I answered a question for myself yesterday. See, I've never been much of a runner. Actually, I've hated running. In high school, I played football, a sport where if I ever had to run 100 yards at once, I'd be on a highlight reel. That was no accident. I did run track for my last two years of high school, but just about by accident. My favorite teacher coached the track team, and he pressured me into throwing shot put and discus by convincing me that all the running the team did would make me a better football player. Back then, I cared a bunch about that for some reason. Probably hormonal.
I never amounted to anything in the shot or the discus, 'cause it turns out those are more about skill than size, and I didn't have any. And of course, in a foot race, I was a 6'1", 260-pound ape, and nobody was worried that I'd catch anyone. But there was a race where I could contribute to a track team: the 3200 Meters, or as we called it, the Two Mile. See, even most of the real runners hated the Two Mile race, and often at a triangular track meet there would only be two or three contestants entered. If I entered, I could place--and earn points for my team--simply by grinding it out and refusing to quit until I finished the race. There was one meet at our home field where I had to move outward on the last straightaway because they'd begun setting out the hurdles for the 110 before I finished my two miles, but I did finish it. I recall running about 10-minute miles and finishing the race in 20 minutes and change most of the time. In those days, two miles just about killed me, and I often wanted to stop before the race was over. Then I went to college, did no distance running for football anymore, quit football and began gaining weight steadily. Of course, I got back into shape quickly when I got married, but having kids was what really pushed me to get jacked . . .
No, wait. That's the opposite of what happened. I ballooned.
Anyway, present-day me has been weighing in at 259-260 again since the weekend, and I've also been thinking lately about trying to run a 5K. I've walked a few, but never really thought of myself as someone who can run a 5K. I wanted to attend one this weekend, but #3 Son has a soccer game at the same time. Still, the idea of running it was intriguing. My fitness work so far has not involved much distance running. I run laps around the gym, but that's not far; Wayne at HIPE is not a fan of long-distance running. Luckily, he's off on vacation somewhere this week, and what he doesn't know won't hurt him. I've also made the Fight for Air Climb three times, climbing the stairs at the Springfield Hilton hotel from the basement to the top floor, but that seemed like it might be too different. Could I run 5K, or about 3.1 miles, without stopping?
I started smaller. On Saturday, I took my car to have the oil changed about a mile from home and ran home. That seemed easy enough, so I waited until it was ready and ran back to pick it up. That made about 2.2 miles, but not all at once. Would I get a surprise if I pushed it further?
On Monday, I got up early and took off before the sun was up. My plan was to try to do two miles without stopping, but it felt good, so I extended my route a little and was well past two miles before I had to turn home to make it to work on time. Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten out of the house as early as I wanted to. I also hadn't paid attention to my feet, so I had the beginning of a nasty blister on one--but in terms of my lungs and heart and limbs, I felt like I could have kept the same pace indefinitely. I felt sure I could go out and do 5K when my feet were ready.
Yesterday, I got up, checked my feet, found them sound, and decided to go for it. It was raining a bit, but warm enough, and it felt great to run. I ended up putting 3.5 miles in without wearing out! I don't know what my time was, but I know I listened to an episode of "Welcome to Night Vale" (The Whispering Forest, to be exact.) I think I did 3.5 miles in less than 30 minutes, which would be a faster pace than I ever ran such a distance back in high school. I don't think that would be completely surprising, because I never really understood anything anyone tried to teach me about running form back then, and I think I run much more efficiently now.
This is a milestone for me, even if it may seem like no big deal to others. I think it's likely that by any objective measure other than maximum bench press, I'm healthier and more athletic now than I was when I graduated from high school. I "worked out" a lot back then, but I didn't know what I was doing. I was constantly injured and had little real core strength or cardiovascular endurance. Moreover, I feel like I'm on my way to lighter and leaner weight and greater and greater strength. I'm pretty confident that 36-year-old me could take 18-year-old me in just about any athletic contest, and I expect 40-year-old me to be capable of smoking 20-year-old me.