One of the items on my bucket list (yes, I actually have one) is to run a marathon. I think a lot of people aspire to do this. My girlfriend asked me why I think running a marathon is such a benchmark for people, and my guess is that it’s because the marathon is a running pinnacle. There are triathlons, decathlons and all that, but when it comes to just running, it seems like the marathon is a recognizable benchmark and a reasonable goal. When you’re not a runner, this is what you strive for.
To me, though, it’s a little more. I haven’t been a runner up until now not because I didn’t want to be–it’s because I couldn’t be. My whole life I’ve had terrible asthma. I’ve been hospitalized because of it; I’ve refrained from participating in sports because of it; I’ve even avoided leaving the house in winter because of it. As a teenager I tried to fight this. With the proper medication–shots, pills, inhalers–I was able to stay active, and did a lot of things like skateboard and play basketball. Then, as I got older and started moving around to different cities, I got lazier and the strength I had built up in my lungs slowly went away. I didn’t pay much attention until I started to gain weight and just feel awful about myself. It was basically my metabolism slowing down and my age catching up to me.
When I realized what was happening to me, I started to get very concerned about my health. I began a regimen of yoga and adopted a plant-based diet and felt a little bit better. But what I was hoping to get from yoga didn’t really come. As much as I was trying to do it for my physical health, I was also hoping to find a bit of spiritual health. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t stick with it long enough or if it’s because I did it on my own without a teacher or a class, but it just wasn’t doing the trick. The diet, however, is amazing and it is how I’ll live for the rest of my life. But I needed to find a replacement for the yoga.
Really heavy physical activity was out of the question. I didn’t have health insurance, so I wasn’t able to get the preventative and rescue inhalers I needed to make intensive exercising an actual possibility. Recently, that changed though. I now have health insurance and am able to get the meds I need in order to live a relatively normal life again. And, thank goodness, exercise.
Back when I was younger and more active, I ran fairly regularly. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot for the past year or so. And lately I feel like I’ve seen some signs that are telling me it’s time to do it.
Several people I know are runners, and while I don’t talk to them about it, it’s in my peripheral and I’ve been paying attention. I also got a copy of Haruki Murikami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (which includes a beautiful cover by the great John Gall), which is next on my list to read. I figure if anyone can write a book about running that I would really enjoy, it’d be him. I also found two videos last night at the Runners World website, where two people who I really admire as creatives–musicians in both cases–discuss their lives as runners: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea, in particular, said something that really struck me; he said that he believes our bodies are built to run, and it’s crazy to not use your bodies as they were meant to be used. I found that to be incredibly thought-provoking. Ben Gibbard discussed how his body was so resistant to his starting to run. That, too, was very interesting to me, but mostly because it frightens me as someone who is about to go through the same things. Hearing these guys discuss running also gives me some kind of false hope that it’ll help me creatively, too. The videos are below:
So with all of these things pointing toward going for it, I’ve decided to become a runner. But it’s not as easy as just hitting the pavement. I need to learn some lung-strengthening exercises, and I’ve discovered a fantastic two-month program that eases you into it. By the end of the month, I should be able to run two miles with ease. I love the idea of that. I plan to start in two weeks, and I’m hoping the weather will be a little warmer by then. Cold air is the enemy of the asthmatic.
I’m very excited about this. I feel like even just starting is a huge step forward for me. I doubt I’ll be ready for a marathon any time soon, but if I can run for a half hour without stopping to worry about dropping dead from an inability to breathe, I’ll be just as happy as if I were running the New York Marathon.
Are any readers out there runners? I’d love to hear about how it affects your life and what you get out of it.