Don't Call Me A Runner

Because, I'm not. I'll admit that, from a distance, it looks like I am. But, I am not. With the launch of my 2018 goals this year, there have been intended-though-not-intentional repercussions. Confusing? Let me explain. I wanted to make changes, and I knew those changes were going to cause other changes. However, I never knew what those changes would be. One minute, I give myself a goal to "exercise 5 minutes a day," the next minute, I'm running a 5k on the treadmill. Well, not literally the next minute. One thing leads to another, as they say.

I initially started walking briskly on the treadmill immediately after using my Total Gym in the morning. I enjoy watching videos I've put in my “watch later” list on YouTube while I'm on the treadmill. They're generally educational or motivational, but it's a mis-mosh of whatever I've saved for later. This helps the time go by more quickly and efficiently, and it can be easy to forget how long I've been on the treadmill. Me being me, I pushed myself a little more for the mere challenge. It wasn't too long after when I started running more regularly on the treadmill and actually looking forward to it. Then, one morning out of the blue, I decided to run a 5k. All of this lead to an actual 5k that I ran on May 21st, 2018.

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My wife has been running seriously for a few years now. (You can read her blog about it, or follow her running page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.) She has run this particular 5k, The SBM Fire Department Fit2Fight 5k, for all three years of her running career. It actually was her first 5k, and I guess it’s now mine, too. She has asked me if I wanted to or would consider running more races. I'm not opposed to it, but I also don't want to take running away from her. She is much more committed to the idea of running races than I am. I don't want to get in the way of her “thing.” I have plenty of “things” already. Actually, I have so many “things” that I am often found curled up in the corner sobbing, because I just don't know which "thing" I should do. Despite that, I think I could get behind running a 5k now and then as long as it doesn't prevent her from following that passion. Though, I would like to keep it to 5ks for the foreseeable future.

Off and on for the few weeks leading up to the race, my wife had casually asked if I'd be interested in running it. I can be a bit of a hem and haw-er sometimes, and I did such with this. (I had said I wasn't going to run races a month prior and now my wife will never let me forget I said that.) On the one hand, it might be fun and a proud accomplishment. On the other hand, it could be hot and uncomfortable. Was I really going to commit to a distance that in practice I had only done twice? I knew I could sign up same-day for the 5k, so I would always just move on with my day and forget about it. I always knew that I could walk it in the least, and I was going to be pushing my two-year-old in the jogging stroller if I did join the race. (The older two kids had supervision at the firehouse. I wasn't going to push all three in a jogging stroller. I just had a vision of that. Nope. Not going to do that, ever.) I’m certainly not going to expect my wife to push the jogging stroller so that I can run without. Like I said, it’s her "thing."

It came down to the day of the race and my wife, toddler, and I were running errands and shopping that morning. She asked me again, and the idea of walking it if I really wanted to won out, and I said, “Sure.” She asked what I was going to wear, and I realized that I really didn't have warm weather running clothes. So, we bought me a pair of shorts and a shirt for running that wicks away moisture. Activewear. Check me out in my ACTIVEWEAR. I figured my six-year-old Adidas soccer shoes would work for my feet, though probably not the most ideal. I was all set.

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On an average day, I’m done running by 8 am. This race was at 6:30 pm, so that was different. Also, my wife got a new, fancier Fitbit that looks like an Apple Watch, and I’ve been using her “older” one, an Alta 101. I had been using the Fitbit for a couple of weeks at that point, and so I had been “getting my steps in” all day to hit my step goal. Usually, it’s the other way around. And, by the way, I should mention that I’ve really taken to the Fitbit. I had given my wife a hard time about it in playful jest ever since she started using it in 2013, but I get it. I don’t think it’s for everyone. One MUST be motivated and/or competitive for the Fitbit to have an impact. Luckily, I’m both. Also, it gamifies health, and I love making life into a game. Let’s just say that I’ve been kicking some butt in step competitions. Also, I’ve doubled my minimum daily water intake from 48 ounces to 96. It’s been effective.

After we signed ourselves in at the Fit2Fight 5k, we walked around and stretched a bit. Not a lot of people were stretching, but it didn’t bother me. Maybe, it’s because I’m a newbie, and I stood out. Maybe, they’re too cool for school. I don’t care. It’s my body, and I know what I need to do. Plus, I had been getting a bunch of steps in all day, and that gets a person's muscles tight. Stretch4Life, YO! Maybe that should be my handle. My wife gave me a quick tutorial on how to use the jogging stroller, and soon enough, it was time to go to the starting line for some quick instruction from the events organizer, a firefighter at the station.

I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do in the race. I didn’t want to walk the whole thing. I felt like I had to do more than walk to satisfy my ego, but I also didn’t feel any pressure to do so. When the race started, I had to quickly get acclimated to running with a jogging stroller for the first time. Also, people were bunched together, slowly spreading out as they found their pace and place in the race. Once we left the station’s parking lot, we were on a sidewalk. It was a good time for me to think about what I wanted to do, now that I was actually running. The weird thing about running that non-runners won’t understand (I’m still not a runner.) is that starting out kind of sucks some days. You start asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” But, then, you find your groove and after a few minutes—or just before a mile for me—it actually starts to feel good. This is caused by the body's natural drugs, aka runner's high, and why people actually get addicted to running. It can feel pretty damn amazing, actually.

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While running on the sidewalk, I realized that I didn’t want to go at the pace I was going. I wanted to go faster. Not a lot faster, but I felt claustrophobic. I like having space to feel like I'm running MY race, not someone else's. I needed to reposition, and so I did when I had the chance once we hit a street and turned right. I passed about ten people to get in front of them. This next stretch had a slight uphill, and I wondered if I had made the right decision. I decided that I would make sure it was the right decision and pushed onwards.

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I slowed to a brisk walk a few times throughout the race, the first time being about a third of the way in, but not necessarily because I was pushing myself too hard. It was in part because I didn’t want to push myself to the point of no return, black out, and have my toddler sitting on the side of the road. It was also in part because I wanted to give my body a chance to catch up on the oxygen and whatnot that my legs and company needed to keep competing at my highest level. I wanted to finish strong, just a little catch-up to go the long distance. I was happy with my breathing, taking big, deep breaths in and out the whole way. The sweat was glistening off of my big, beautiful, bald head.

I AM glad that I had a slower start. I think it’s a good way to warm-up and feel out how your body is reacting, because one doesn’t know until in the moment. Often times on the treadmill, I’ll go at a nice comfortable pace for a while, and then something inside of me just wants to GO, and so I increase the speed and go how fast my legs want to. So, I personally see this as learning how I work best, and then using it to my advantage. If I had started out at the pace I finished with, I think I would have walked much more of the race, or at least, I wouldn’t have had the strong finish I wanted.

Rather than go through every step of the race, I will say a few more things about it. 1) There was a seven-year-old girl that didn’t want me to pass her, so that was, um, interesting. She kept positioning herself so I couldn't pass her. Dick move, really. When I did finally push hard to pass her, we had transitioned to a sidewalk and the front wheel of the jogging stroller caught on the grass. I pushed through that as well, and I knew I wasn’t going to tip over or crash, but it did scare the girl into slowing down and moving enough so that I could pass her. I wasn’t going to do what she did, but I also wasn’t going to let HER pass me. 2) Throughout most of the race, I paced myself based on two people. There was an older lady behind me and a mom with a jogging stroller in front of me. I didn’t want the older lady passing me, and I had to keep up with the mom in front. Focus can conquer the world. 3) One of the things motivating me was my wife. About halfway in, I could see her in the distance, maybe about three-hundred feet ahead of me. I knew I wasn’t going to catch up to her, nor was I going to try that nonsense, but it made me feel like I was doing well. It helped push me forward.

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The last two-hundred feet of the 5k is a pretty great memory. My wife had finished moments prior, and she was making her way back to get the stroller from me so that I could finish without any restrictions. Once she did so, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me, and I could run faster and as intended by my body’s design. I rounded the short corner and faced the finish line, people were cheering, and my eyes zeroed in on the clock. I never thought that I would have finished with a sub-30 time, but I did, 29:45. Damn, maybe I CAN do this, I thought. My wife kept going on about how she expected to have to go back farther in the pack to find me and that I was not far behind her. Having a proud and happy wife is pretty great, too.

Three days later, my wife, toddler, and I found ourselves out shopping while my car was in for normal preventive maintenance work. We were in an area we aren’t in a lot, and so we took advantage of the area's stores. One of the places we stopped at was The Running Room. The Running Room is a specialized store selling shoes to runners. It’s pretty important for people who run a lot to have the right shoes. And so, I gave my story to the expert, and he gave me his recommendation.

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I’ve taken to running on the treadmill barefoot, and it doesn’t bother me. Also, I don’t usually have new shoes or shoes with great arch support. Let’s just say, my feet have never been pampered. This is more of a problem for some people. I wonder if it’s good foot genes, I've just toughened my feet over the years, or a higher tolerance for discomfort. All three probably. Anyway, because of all of this, he recommended Altra Escalante Zero-Drop shoes. Basically, they are made to feel like you’re running barefoot. There’s no lift in the heel like there is in essentially all shoes sold. They look a little different but not too much. Ironically, there's more cushion in them than I'm used to. They feel "normal" when I'm running, but when I'm walking, it feels like the front of my feet are higher than my heels.

The Running Room has an awesome policy that you can use purchased shoes for 30 days and return them if they're not working out for your feet. So far, I’ve run with them on the treadmill several times. Other than the initial getting used to running with them on, they feel great. I have a feeling I’ll be sticking with them for now, though, I do still need to test them running outside.

That’s where I’m at right now; committing myself to "5 minutes of exercise a day" was the catalyst. It makes me think about all of the things I can or could accomplish. Unfortunately, the days are short and the list is long, but with the right attitude and focus, maybe I CAN do it all. You and I will see.

And, don’t think I’ve been sitting down writing this post, I’ve been stepping and listening to the band Mogwai (mostly) among other random tunes. I’ve got some Brits with large weekly step averages to beat. I’m looking at you Running Beardo! Thanks again to The Wigan Runner for adding my wife and me to his challenge this week! It's been... motivating!

Oh, and don’t call me a runner.

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