I was never an athlete when I was young. When I was a kid, I was more often found in the woods behind my parents’ house damming up the creek with rocks or playing video games. I was terrible at sports and Phys-Ed at school and got the usual childhood grief from other kids who were better. I had asthma, used an inhaler and when I tried to run the mile in high school once, my douchebag of a Phys-Ed teacher wanted me to do it over because I ran it too slow. Meanwhile I was gasping for air and not exactly enthusiastic about running (or attempting to run) in the first place.
I participated in marching band in high school and at college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which was the closest thing to athletic activity I’d ever done. In college I wasn’t fat per se, but I wasn’t skinny either. (Chicken wings are DELICIOUS) After college, I really started to take notice of my weight. I’m reasonably tall at 6’1″ and have an average, if gangly build. And then, weighed about 200-210 pounds. Which doesn’t’ sound like a lot, if you’re a football player. I wore extra large shirts, size 36 jeans, etc. Once again, not fat/obese per se, but there came a point where I was too chubby for my own liking.
So I took my health into my own hands. I began (in 2006) with a drastic change in my diet. No sugar. Whatsoever. Not even ketchup, which has normal sugar (dextrose) as well as high fructose corn syrup. I stopped drinking soda altogether. I worked for Starbucks then, which as we all know, has many different sugary offerings which I could get for free while working, so I had to be disciplined. Overall I was. I also started exercising as best I could. I would take walks around the neighborhood, and sometimes I’d sprint up the hills or try to jog some of it. I hated every moment of it, but got this strange exhilaration afterwards which I later discovered to be an endorphin high.
So for more than a month, I nixed the sugar and exercised. I could’ve done better, but it was better than nothing. For my entire life up until that time, I had never cared what I ate and in general, ate hearty portions. My drastic diet change with no sugar completely changed how my body processed food, even if I still ate big portions, and I started losing weight. I didn’t track how much weight I lost over a certain span of time, but when I started noticing my normal size 36 pants were much too big, I began to notice.
Over time, I had lost upwards of 30 pounds. I weighed 170ish and wore a size 32 and medium T-shirts. Even dress shirts, I went from a 16 1/2-17 to a 15-15 1/2. My mom always fretted that I was losing too much weight and wasn’t eating, etc, which was nonsense, I was eating. The thing was that I was simply burned a bunch of fat that had been there for a long time, she and everyone else was used to how I looked before and now I looked rather gaunt in comparison, though not unhealthy.
The difference was, that I was skinnier, but not necessarily fit.
After I moved to my current residence in 2008, I took advantage of their gym. Used the machines and the treadmills, but it was very sporadic and not regimented in the least bit. I still couldn’t do a mile without slowing to walk and while I was over my asthma, I still was so out of shape it didn’t matter. I slowly got better and eventually could do a 5k on the treadmill in about 40 minutes. Steadily my body got more acclimated to exercising and I got in better shape.
In February of this year, one of my Chelsea FC buddies posted on facebook about a race him and his gf were going to do in Arlington, which was sponsored by the pub we all go to. I figured, I love that pub, so I’ll support them by participating. So I registered. And it was two weeks away. Me, who had never liked running was going to run a race that not only was my first, but a longer distance than I’d ever even attempted (4 miles). The dweeb I was in high school, not being able to run a whole mile, was long gone. (It only took 15 years)
So I took the occasion of the race and I actually trained for it. I made the distinct effort to put my mind to it and charge in. I ran on the treadmills in the gym and did my best to run as long as I could without stopping. After a couple attempts, I was able to do an entire 5k distance without slowing to walk. There was something in me that was beginning to emerge. Perhaps I had a hidden athletic talent that had long been ignored or unrealized until now. Or perhaps I was a budding endorphin junkie.
In any case, I ran several times a week until race day and I figured I was as ready as I could be.
(Holy shit this is long, I’ll do each race and thoughts individually!)