I remember exactly when I began running. It was March 2005. The days were getting longer, and it was just a few weeks before we set the clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time. I decided I was sick of being overweight and I needed to expend some nervous energy.
Why was I nervous? For a few months, I had begun to realize our family business, a hair salon, wasn’t going to make it. After a year and a half, revenues were still rising, but not quite enough to cover costs. The writing was on the wall, so I hit the pavement.
My first run went a quarter mile, down to the corner store. I got to the corner and doubled over in exhaustion. Oh my God, I wondered as I bent staring at the sidewalk, was I just going to be unable to run? Were some people naturally athletic while others, myself included, just naturally… not?
It wasn’t like I was a cow. I was an expert skier and a whitewater paddler, though I’d been out of those sports for a couple of years while opening the salon. But now that things there were in flux I wanted to get back into shape. Even the running was supposed to be a precursor to something I really wanted to do; join a gym. But first I wanted to see if I could lift my fitness to a point where I could walk into a gym without looking and feeling like a charity case.
So this first quarter mile wasn’t all that encouraging. I walked the rest of the three-mile course I’d mapped out and got to it again the next morning. This time making it another block before walking.
Before long I learned to pace myself, and was able to run the entire thing within two weeks. My time improved to the point where I could actually start caring about it. I joined the gym in June and enjoyed the best ski seasons I’d ever had.
The running continued. I entered races. By 2007 I was putting in a 7 minute pace for shorter (<3mi) races and a sub-8 minute pace for longer ones. I was starting to run 10k and 10 mile courses, and enjoying it. At some point it’s not exercise anymore. It’s fun. There’s simply no way around it.
In late 2007, the gym went on hold. The reason? Riley. Riley is a little blond girl my wife Lisa and I met when she was 3 days old, lying in a hospital bed. It’s a vapid cliche to say she changed our lives, but she did.
Early parenthood is when everything kind of pauses so you can focus on a little one. But before long, I think most parents are determined to get back to to the glory days, only this time sharing them with a child. That’s where I am now, back on the roads pushing the pace. There are the obvious reasons: I’m trying to keep in condition for hiking with the kids and get in shape for another great ski year.
And now there’s something even bigger: I’m proud and honored to have been invited to join the Team Playworks Run for Recess, which is running the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2012. Playworks is dedicated to increasing and improving recess in schools across America, which is a very important part of childhood learning.
So why run? For fitness, for training, for a great cause, and for my kids.
And I might add, for fun. That’s why.