Why I Run: Tom’s Story 9

Meet my friend Tom. I sat behind Tom in 8th grade math class, with Mr….I can’t remember, but he had hairy ears (the teacher, not Tom). We used to get the stink eye from Mr. HairyEars for talking in class; I’m totally blaming Tom for that. He kills me with his dedication to training, even with little ones at home. He’s a good dude. I hope to see him at the Pittsburgh Marathon this year.

In December of 2010, I was watching footage of the 2010 Kona Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii.  I was most likely drinking a tasty Micro Brew and snacking on chips continuing my sedimentary lifestyle.  I was amazed at the endurance of the athletes and realized that their discipline to be physically fit was something I lacked.  The sports program then reported the story of 80 year old Lew Hollender competing in the Kona Ironman Triathlon for the 20th year in a row.  Hollender was asked how at age 80 he was able to stay in such great shape, he was dismissive of the question saying that there is no magic pill, it is just hard work.  Then he described his daily routine of stretching and exercise.  None of this really made much difference to me until Hollender said:

One thing I do know is that if you are not doing it at age 40 you will not be doing it at age 80.

This statement really got me thinking because I was to turn 40 in a few months.  I had been an active child and involved in athletics from childhood through high school, but had been relatively inactive for more than 20 years and had been a pack a day smoker from age 19-31.  My first daughter was born in 2008 and her energy level was already greater than mine.  I wanted to be alive when she graduated high school.  I want to dance with her at her wedding and play with my grandchildren.

If I am not doing it at 40 I will not be doing it at 80.  That statement kept running through my head.  I soon made the goal of running a 5K race before I turned 40 in April.

I told my colleagues of my desire to get into shape and all were very supportive. One in particular said he would enjoy running with me and set up a “training plan” to get me in shape for a 5 K.  We started our first run on MLK Day 2011.  It was like a 15 min run, 5 min walk, 10 min. run, 5 min, walk.  I was actually surprised I was able to do the run without dying.

My friend explained to me the right way to start running and how important it was to avoid injury and start slow with plenty of recovery time in between runs.  The running, though difficult, felt better than it ever had in the past.  I was focused on accomplishing my goal and after every run I had an incredible sense of accomplishment.  I also feel I have gotten addicted to overcoming the self doubt that creeps into my head during every run.

Since MLK Day 2011, I have run and finished several 5K races, two Sprint Distance Triathlons, one 10K and one half Marathon.  I am currently training to complete the 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon and now every Sunday long run becomes the longest distance I have ever run in my life. I look forward to it every week.