This is more of a journal entry than a lot of the blogs I post here. And this is especially vulnerable for me, but it feels important (and maybe impactful) enough to share.
I’ve started running again recently. And I’ve enjoyed running along the river at Berkley Riverfront Park in downtown Kansas City. There are nice paved walking paths, and even an outdoor “gym” that I can stop at and do some pull-ups. But something funny happened on my run yesterday. I actually started crying. It was a combination of the runner’s high, the motivational music I was listening to, and my memory going back to other memories of me running.
I started thinking of the life that I could have easily fallen into had I never dedicated myself to being a “fit” person. In high school, I started riding bikes A LOT. And before that I always dreaded physical efforts.
Gym Class Mile
When we had to run the mile in gym class, I was prepared to fail miserably. The fastest kids in my class would finish in 5 minutes, and then the other kids would finish in 7 or 8 minutes. And then I’d finish in 11, or 12, or 13 minutes. It was a shitty day for me. And I’d laugh it off and pretend it was all stupid, but it wasn’t. It was a measuring stick for “fitness” and I was always in last place.
But then, as I started losing weight from cycling and no longer over eating at every meal, I would go for runs. So finally in high school gym class I finished in the MIDDLE of my class. I remember I ran an 8 minute mile and I couldn’t believe it. In fact, when I was 10 or 11, I probably thought it was impossible for a person like me to ever run a mile in 8 minutes. So I felt super accomplished just getting a decent mile time in gym class.
And from there it all clicked.
By the time I was in college, I actually enjoyed running. I loved cycling more, but I’d still go for runs from time to time. In the off season from bike racing, I’d run a few times a week. I’d challenge myself to run farther than before, or push my pace a bit. My roommates started going for runs together once or twice a week, and those nights were amazing. They would turn into races every time, but we — and maybe just I — loved the competition. We’d see how fast we could run, and look at our splits on Strava after the run.
And then I started doing some “speed work” at a track at a high school near my house. I remember one time I decided to test my mile time to see how fast I could do it. I remember running a 6 minute mile and feeling emotional about it then too. It was hard, but it was only 6 minutes of struggling. And it was proof that if I put in the work, I could get faster, and achieve more with my body.
Since then I’ve run a half-marathon, gone on probably a hundred training runs, and pushed myself a ton physically in all sorts of domains.
Another key running memory for me was when I started taking tennis lessons in high school. My step-sister and I went to a tennis club a couple nights a week for group tennis lessons. There were probably 8-10 kids our age in the class, and it was a mixture of guys and girls. But sometimes during practice we’d do sprints. And I’d finish way ahead of all the girls in the class. And I’d either finish first or second. Every time. And I couldn’t believe it. If this one super athletic kid was there, I’d finish second. But I was close to catching him.
And the reason this stands out so much is because when I was younger — any time we did sprints at basketball practice…it was horrible. I think I was last EVERY SINGLE TIME. And that was from about 2nd grade until 8th grade. For six basketball seasons, every time we did sprints I was last on my team. And when I got to middle school I started playing on a more competitive team. And those practices were FUCKING hard. It felt like we’d practice basketball for 30 minutes and then run for the last hour of practice. I loved basketball, so I still looked forward to every practice but I dreaded the moment the coach would blow the whistle and tell us to get on the baseline. It was humiliating because even though I felt like I was running my hardest, I’d still finish way after everyone else on the team. And occasionally I’d have asthma attacks while running at basketball practice. So that made it worse. I’d feel like I was going to suffocate ands start crying, And it was embarassing. My coach would tell me it was mind over matter, and that didn’t work for me then.
But it works now.
Once I got into high school and I wasn’t last in these sprints…that really meant something to me.
Hiking with my Roommates
When I was in college, my friends would go to Colorado during fall break for a camping trip. And we always camped in the same spot, right next to this mountain called “Sheep rock” or something. But I remember the first time we all climbed it, and I was so excited to get out of the car and get moving that I was running ahead of everyone else. I turned it into a competition and I was off. I wasn’t going to let other people catch me, and I was going to push myself no matter what.
And then later a couple of my roommates and I went down to Arkansas for a weekend of camping. On the way back we stopped at a hiking trail that led to a waterfall. The hike to the water fall was a long descent. So the way back was all uphill. And here I flipped that switch in my head and absolutely crushed myself to beat my roommates back to the car.
I remember I got emotional while I was running a half marathon in 2018. It got really fucking hard about 10 miles in. But then I started thinking of all the kids who would make fun of me for being fat, or who would beat me in gym class miles or in sprints at basketball practice. And holy shit, that was the ultimate fuel. I kept thinking about how some of them are fat now, and here I was crushing a half marathon.
Other Times The Switch Flips
I find myself tapping in to this “energy reserve” of anger/motivation/rage/etc. during a lot of other things. Whenever things get difficult, I just go to this place I create in my head where people are doubting me. Even if those people don’t exist, they are the demons I have in my mind telling me that I’m weak and that I should give up. But I have to prove them wrong.
Now whenever things get hard, I just focus on controlling my breath and telling myself it will be fine. I’m not going to die…so just keep going.
I feel the doubt creeping in. I look at other people and think they’re doubting me. And it pisses me the fuck off. Why would you think that? I think I had this energy even when I was fat and out of shape, but me tapping into it didn’t do anything because I didn’t have the physical preparation or abilities to back it up.
It makes it hard for me to tolerate people complaining. Because I know that I used to complain and really feel discomfort. But now I realize that it’s all in your head. So when someone tells me it sucks to go for runs I can’t even understand what that means.
The Glorious Feeling of Moving Your Body Well
Now I can’t get enough of the feeling of moving my body, whether I’m running or doing anything else physical. It feels good just to know that I can move my body well.
Just Go a Little Farther
When you’re running and it’s getting difficult, you want to quit…but you have this conversation in your head that goes something like this: “I’m not going to quit now, I’m going to run until I get to the corner and then I’ll reconsider. But then when you get to the corner, you have that same conversation again.
Hard physical shit shows you that you can push yourself and keep pushing yourself and it will be fine. You aren’t going to die, in fact you’re very resilient.
Anyways, enough rambling. Just get after it and never give up. You’re not stuck being the person you are right now. You have the power to change that, and when you reach your goal…you’ll probably feel emotional about how far you’ve come.