January 1 1996
My name is John. I have been on this earth for 44 years. Most of my time here has been spent sitting or lying down. Yes, I am a real couch potato. In school I was bad in sports. I could not hit, kick, or throw a ball so I never was into sports.
I am 6 feet 4 inches tall. I have been fit most of my life and never did anything that you could call healthy other than quitting smoking years ago.
I do not know what happened, but one day I just started taking inventory of my life. I have a great family- Five kids and two of my kids have children of their own (yes I am a Grandfather), one in the Peace Corps, one attending Caltech and one still at home in High School and college bound. I have made and lost a lot of money in my life. A few years ago I simplified my life by getting out of being a top executive in small high-tech firms and took a technical job in a very large corporation. This hurt both in the pocket book and the ego but I now have the one thing I never had- time to do what I want. I am so glad I made this move...
But what does this burned out old fat guy do with all this time. I still have that type A personality. Doing this inventory of my life I found I had one area that I was not so proud of. It was me!! Both my body and my mind. I was overweight (260 pounds) and I was too uptight (a type A personality with no direction).
One day, watching TV (I was becoming a pro at TV watching, watching almost anything). I saw a show (during a PBS pledge drive) called Fit or Fat. It was this guy, Corvet Bailey, talking to an audience, giving advice on how to stay or get healthy. His major point was get active, He also said "nothing burns fat like running."
I know about running. In Jr. High our gym teacher made us all run a mile. I think I did it in 11 minutes and almost died. I thought these people I see running and jogging did not feel pain as I do. They were born with the ability to run. Just as I was born with no ability to throw, catch, or kick a ball these runners were different.
One thing I knew from business is you can do almost anything. I had turned around companies when everyone had written them off. I had found that I could do anything I wanted (within reason). I thought someday I may give running a try.
By all indicators I was a walking heart attack. I had lived a fast pace, always on the go life. I knew every airport in the country better than my backyard. My blood pressure was high. My resting pulse rate was around 80/min. My hands shook with tremors. I would have to pull myself up from sitting. It was an effort to stand up. Statistically, I was going to die young!
Well, after a few weeks of kicking myself for getting in such bad shape and wondering where did all the years go. I am still young, but I felt so old. I pulled on some tennis shoes and began to run. Got to end of the block!
I do not give up that easy. The next day I ran a block and a half. The third day I ran just one block, my legs hurt. I had proved it! These people who run are different. But I am obsessive and do not give up easily. So I started to run a block and walk a block. I did half a mile this way. It was just like running to catch a plane but no flight attendant with a Bloody Mary at the finish.
I went further and further. One mile, two miles then three. I started to run longer and walk shorter. Then my knee stopped me cold. I could not run. I was in pain. What was wrong, I was doing so good. This is when I made my first trip into a running store for advice (I think they will tell me that big people like you should not run! Are you crazy? Don't you know us runners are different. We have a special gene that makes us feel no pain. We have a secret hand shake so we can tell ourselves apart from the likes of you). I was big and fat and limping.
The guy at the running store did not tell me to go home. He asked me how far I ran, when did I start to run, what shoes am I currently running in. I know he must have wanted to laugh when I told him about my short block at a time running. That I had been trying to run for 3 weeks and had hurt my knee so badly I could hardly walk. But he did not laugh. (He didn't say anything about a secret handshake either.) What he did say was "lose the tennis shoes." Of the 50 or so shoes on the wall, buy one of these five. They have the support and the stability you need in a running shoe.
Oh, running shoes, there is a secret. I could not wait until my knee was better so I could try to run in these magic running shoes. The running shoes felt so different, The heals were thick and they seemed to make me tip forward. The feeling made me want to run. The inside bottom of the shoes pushed up on the bottom of my feet. I could feel my foot being supported along its entire length. Now, knowing the secret to running is the shoes, I was ready to go out and run for miles.
It did not happen as I thought. I ran a block, walked a block. But my knee was better. I have never had a problem with my knees again.
After about two months I was running (yes running, no walking) about three miles two to four times a week. I bought a few books and subscribed to Runners World Magazine. My goal was to run from my house around Mile Square Park and back (a little over 6 miles) within a year.
One day I was feeling so good running I said, "heck, I'm going to do the 6 miles today." I had been running about 8 months. I had lost about 30 pounds and my body and mind were on the mend. I called it feeling human again. I ran the 6 miles nonstop. I was on top of the world. I ran into my house yelling "I did it! I did it!" My spouse in her usual way of dealing with my obsessions said, "good for you". That was all she said to my screams of joy. To make sure I really did it, I ran the 6 miles again the next day (I did walk a little, but I made the distance).
I found that I loved to run. Everybody I know is a non-runner. When I tell them about my running they give me funny looks. However, they say I could make a fortune writing a book about how I lost so much weight and gained a personality. When I tell them it was from running they do not believe me. They think I must have snuck off to India or some other exotic place and gone under the care of some guru. They still want to know my secret and don't believe all this running junk. Some still try to talk me out of running. After a hard run I may have sore mussels or a little pain going down stairs and they say "see this running stuff will hurt you." They just do not know (or want to know) the secret of running is running.
One day, (I had been running about a year) I was running around what I called "my six mile course" the loop from my house around Mile Square Park and back. I came across another runner. We ran together for a couple of miles and he told me about a running club that meets at the park on Wednesday Evenings.
He said, "we're a group of runners who meet every week for a fun run and then go for some pizza and beer after the run and talk about running." Well, having no running friends, I thought this was something I may want to try. A few weeks later I showed up on a Wednesday evening to the parking lot he had pointed to. The place was full of runners. They said this was going to be a special night. They were going to have a small 5K race in the park for points (the club has 5 to 7 special runs during the year at which they award points. Prizes are given at the end of the year to the people with the most points). I was so lucky - my first running club and my first race all on the same night.
Sorry to say, "I did not win." I did not place. But, I was not last! And these were real runners! I guess I am now a real runner too.
Author: John W. Meacham
Copyright (c) 1996
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