How I became a runner


Moments before running my first half-marathon in 2011. No, that’s not fear in my eyes … as far as you know.

The first steps are a challenge. Find your form. Find your pace. Don’t step too hard; it’s almost like you’re lightly ricocheting off the ground, step by step by step. Don’t go too fast either, or you’ll wear yourself out too quickly.
And breathe, not too fast, not too deep, just enough to keep powering this machine you’ve now got lumbering along.
Only 13 miles to go. …

“My sport is your sport’s punishment.” It’s a pretty popular slogan for athletes in track and cross country.
I wasn’t one of those athletes when I was in school. I wasn’t an athlete at all. Not when there were cigarettes to smoke and lunches consisting of a Big Red and a Reese’s cup.
Yep. Picture of health.
But after I got married, my wife and I realized we liked hiking in nearby Brown County. And we would often walk around our neighborhood, just for fun.
And sure, on occasion I would talk about how cool it would be to compete in the local sprint triathlon, a shorter version of those IronMan events. But talk was all it was.

2011 comes around, and I’ve been a former smoker for seven years or so, and through a confusing bit of circumstances about who wants to run and what event it is, my wife and I end up signing up for the Monumental Half Marathon in Indianapolis.
We find a couple exercise programs designed to prepare us. One’s an eight-week program to get you from couch potato to running 30 minutes at a time. The other’s a a 10-week training schedule for first-time half-marathoners.
This event is in November, so we start training at the beginning of July. A hot July. We quickly learn that the best time for us to train is in the morning. Up at 5 a.m., wake ourselves up, out the door. During the week, weekends as well.
We plot out courses nearby. One takes us by farm fields “fresh” with mulch. Another winds in and around and through a community somewhat near ours that actually has sidewalks and streets wide enough to run down, unlike ours.
Damn condos.
So we make it through the hot days and the cold days and the rainy days and the “I just want to stay in bed” days. We persevere through achy knees and sore heels and burning legs and the occasional fall.
November comes around and so does the half marathon, and despite slowing up towards the end with leg cramps and a gimpy knee, we finish in just over 3 hours. Not Olympic competitor time, but still, not bad for a couple first-timers.
I run a couple 5Ks in the spring and we sign up again and we cut a little bit off our time. But we’ve both hit the wall, so to speak, and decide that we’re going to take it a little easier on ourselves in 2013.

2013 bleeds into 2014, and 2014 into 2015, and still no running. The desire’s kind of there for me, but not enough for me to make the effort to actually get out and do it.
But as my gut gets bigger and bigger, I realize how much better I felt when I was running on a regular basis. I was still overweight, sure, but at least I was making an effort to be healthier.
So I signed up again for the Monumental Half Marathon. I’m five years older, (expletive deleted) pounds heavier, but I’m eager to make an effort to break that 3-hour barrier.

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