I Guess I’m A Runner Now

On Saturday I ran the first race of my life. I raced in the Deena Kastor 5K, which was part of The Great Race of Agoura Hills. I finished in 26:58 and placed 241/1397. Not bad and I plan to do even better next time. It wasn’t a difficult run, but I pushed myself hard. Everyone said, ‘just have fun’, which I did, I couldn’t help being a little competitive, even if it was just with myself. I wasn’t racing the other people, but they certainly helped motivate me to push myself. I thought of my dad when I was out there. He really enjoyed running. When I called to tell my mom how I did she said, “Your dad would have been really proud of you,” which meant a lot to me.

I’m not a competitive person by nature. Honestly, I’m lazy. I never really enjoyed sports much as a kid, though I loved skateboarding, soccer and mountain biking. My dad always used to really push me. One of the values he instilled was to not be a quitter, which didn’t really stick. I quit a lot of things and I feel different about being a quitter as an adult than I did as a kid. We’re taught as kids not to quit, but as an adult I realized that there are a lot of things worth quitting, especially if they’re not making you happy. I quit books a lot. I’ve quit relationships with people. I’ve started and stopped running in the past, but this time is different. This time I’ve set a single goal – finish a half marathon. Even though I’m not there yet, I’m already excited by the prospect of pushing myself to do a marathon and maybe even a triathlon. Who have I become?

What is so different from the other times I’ve started running is that I am now held more accountable. I keep track of all my runs and workouts on RunKeeper. I run with my iPhone and use the iSmooth app. I have a Suunto t4d that tracks my heart rate. I also happen to work at a company that has quite a few athletes. This has made a big difference. Ian and Nicole are largely responsible for convincing me to run in the first place and are both great mentors and teachers when I have questions about anything. I really enjoy the camaraderie of it all even though I run and exercise in solitary. It helps keep me motivated and accountable. Being able to track all of the data, see progress and have it published online for other runners to see is helpful for the same reason. Simply put, data changes behavior. 

Speaking of changing behavior, in addition to the running and strength training I’ve been doing, I’ve changed my nutrition significantly. I was never a particularly unhealthy eater, but there was definitely room for improvement, especially as I learned more about the connection between endurance training and nutrition. It’s easy to get informed about nutrition if you’re motivated. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated about who’s right and who’s trying to sell you something. I enjoy science and data and the best book I’ve read and learned the most from is In Fitness and In Health by Dr. Philip Maffetone’s. Ian turned me on to it and I have recommended it to everyone I can. If you are even remotely interested in learning about nutrition, that is where I would start. I also listen to Ben Greenfield’s podcast, which has fantastic information about the science of fitness and nutrition that’s practical, easy to understand and applicable to daily life. No bullshit. No fad diets, etc. Start with his food pyramid and you’re well on your way to eating better.

The training and changes that I’ve made to my diet have had an undeniable and pretty dramatic impact on me. For starters, I’m almost never tired unless I just don’t get sleep. I’ve had stomach problems since I was a kid and I simply don’t have them anymore. I’m more focused, feel motivated, feel more creative and my stress and anxiety levels are a lot lower than they were before I started all of this. Needless to say, it has really improved my life and because of that I naturally want to share it with other people. My advice is to start small and don’t get overwhelmed by it all. The smallest changes in diet and exercise will motivate you to continue down a healthy path. Take that first step.

How can I help?