Three years ago yesterday
I started down a path that would fundamentally change my life. At the time, I weighed around 255 pounds and couldn't really walk down our (short) street without feeling a bit winded. Caught up in the whirlwind of business travel and sitting at desks, I wasn't making the best choices.
I knew I needed to change.
Our second daughter was a year old and I realized that I had to do something for my health to ensure I was going to be around for my wife and our two girls.
So my wife and I started walking every day, or as close to that as we could. We have the privilege of having a beautiful large cemetery near us that has roads and trails through it where you can walk for quite some time.
Soon walking led to "jogging"... which led to (gasp!) running!
Running was something I swore I'd never do because I never saw any runner smiling. But slowly... very slowly... I became one of those people.
It was an iterative process - I started saying "let me see if I can run from the entrance to the cemetery down to the first fork in the road. Then it was "let's see if I can run to the flagpole." Then "beyond the flagpole to the next fork."
Then, the BIG step... could I run from the entrance all the way up that big, enormous, huge, daunting, terrible hill to the chapel?
From there it was a test of looping the cemetery - and then starting to run into a second, attached cemetery (Greenlawn) that has another huge hill. And then it was looping both cemeteries... and then looping through the other side trails.
Ultimately it became a question of doing TWO loops through both cemeteries to get to a 5K distance.
And then my running left the cemetery and was out the roads...
The process took MANY months... and a lot of fatigue.
The good news is that running in the cemetery was very peaceful. There were generally no cars or road crossings. And very few spectators watching this fat guy huffing and puffing as he tried to make it up the hill.
Plus, on a morbid note, I always thought that if I died while running there, they could just dig a hole and toss my body in it. :-)
Three years later I ran that same loop yesterday at a pace around 9 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. And I've routinely run loops through that cemetery now AFTER having already run 5 or 6 miles. I don't even notice either of those "ginormous" hills that so intimidated me.
I had in fact hoped to do a 5 mile run around Washington, D.C., this morning (I'm here on business travel) but sadly left my running shorts back in N.H.
I have become a runner.
And here's the fascinating part to me: I love it!
In fact, it's now almost like a drug. I often feel a need to run. It helps clear my mind at times - and it just helps physically. As I've written here, I've enjoyed a number of races... and I'm looking forward to my 3rd time running the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half-Marathon this September (with the goal to not fade out at mile 12).
A beautiful effect, too, is that when I have to move quickly in an airport to catch a plane, I'm generally not boarding my plane looking like I am about to have a heart attack! (That used to be how it was...)
Running has been a savior of my sanity on business trips, too, getting me outside of the hotel rooms and conference centers. I recorded an audio segment about this a while back:
Given that I spend FAR too many hours in airplanes, running has provided an antidote to all the endless hours of sitting I do in airborne tin cans.
Running has also let me quickly see a bit of the places I've visited. Normally with the travel I do I wouldn't see much beyond the airports, taxis, hotels and restaurants... but going out for a run in the early morning has let me see the surrounding area. I've had the privilege of running around Red Square in Moscow, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along back roads in Mumbai... and so many other places. Getting outside has been so critical - and running has enabled me to do that.
Along the way, I have lost some weight. Losing the first 45 pounds turned out to take about 6 months or so... and then I've been stuck in a plateau for most of the last couple of years:
This wasn't all through exercise. I also moderated my eating. A friend from back in Ottawa once wrote about his "S" diet:
No Seconds or Sweets, except on Saturdays and Sundays.
And I remembered that over all the years, and decided that it was a simple mantra to follow - and in particular the "no seconds" was a rule that I adopted.
Now, as that chart shows, I've not been entirely faithful. The travel I do presents meals where it's not always very easy to make the healthiest eating choices. And I freely admit that my willpower fades in the presence of the siren song of a chocolate chip cookie (and wilts completely when presented with a tray of said cookies!).
But I keep at it... and I keep running so that I can have a bit of wiggle-room on the eating. (Another friend says he runs specifically so that he CAN eat!)
And today, I celebrate the health I do have, and this new love of exercise that has so changed my life on so many levels.
If you are out there thinking about doing more exercise, I'd encourage you to get started... find a place where you can start walking, and start setting small, obtainable goals.
Perhaps soon you'll find yourself out there like me, doing something you never thought you'd do... running.
And doing so with a smile on your face! ;-)