I’m (Going to Be) A Runner

 In Health

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.


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Showing 12 comments
  • powkang

    I’ve recently started running. And by recently started running, I mean I just finished week two of Couch to 5k. I’m doing Run For Your Lives in Boston in May. It’s an expensive event, and I’ve already paid for it. And I have already promised a friend I’d join her, so I can’t flake. I don’t have an end goal of a Marathon. The goal for now is the 5K in May, and then we’ll see.

    I’d been thinking about running for about 5 years now. It seemed like the best (inexpensive) way for me to do cardio regularly. I also run with my dog, who has a lot of energy to burn off. So it’s a good way for me to spend time with her and for both of us to get plenty of exercise. This ridiculously warm winter we’re having definitely helps with the motivation to get outside and run.

    Good luck with this, and thanks for the Murakami shout. I may pick it up, I need a new book to read.

  • Steven

    How is it treating you so far? I’m imagining the first two weeks to be incredibly rough. I’ve been preparing by trying to walk up to my 11th floor office instead of taking the elevator.

    The Murikami book is pretty great so far. That guy is super interesting with his approach to running and to life in general.

    Good luck with Run For Your Lives!

  • powkang

    So anyways, the running has been pretty good so far, I think. I go three times a week, and I try to get it done and out of the way in the mornings, but some mornings I still find myself really not wanting to do it. Which is ludicrous… after I finish the program for the day, I feel like such a rock star for the rest of the day that I can’t believe I didn’t want to do it to begin with. It clears my head and wakes me up, so I’m usually ready to dive into whatever I have on my list that day. Also, the cardio combined with pilates and a diet has resulted in having noticeably losing weight. Between the compliments and the sense of accomplishment, you’d think I’d be jumping out of bed in the mornings to get my fix, but warm comfy bed still trumps all. It doesn’t help that I usually don’t have anywhere to be until 4pm.

    I’ll let you know how the zombie run goes. I’m really looking forward to it.

    The running is sort of interwoven with a lot of changes I’m going through right now. It accompanies the weight loss diet and pilates, a new med I started taking, a complete overhaul of the apartment (cleaning out, not redecorating), a complete overhaul of my portfolio website (redecorating, not cleaning out), and a renewed sense of urgency to find interesting and creatively challenging work, exercising my creative muscles regularly… basically all the things I’ve neglected for the past five or so years. Probably longer, but everything started backsliding in the past 5 years. I’ve been doing a pretty good job on everything except the website and looking for work, but it’s all getting worked in.

  • Steven

    This sounds great! I’m looking forward to physical changes as well as some emotional/mental/spiritual ones. Maybe I’m putting too much responsibility onto running, but hearing from you and others what a positive impact it has makes me think there has to be something to it.

    I totally understand about dragging your feet, despite the great feeling. I did that with yoga for the longest time. I didn’t quite feel like a rock star when I was done, but I definitely felt good. I think no matter how great it makes you feel at the end, it’s still tough to get going.

    And yay for your positive life changes! That is AWESOME.

  • powkang

    thanks, and keep updates on how the training is going. these things interest me. also: i ordered the murakami on amazon. we’ll see if i ever get around to reading it.

  • Steven

    Totally. I have nothing else to write about, so I’m sure I’ll be measuring my progress here.

  • powkang

    have you been running since having posted this? i just started week 5 of couch to 5k today. i thought it was going to kick my ass (week four was HARD for some reason), but it was totally doable. challenging but never felt impossible. i’m pleased with myself!

  • Steven

    I have been! I’m only four days into it though, because I had to order shoes and that took some time. Plus, I put it off for a few days because of work. But now I’m doing it everyday and having a lot of fun.

    I’m starting off slow with the Runner’s World eight-week program, which is just as much walking as it is running in the beginning, but that’s exactly what I need to get things moving so that my asthma doesn’t go crazy.

    It’s so great that you’re doing it too! It seems like it might be easy to walk away from it for a little while and have trouble getting back to it. But if you keep going it seems like it would be so awesome–maybe even fun!

  • Carol Deminski

    A book I found to be incredibly inspirational, even though I wouldn’t call myself a runner and I don’t aspire to ultra-running, is: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

    McDougall writes the chapters like magazine articles and he’s got that whole “hook” at the end of the chapter going to propel you into the next chapter. The writing is pretty good, but the content is what is so inspirational.

    The runners profiled in the book are a rag-tag bunch of misfits who are running for their lives. And boy do they run! They run 100 miles and keep going. They run in blistering sun, freezing cold, and up mountains for marathon lengths…and keep going into the night.

    One of the runners in this book, if I remember correctly, is so hard core he had a surgical procedure done to remove his toe nails. Now that is some hard core running.

    I recommend it for the contagious thrill you get from vicariously living alongside these nutty runners for the length of the book. I swear, by the last chapter I had (brief) aspirations of running off into the wild and never stopping.

  • Steven

    That’s a good recommendation, Carol! I feel like someone else told me about that book not too long ago, but they definitely didn’t sell it as well as you did. I’m going to see if my local library has it, then I can feel like I’m doing absolutely nothing by running my measly two miles everyday, heh.

  • Carol Deminski

    I hope you can find it at the library Steven. It’s a pretty quick read too, once you get into it.

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