Hi everyone, Steve here. Thank you for checking out my profile; I thought I would share a little bit of my story and how I got started running.
The sound of AC/DC’s song Thunderstruck blasted through large PA speakers as I positioned myself into the corrals designed to organize a few thousand runners. The music was loud and I could feel it pounding my chest.
The race director pumped up the crowd every few minutes with a megaphone as the start of the race neared. Adrenaline flowed through my veins and I could feel my heart rate rising.
It was go time; my first race.
Not knowing where I should line up, I nervously picked a spot about two thirds back from the start. I had arrived about an hour earlier to get a good parking spot and pick up my race bib. I milled around the starting line, nervously stretching acting like I was a seasoned pro. The crowd was relaxed and festive and while I should have been as well, I was neither.
For the next few moments or so, myself and those around me did what I would later call, the march of the penguins (that awkward shuffle towards the starting line with everyone anxiously awaiting their turn to start).
As I crossed the starting line, I immediately relaxed and all feelings of nervousness went away. I was running. For the first time, I felt like a real runner!
Six months before, I walked out of the doctor’s office feeling like twenty years of unhealthy eating had caught up with me overnight. I was constantly getting sick and the slightest amount of physical exertion wore me out.
I had just gotten the news that I was showing early signs of adult onset diabetes, was twenty five pounds overweight, had moderately high cholesterol and my liver enzymes were elevated which I later would learn was due to Fatty Liver Disease. I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach. I remember thinking “How did I get here?”
Looking back, deep down in my heart, I knew how I got to where I was–I just refused to admit it. In my mind I always felt like I was still in control of my health, but in reality I sabotaged myself through various means: from using excuses like “someday” or “I’m too busy;” to using coping mechanisms like overeating, watching TV, and so on to deal with stress.
It took this wake-up call to scare me enough to make me want to change. I lost a close friend in my teens to diabetes and had a coworker who lost in successive order his eyesight, a foot, his left, and then his life to this debilitating disease. I knew firsthand the destructive power of diabetes. I knew I had to get my life back. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
That evening I decided that running was the quickest way for me to get my life back (and the cheapest). In the past, I had joined and quit traditional fitness clubs so many times that joining another one was not an option for me. I needed an exercise program that I could do at any time and in any place. If I had to drive somewhere to go exercise it would be too easy to come up with excuses like, “its rush hour,” or “I just don’t have the time,” etc. and end up skipping workouts. At the time, I had two young daughters and I needed to work exercise around their busy schedules.
When I was younger, I participated in high school sports. I also served time in the Army National Guard as an infantryman and had frequent physical fitness tests. Through these activities I knew that running was the fastest way to do what I needed to do to condition myself and lose weight. The problem was that I absolutely hated it. For me, running was punishment.
But the consequences of not running scared me more. I was fortunate in the sense that all of the issues I had were due to the poor lifestyle choices that I had made in my twenties and early thirties. These were things that if I changed my mindset, committed, and took action, I could control.
During my appointment, my doctor made a comment to me that sticks with me to this day and is one of my primary motivating factors to continue running:
“The lifestyle I enjoy (or not enjoy) currently, is a result of the last two decades of how I lived. The lifestyle I will enjoy (or not enjoy) one to two decades from now, is a result of how I live today.”
This was both frightening and encouraging to me. Encouraging because I had some say in how my future would be, but frightening because I did not have a great track record of living a fitness lifestyle. I lacked the confidence needed, but I had reached a point where I was so frustrated with my life that I took action.
My first run sucked. I mean, really sucked. For starters, I did not know what I was doing. So much so that looking back it was almost comical. I wasn’t even wearing running shoes. I had laced up my New Balance cross training shoes, gray cotton sweat pants, and a cotton long sleeve shirt and headed out to the local school parking lot. I was so self conscious that I only ran after dark and the school parking lot had enough street lights to keep my path lit. I would run (well, mostly walk) laps around that parking lot. Looking back, it was silly to hide, but at time I was pretty embarrassed by the fact that I could not run. These were irrational fears, but they were real to me, and took me a few months to overcome. I did not feel worthy of calling myself a runner and therefore it was easy for me to feel the need to hide it from everyone else.
As Spring ended and Summer arrived I started to see some improvements. The number of laps I could run slowly increased until I was jogging more than I was walking. Don’t get me wrong, running still sucked. I had developed a nasty case of shin splints and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was starting to see some weight starting to come off, I would have quit. In fact, I almost quit each and every day.
A close friend suggested that I enter a race. He stated that I needed to have something to work towards, a goal. So I signed up for a 5 mile Turkey Trot and the rest was history. All it took was one race to embed the running bug into my soul.
Since then, I have run a LOT of races from 5k’s to marathons. I started my own running club, became a US Track and Field – Level 1 certified running coach as well as certified through the Road Runner’s Club of America. I have trained Boston marathoners as well as those looking to run their first mile. I say this not to brag, or promote, but rather to show the level of change that can occur in someone’s life just through running. I have seen running transform thousands of lives.
Running does not come easily, nor does it come quickly. It comes from the heart. Looking back at those who stick with running and are successful, I find a common trait: the most successful runners surround themselves with other runners. They have support groups both locally and online. Whether it be a running partner, or through joining a local running club, they surround themselves with positive influences. They include supportive family members, or accountability partners, and join online communities to share their success and struggles with people who they’ve never met, but who are available 24 x 7 when maybe their friends can’t be there. They are inclusive, not reclusive.
Early on I learned that there are times for solitude when running. I get it. It’s great to clear your head and just be out there on your own to get away for a bit. But making space in your running for others not only puts you “out there,” it also builds teamwork and challenges you. It’s essential as a runner to surround yourself with positive influences who will run next to you and who will push you to try just a little bit harder. You will be rewarded for it tenfold.
Some of the greatest people I have ever met, I met through running. No matter where I am, 99% of runners are the same: supportive, compassionate, and willing to help you out. Is it any surprise that runners donate millions of dollars per year to charities via charity events and races? It took me a while to feel like I was a part of them. I hid my running and refused to believe it until that first race. But truth always bears out; I was, and am, a runner.