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How I Became a Runner

Or: That Time I Got Mono and Couldn't Play Ultimate Anymore

October 12, 2015Filed under blog#fitnessMarkdown source

Sometime in the last few years, I became “that runner guy.” It is no longer strange for me to introduce myself to someone new in the area we live, and hear them say, “Have I seen you running?” I smile and nod: “Yep, that’s me.” And to be fair, I do run a lot: six days a week, most weeks, always at least half an hour. In three weeks, I’ll run my seventh half marathon,1 and I finished my first triathlon last summer. So, yes, I do run a lot.

But it’s still a little strange to me. I came to running late, and in a roundabout way. Many of my friends ran cross country in high school; I played football (and poorly at that) instead. I ran off and on in college in a (mostly failing) attempt to stay in shape and avoid college weight. The only running I did consistently was playing Ultimate on Fridays with some friends. For the first year I was out of college, my routine was much the same.

And then I got mono. I drank after a friend who carries around a particularly virulent strain of it, and was down for the count: a month in bed, and two months of recovery after that. I was, in theory, the captain of a church league Ultimate team that spring. I missed half the games, and even when I was able to attend some of them in the latter half of the season, it left me literally needing a nap just to stand and watch for an hour. In the hopes of being back in good enough shape to play the following fall, I started running as soon as I was cleared by the doctor.

That first run on a treadmill in May 2010 was painfully slow. Even when I was furthest out of shape before that, running an 8-minute mile had been doable—painful, perhaps, but doable. That day I ran a 12-minute mile, and was done for the day. The same thing another day that week. And again.

But slowly, over time, I built up my endurance. I managed to run two miles outside a few weeks later. By the time Ultimate season rolled around in late August, I could run five miles, and was doing three to five miles four times a week. I was in good enough shape to play Ultimate, and I enjoyed it.

Still, I found running hard, and didn’t particularly enjoy it. I ran solely as a means to the end of playing Ultimate. More, five miles was my upper limit if I ran hard (as I always did). When I thought about people who ran half-marathons—still less the full—I simply could not understand how they did it. But I started to want to understand.

And then I had one simple conversation, which changed my entire approach to running. It set me on a course to this seventh half-marathon, and to being “that runner guy” around here. It led to my being the healthiest I’ve ever been. And, strangest of all, it ended up with my loving to run—and not because I like pain.

But more on that next time.

  1. Dallas White Rock 2011, Oklahoma City 2012, Fort Worth 2012, one whose name I can’t remember in April 2013, City of Oaks 2013, City of Oaks 2014.