Today it’s hard to believe that when I was 17, I was a flat-footed, 5’9” kid clocking in at 248 pounds. At the end of my junior year in high school, I took a look at myself and knew something had to change. I spent that summer working out every day with a varied program of weightlifting in the basement gym at our local golf club just around the block from my family’s house. By fall, I had hit a growth spurt and with my weight training, had dropped 33 pounds. I entered my senior year at 215 pounds.
In the years that followed, my weight bobbed up and down, from lows in the 180s, to highs back around that 215 mark. Up until the summer of 2007, I focused solely on weight training and still saw running as only something to do to get away from someone chasing me. Until one day, after lifting, I thought to myself – “I bet you can’t run a mile.” A defiant voice inside me shouted back: “I BET I CAN!”
With that, I was off down the driveway and around the block – which was an even third of a mile. My breath scraped through my lungs and my mouth watered. My legs kicked hard against the asphalt and the big clunky shoes (not running shoes by ANY stretch) thundered along the pavement as I made my way around the first lap.
When I reached the halfway point of the second lap, I could feel the tightness in my legs clamp down, but I pushed on through it. I was gushing sweat in the July heat but focused on my goal. All the time, my brain was thinking of the doctors, gym teachers and others who all said – “you’ll never be much of a runner because of your flat feet.” I sneered angrily at the memories of their dismissals (which I had used up to that point as excuses) and found that they were spurring me on to run – RUN! – just this one mile.
By the time I was a quarter turn from home, I was exhausted. I’d guess my pace wasn’t far off from a ten-minute-mile at that point, but I rumbled along – defiantly whispering with each wheezing breath – “I CAN.” As I crossed the imaginary finish line extending out from the driveway, I raised my arms in a V and slowed to a walk. It took me another turn around the block to catch my breath and another to calm my heartbeat. I took one more to stretch my legs.
In my workout notebook, under “Chest & Biceps” I wrote “Ran 1 Mile” and underlined it. That was the day I became a runner; that was the day that my life and my outlook on fitness changed. Running was no longer a flight response – but a FIGHT response. Despite who I was, and what I had been told, by doctors, gym teachers and classmates – I WAS A RUNNER, DAMMIT – and I was going to KEEP RUNNING. And I did, but that’s another set of stories altogether.
The Upcoming Rad Run might be a target for you. It might be a test for you. It might just be a fun mud-filled rumble through the park trails with friends and family, but whatever it is to you; know that you CAN do this run, and any other one you put your mind to, whether it’s a mile or a marathon. Now get out there and show the world – and yourself – that YOU CAN!