Yeah, I do a lot of running these days. I’ve got a plan to get in 500 miles in the interval between the 2014 D.C. Half Marathon (which I finished in 2:35:something) and the 2015 one. That’s about ten miles a week and I’m ahead of my pace right now. People say, “So you must really love running.” This is a reasonable question because (1) I do it a lot, and (2) I talk about it a fair amount, and (3) a lot of people really enjoy running.
Actually, I don’t really enjoy it.
I dread having a long run waiting in front of me today, and only slightly less tomorrow. I find all kinds of ways to put it off, though knowing in the back of my mind that I really will, somehow, get it done. And if other things (meal times, other plans) suffer, then so be it. So I usually force myself to just get the run over with so it doesn’t completely destroy the rest of my day, evening, whatever.
Lot of runners, they’ll tell you that they get a “runner’s high” – and there’s a physiological basis for that. Running (any significant exercise) releases endorphins, and they’re basically a happy drug. More endorphins released, the better you feel. Many of my running and exercise-happy friends say that they feel out-of-sorts, depressed, anxious when they don’t get their regular exercise. I don’t know if there’s an endorphin withdrawal effect, but that’s what is sounds like to me.
I just wish I got it.
But what I do know is that I love two things about running:
- What it makes me feel like afterward, and ongoing, and
- The membership it gives me into The Club
As to the first, if you’ve seen me in the last 18 months or so, and knew me before, you know about the difference. But you may not know the entire difference. For that, I present here two pictures: one of me in 1997, the other in 2013.
As you can see, these are two very different guys (some of my PokerStars colleagues basically refused to believe that the “before” picture was me). Since starting to run seriously, I have removed myself from the “pre-diabetic” club (an A1C test conclusively showed that my blood glucose is well into the “normal” range), dropped 30 pounds (the before/after pair above reflect more like a 65-70 pound difference), and weaned myself from anti-cholesterol statins (untreated cholesterol is also within the normal range). My sleep apnea is basically gone.
In short, I’m living a completely different life. I know I won’t live forever, but I want to get full value for the time I’m here. I’ve seen what it’s like for people who care for themselves into their later years, and those who don’t – the difference in quality of life is startling. I’ve got kids in their early 30’s and late 20’s. I’ve got nieces and nephews starting into college. I’ve got teen and tweener friends who play Words With Friends with me. And somewhere out there is a cutie-pie (a girl, until proven otherwise), probably not even born yet, who is waiting for my son and daughter-in-law to bring her home and call her their own.
Now who’s gonna take that little girl trout fishing and show her a Lester Flatt G-run?
That means I gotta stay in good shape – there’s folks counting on me. I figure I’m good for another 30 years if I do everything right and the cards fall right. Course, being a poker player, I know I can’t control how the cards fall, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to knock myself out of the game.
Now the other reason I run – The Club? Yeah, that’s the people who have pretty much bought into the situation I’ve described above. They know that we all lose the battle with time, but you can surrender early, or you can put up your best fight and maximize the value of the time that you’re given. When I’m out running and I pass other runners, we often give each other a nod, a thumbs-up, some kind of acknowledgment. Particularly those of us of a certain age, we recognize each other. Maybe we like being out here, maybe we don’t. But we are, in fact, out burning through the soles of our running shoes.
The sign in the gym says “It means doing what you know you have to do, even when you don’t want to do it.”
It’s the people who, when you whine about the 16k waiting for you the next morning, nod with understanding. They’ve been there, and they will be there again. They know how frustrating it is when your IT band gives out, or a knee hobbles you. And they’re not surprised when you describe giving a high-five to a random runner you crossed paths with in a distant city.
So for me, it’s not the “runner’s high”. In fact, you might call it the “runners’ hi”. The look in the eye of a fellow warrior, fighting a losing battle, but never for a moment considering surrender.
So I run so I can keep running, and I run because I like the people I meet out there.
That’s why I run.