Before you continue reading, this column isn’t one of those “Oh, my God! My life is changed because I started running” testimonials. I would never write a testimonial like that even if it changed my life because I don’t think they’re exciting to read. Still, a few months ago something clicked as my girlfriend and I were eating Oreo Blizzards on the couch. We both kind of looked at each other, melted Oreo cookie around our mouths and tears welling in our eyes, and said, “We’ve got to stop this.” The next day we purchased new running shoes, a watch pedometer and, for myself, a brand new pair of 6-inch running shorts complete with a protective liner for my testicles. Our guide was the popular Couch-to-5K Running Plan. Here is what I learned.
I am way out of shape
You’ve already read about my brief glimpse of enlightenment during the consumption of an Oreo Blizzard, but what you don’t know is I’ve had that same glimpse at least a hundred times before. Sometimes it involves beer, pizza or nachos. I always catch myself saying, “What the hell am I doing?” right before I consume a plate of hot wings. Twizzlers and Sugar Babies always get me to the point where my body is sending messages to my mind that I always ignore. The first day of the program is easy on paper: a brisk 5-minute walk followed by 60 seconds of jogging/90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. In reality, the first day just proved how far I would have to go in order to finish the program (to actually run a 5K without stopping). By the end of Week 1 of the nine-week program, I was ready to retire into a life of obesity, cigars and regret.
My arches are terrible
It took until my 29th year on this earth to realize that I have feet that are incredibly flat. My footprints are nearly identical to a sasquatch, if only slightly smaller. (Wink, ladies.) Because I’m so arch-less, my running stride is also terrible in that I tend to plant my feet very hard whenever I get going. This causes shooting pains in both of my feet, and for days after running, my knees and hips would ache. It wasn’t until Week 4 of the program (a total of one mile of running) that I sought help with the issue. The helpful lady at Dick’s Sporting Goods said I should get arch supports. Now, it’s not so bad, and I’m starting to think that I can complete the program. The girlfriend, of course, is having absolutely no issues up to this point, and I feel like I’m hindering her progress. She assures me that I’m not, but I feel very much like the main character of Garth Brooks’ “Standing Outside the Fire” video every time I run.
I like running ... once I’m running
“But ... I don’t wanna!” is my response whenever we start getting ready for another run. I’ve even started bribing my girlfriend with kisses, like when we first started dating, to no avail. This is the way I react even if we’ve had a successful week. In fact, I’m doing well in the program as we approach Week 7. I never thought I would be able to run for 25 minutes without stopping, but here we are. The first few minutes are the worst. It’s when the body gets warmed up and you get in the groove—when the endorphins kick in—that I almost feel like I’m coasting. Nothing is painful, and my breathing is relaxed. For the first time during the program, I hear myself say, “That’s it?” at the end of the run. This could be the start to something special. I actually LIKE running. Who the hell am I? Am I Jesus?
Anything is possible (including hurting myself)
And then I hurt myself at the start of Week 8. It was the first day of the week for running, and from the very beginning, something just felt off. I couldn’t find my breath or get a feel for my stride. Just a few minutes in and I wanted to quit, which is probably what I should’ve done in hindsight. The one thing I’ve learned other than how to run is that when your body just isn’t feeling up to it you shouldn’t push it. But I pushed it. Around the 10-minute mark of the 28-minute jog, I ended up tripping over an invisible wire and flipping forward onto the pavement. The sandpaper effect quickly butchered both my knees, forearms and the palms of my hands. It was a bad day. Luckily, I didn’t pull anything important or damage my precious genitals. This setback kept me off the trails for about a week, and things went downhill from there.
I’m a quitter
I mentioned earlier that I’m not a fan of testimonials, but I doubt the folks at Couch-to-5K would want one from me anyway. What happened is that I quit the program after this setback, and I haven’t tried again. There were a few other life emergencies that came into play, but when you boil it down, I simply just gave up. Yeah, I’m ashamed that I didn’t complete the program, and I’m more ashamed that I let my girlfriend down. The most important lesson I learned from this adventure was that I let myself get too easily discouraged and that I can walk away from it without any remorse at the time. Now, months later. I think I’m ready to try again. Will I be successful? I honestly don’t know. Will I try? Absolutely. I need to finish this for my girlfriend, but mainly for myself. If you see an overweight guy running downtown this summer, do me a favor and throw me a thumbs up. I’d appreciate it.