If you told me a few years ago that I would come to love running, I would have laughed in your face. When I used to think of running, I thought of the requirement to “run” the mile in gym class. I walked it. Sure, I might have jogged the first bit, but it usually took me a good 18-20 minutes to finish the mile. In conversation, I often struggle to come up with words to describe just how much I detested running. Years ago, Kaitlin decided she wanted to start running and started a Couch to 5k plan. She enthusiastically invited me to join her, to which I replied with: “I only run when being chased!” Fast forward a couple of years and I had successfully avoided letting her talk me into running with her… until we decided to get married.
Kaitlin conveniently found a half-marathon exactly one week before our wedding in Rochester, NY. I’m still unsure of what techniques of persuasion she used, but somehow she convinced me into signing up for the 13.1 mile run with her. We trained together for a couple of months and completed the half-marathon with enough grace (and civility) that we still managed to walk down the aisle a week later and lovingly commit to spending our lives together.
The way I justified running, each mile of that race bought me one month without running. I actually managed to stretch it out to more like 18 months without running again, and I was perfectly happy with that. When we left our home and jobs in Asheville, NC to set out on our RTW trip, I was in close to the worse shape of my life (the step up was that I no longer smoked a pack of cigarettes each day like I did for a few years starting at the end of high school). We travelled through Europe and the UK for about 4 months, spent a month in Thailand, and then ultimately made it to our dreamland of New Zealand.
I sense a tangent coming on here and that’s okay, New Zealand deserves it. We have been back from NZ for 9 months now and I still think about being there everyday. Maybe it’s partly due to being here in Portland, where the winter norm is rain, rain, and more rain. Our “hometown” in Nelson logged the most sunshine hours of anywhere in NZ, and we were right on the beach with the mountains only a stone’s throw away. It was there that running first became a part of me. While there, we discovered the book The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. While I have yet to fully commit to The 4-Hour Body (I’ll let you guess which parts I haven’t accomplished yet), Kaitlin and I took on the challenge of trying his version of a slow-carb diet. I won’t go into too much detail here (though I would strongly encourage you to get his book and read into it), however the basic premise of this is limiting intake of high carbohydrate foods to once per week. This works well for me because I don’t have to give up pizza and other tasty carb-loaded foods completely, instead I look forward to the one day per week that I get to enjoy them.
About this time, Kaitlin and I decided (contrary to my prior instincts) that it would be a good idea to sign up for another half-marathon. I think I tricked myself into thinking it was a good idea because we were in the Southern Hemisphere and thought it would be cool to have a t-shirt from a race in New Zealand (spoiler alert: it turns out there were no t-shirts for the event we completed, but keep reading anyway, I’ll try to keep it interesting). We began training in Nelson, and though I can’t tell you exactly when or where, I can tell you that somewhere on the path along the Tasman Bay, something clicked. That sounds cliché, and not quite fitting for the feeling I am trying to portray, so I will correct myself. Nothing clicked. Somewhere on a path along a beach, in the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen over a dozen), something starting going really smoothly. That sounds better.
There could be any combination of circumstances that led to this strange feeling of enjoyment while running. It could have been that I had adjusted my form to have my foot strike take place mid foot rather than on my heel. It could have been that I was losing weight and feeling lighter in my body. It could have been that waking up early to watch the sunrise over the sea became a ritual that was a great way to start my day. It could have been that I finally let my guard down, quit being stubborn, and opened myself to the enjoyment of running. It could have been any or all of these factors, all that mattered to me was that running finally felt good!
To be continued… check back if you are interested to read about the 40 pounds I lost since we left on our RTW trip and how I have been taking my running to the next level. I am also starting a running club through the Icebreaker store I work for and becoming a brand ambassador for SKORA, a startup running shoe company based here in Portland, Oregon.
Like what you’ve read? Read part II here.
Have you ever had an experience like this, where you opened yourself and starting enjoying something you previously loathed?