I had to follow up my first mile run with my first mile walk. I got home and without taking off any of the now sweat-frozen gear plopped on my chair and waited about 3 hours to recover. I woke up once to find Eileen holding a mirror by my nose to make sure I was breathing.
2. Competition. The longer I ran the better I got. After a few months I had lost a significant amount of weight and I found myself running farther and faster. My first competitions were all in my head. I was competing against me. Now I know we sometimes associate competition with being a sore loser and with me that can be true sometimes but the competitive juices I had in college were very useful in me improving and enjoying running even more. It wasn’t long that I entered a local 5k and I was hooked. Since then I have entered hundreds of races of various distances and it has been a blast. There have been road trips to cool cities as well as our local races.
3. Looking and feeling young. I am eligible for Social Security, but I have been told, not to brag too much, that in my running gear, in the dark and maybe with a bit of snow on my face I can pass for 59 1/2. I’ll take it. Also, as long as you don’t see me getting off my recliner after the news, Big Bang reruns, and a Netflix movie, I move like I did when I was a much younger guy.
4. Just as good for my head as my heart. When I am happy my run is a celebration. When I am sad it consoles me. When I am tense it calms me down. And when I am confused it provides a path to a solution.
5. It’s my social time. I am so happy when I run with my family. I have run with all of my kids and hopefully will run with my granddaughter. I will wait until she can walk but after that she better be ready. Running with Eileen is the best. Nothing to add there. Also, I like running with the guys. So many of my friends were made through running. We have solved so many of the world’s problems on our runs. Too bad we can’t remember what we talked about.
6. Alone time. Running is as relaxing to me as yoga. The breathing, the repetitive movement, the scenery- all make a solitary run sort of a brain flossing, cobweb clearing of the brain.
7. Health benefits. It is kind of nice that something I like to do is good for me. Like lots of older guys, stuff is starting to go wrong. The nice thing is that they are going wrong at a slower rate than if I didn’t run and exercise. It is fun to show off on the doctor’s treadmill and get the the thumbs up from her. I have to admit that health isn’t the driving force to my running. I just really like it. Who knows if running will extend my life a day. I do know that it makes living up to that day better.
8. The shoes. I have a shoe problem. I have 3 pairs of new running shoes under my bed. 5 pairs of old shoes down in the basement and 3 pairs of currently using shoes at the door. I am not proud of this obsession but my running shoes are not only functional but they are the only currently stylish items I wear.
9. It’s a gateway activity. Running has led me to other fun things. That is, running and Eileen have led me to other fun things. I swim now. 10 years ago I could not. I am now a solid below average swimmer with several triathlons under my belt and plan on doing more. Biking, weight lifting, kayaking, yoga…ing? Getting out on the road has led me to more fun stuff than I could have imagined.
10. Finally, it keeps me in tune with my body. I like training hard. I like jogging easy. I like knowing that I can run with my kids and after my dog. I like dancing with my wife. I think we were made to move. I noticed after I retired that some aches and pains I think came from sitting at my desk have gone away. Now don’t get me wrong. I like TV, snacking, and hanging out as much as anyone but moving around gets the kinks out. Darn those old age kinks.
In a family of movers it just made sense for me to be one, too. My kids thought it was normal for moms and dads to run and exercise. I think we create our own normal. The more they participated in sports and fitness the more I was inspired to play just like them. It seems we created a sort of fitness cycle.
Time to go. Thanks for reading. I am off for a few miles then work on my relaxation yoga pose.