I was someone that spent most of my life being being very active, athletically toned, able to keep up with those much younger than me through my early 30s. A basketball knee injury in 2005, resulting in a complete left ACL tear sidelined me from activities I participated in most (basketball, football, volleyball, softball). From late in 2005 until the summer of 2018 I spent time focusing on other priorities, never really feeling like I was gaining weight or getting out of shape.
I took up archery as a new hobby in the spring of 2018. That fall I went elk/deer hunting with my eldest son, excited and ready to harvest my first animal with my bow. During our hike in and a drop of over 1,000 feet I looked at my son and said, “this is going to be fun to go back up” while smiling confidently with my full pack of gear and bow at my side. I felt like I almost died that day on my way back up, having to stop multiple times, with my son steadying me at times as well. This hurt my ego and internal feelings of being forever young. I’d always been the guy everyone thought was in shape, so this was a new experience to need help. The problem was, that like we can do so many times in life, we ignore what is going on inside because well, the outward ain’t looking so bad, right?
Time To Make A Change
In addition to all of this, over the years I’d seen my cholesterol rise, only to get it back down with small dietary changes. I was occasionally bothered that it was getting harder for me to tie my shoes with the slowly growing dad pudge. After the embarrassing ego check on the hunting trip, I spent the next two months determined that it would never happen again, while doing nothing but pondering my next steps. I was struggling with what to do to change. Gym memberships cost money, and it would mean I have to go through all that process to go to the gym, which I knew I wouldn’t stick with. Since I had run track as a teenager and hated it, I swore I would never run or be a runner. This started to haunt me a bit because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I only really needed shoes and a place to run. It was hard to argue with this, as I just happened to have both. On the day after Christmas, with a new pair of clearance running shoes, I laced up and ran the hardest 3 miles of my life at a pace of 11:12 min/mile. How could this be, I’ve run a 6 minute mile before? That was the start for me, and I never wanted to start over again.
In January 2019, my cholesterol came back ridiculously high (299), with my doctor (also a runner, wouldn’t you know it!) throwing around my health risks and telling me I need to be on a lipid lowering medication. I looked at her and said with real confidence this time, “Give me 6 months!”
All I Needed Were Shoes and a Place to Run
Fast Forward to 2021, a year of COVID, and I am in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically with my cholesterol back in the normal range. During the widespread shutdowns, all I needed were shoes and a place to run. That’s no problem, right? Well as any runner knows, the mental part is often the worst and you have to find ways to push through. My mantra is to always run anyway and to keep going. I have been running races, both in person and and virtual since early 2019, most recently completing the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge in early March 2021. I have had my share of setbacks due to pushing too hard or allowing myself to be a victim of my own mental warfare. Without a doubt, running has been one of the biggest blessings and it has exposed me to opportunities to meet amazing people. During an emotional time filled with race issues, a pandemic, and life stresses, for the most part I have been able to run anyway. In fact, the running community has been welcoming, supportive, and positive, while doing so in a way that holds each other accountable to keep putting the work in. The thing is, as runner (which I finally call myself now), we know the pain, what one has to push through, what can creep in your mind to keep you from lacing up, and it goes without saying that there are physical demands as you put miles on your body..
Now 50, hitting that half century mark, I can confirm that it’s never too late to start. With a small circle of friends, none of which are runners, social media with all its typical negativity has been a huge positive for me. In my opinion, Instagram is the best platform for runners, and if you aren’t sure who to follow, start by following #runnersofinstagram. It has helped me grow a network, which I consider a community of amazing people that are my accountability group. Throughout the pandemic when it has been easy to sit and feel locked down, so many runners are still lacing up and getting miles in. This has helped me remove my own excuses for not doing the same. The running community doesn’t care about your weight, skin color, speed, political lean, etc.. Everyone just runs and appreciates the struggle and opportunity that it presents.A major positive is that you get to be a tourist in your own town and confirm that the world isn’t as bad as you might otherwise be told it is.
Running Has A Ripple Effect
Finally, running has a ripple effect. Others see you running,from people on the street, to family and friends, and it has been encouraging to me how it helps others level up, as well. I never have to say anything, I just do my thing and over time and with consistency, I have seen others move their own needle as I move mine. You lead, people will follow, and eventually your community gets healthier, more aware, and a little better every day!
All it takes is a pair of shoes and a place to run. This should speak to the little kid in you that never gave it a second thought. See ya out there! AND, if I see ya out there, I guarantee you are inspiring me!!!
Chris’ Tips to get Started and Keep Going-
- Use a mobile running app like MapMyRun – They help you track your runs and most have Couch to 5k plans (or similiar) – Just up to you to do what the plan tells you to do
- Playlists and Podcasts- Think back to all those songs you listened to as a teenage, then add them to your playlist. Lace up and hit play!
- Shoes – when funds allow, get a good pair. Find a running store, try on all you can. Start with more cushioned, responsive sole, for the pushing you are going to do after all…less wear on the joints. Buy last years model…
- Gear – don’t invest too much at first. Wear what you have and decide what you like or don’t like and purchase….buy clearance.
- Social Media- It can be a game changer when used for good!