Three years ago today, I took my first short run around the block in over 40 years. A lot has changed since then.
When I started running, I wasn't sedentary by any means. I've been physically active ever since I started seriously riding a bike when I was 14, and I've been practicing and teaching Okinawan karate for 34 years. Though cycling has ebbed and flowed over the years, teaching and practicing martial arts has been a constant.
But running is a very different, continuously pounding activity – unlike cycling, there's no sitting or coasting when you run – and I didn't want to mess something up that would compromise my other activities. So I turned to my informal coach at the time, my chiropractor Ron Tribendis. Ron is an amazing athlete (a 3-time Hawaii Ironman participant), and combines the skills of chiropractic, various bodywork techniques, and a wealth of personal experience as a competitive athlete. He's become very popular in the local athlete's community, and deservedly so. I'd been going to him since shortly after he started his practice, and gathered many bicycling training tips when I came in for adjustments, so it was only natural I should ask him the best way to start running. His advice was simply to pick a very short, easily accomplished distance, and then go do it every day for several weeks without fail and without increasing the distance even when your starting distance feels good. The idea is to both accustom your body to the stress, and to make running a positive experience to look forward to rather than a death march "because it's good for you". I give the same advice now to people that ask me how to start running.
My first race was the 2011 Dallas Turkey Trot – me and 40,000+ of my best friends. 5 kilometers later, I was exhausted.
In December, I set a big goal and signed up to run the Colorado Half Marathon the following June with a number of my coworkers who are based in Fort Collins. I went to Luke's Locker in Plano for a new pair of shoes. Eddie Gonzales fit me with a pair of big Asics and told me about this little thing he had going called the Thursday Night Social Run. It's been a regular event on my calendar since. In January, I joined Luke's Half Beat half marathon training, and improved quite a bit. I was even elected to be a (very slow) Plano member of the Team Luke's "running ambassadors". This fall I started running with Project 214, and have really benefited from the personalized training plan Elaine Bullard provides.
I've learned as I've laid down the miles. I don't dress as heavily or eat as much afterward. I've adapted to handle the heat and the cold better. If you'd told me back at that Turkey Trot I'd be able to run an easy 5K in 107 degree weather with no ill effects, I'd have called you crazy. Since that trip around the block I've completed six half marathons, and I'm tapering for the Allstate 13.1 on October 26th
Finally, the biggest surprise in this whole endeavor has been the community of runners I've been privileged to be around. I've never met such an accepting, encouraging, social (and partying!) and yet very fit crowd such as this. If you're dedicated enough to get outside and run in the heat, cold, blazing sun and in the morning or evening darkness, no matter how young or old you are, or how fast or slow…you're one of us. Like putting on a karate gi, getting out for a run – especially on a cold, dark morning when everyone can barely even see each other – is a great leveler; It doesn't matter if you're Bill Gates, a soccer mom, or the checkout guy at the local grocery store; the same road lies in front of you. It's reconnected me to my community and greatly widened my circle of friends after many years.
My Facebook motto is Giorraíonn beirt bóthar, an Irish proverb that translates as "Two people shorten a road". I think it perfectly describes the running community.
I'll see you out there. Don't forget to wave.