Hi, my name’s Bill, and I’m a runner.
I didn’t set out to be a runner, it just sort of happened. I thought, for many years, that I was a cyclist, caught somewhere in the grey space between man and machine, somehow transcending both to become some sort of cool, mech-human hybrid riding off into the sunset.
But this summer, I purposely took some time off of cycling to concentrate on running. I’d severely burned myself out, mentally, more than physically, on running, by trying to bite off a marathon after following a four-month plan. I did it—completed two marathons without much more physical pain than is necessary, but for months afterwards, I just dreaded strapping on the sneakers.
And it just kept getting worse. It was never the running itself that was bad, but the anticipation of running was absolutely miserable. And it kept getting worse. I found any excuse not to run, and worse: I started finding excuses not to work out at all.
It was a familiar pattern: pick up a new hobby, do it up huge, and flame out after a year or so. But, in a more fundamental way, I needed to keep running. With running, it was my health, and with two small children and married to the love of my life, I had reason to value my health.
So, early this summer I made a concious decision that I needed to learn to love running on its own terms.
Becoming a runner, I decided, wasn’t something I could learn from a book. I’d read ‘em all&mdas;Galloway, Bumfoot, Runner’s World. It wasn’t something I could learn from someone else; love the RBF though I do, other people’s running does as much for my legs and gut as looking at naked people does for my sex life. And it wasn’t something I could learn in a class.
Learning to love running had to happen in running’s natural habitat: shoes, shorts, sky, and earth. To love running I had to meet it where it lived.
So, I did.
The dread didn’t go away, nor did the toughness of the actual run. Getting out the door is still a challenge, and I always laugh when someone encourages me to not exercise if I feel light-headed or short of breath. Isn’t that when you know you’re doing it right?
What changed was me. Not physically—I’m still at the slightly overweight point that I was at at the end of my marathon quest. Not work/life balance-wise—I still stay up too late, work too long and procrastinate whenever I get a chance.
It’s the attitude that’s changed. Each run is different, each race a chance to see faces I haven’t seen in a while and to challenge myself.
I don’t need to seek motivation to get out and run any more. It’s something that just happens, or else I don’t feel quite right.
I’m a runner.