As I turned the corner for the final 50 yards of my first 5K, I thought about the long journey it took to get here. All the miles I’ve run the past few months, and in the past 15 months. All the weight lifting I’ve done this year. All the changes I’ve made in my diet.
But once I saw the large crowd, I thought of several people. There was my boss, and co-workers, cheering. They do that for everybody, but it struck me how awesome it is to have co-workers who don’t mind if I take a little longer lunch to get a workout in.
I thought of family. My father for helping me when I moved back last May, giving me a place to stay while I tried to figure out what the future held. Just as importantly, I thought about how he pushed me to work out last summer, to stick with it. How I miss our daily basketball games.
I thought of my brother, sister in law and niece and nephews, and my mom. All of them were at the hospital while I was running, attending to my mom’s husband, who had a small stroke Friday. Talk about irony.
And I thought of my girlfriend. My rock. The definition of support. There she was, clearly cold with her coat on, holding my work camera, getting photos not only of me running, but also of the event, helping me do my job. I thought, and think, I’m the luckiest man on the planet that she’s mine.
In short, I thought about how much good I have in my life. With those thoughts in my mind, it wasn’t a surprise that I ran the last quarter mile faster than I ran any other quarter mile.
I thought about strategy a few minutes before the start. Mr. T’s line from Rocky III – “Strategy? Don’t need no strategy” – ran through my head. Ultimately, I decided I would start dead last, with “Welcome to the Jungle” on my iPod.
The last time I was nervous, I mean sick to my stomach nervous, was my first date with the girlfriend. Before that, you’d have to go back to high school before a baseball game. During the first quarter mile, I thought I might throw up.
A quarter mile in, I was still dead last, and fine with that. Then my stomach settled, my legs loosened and my mind relaxed. I moved past a few runners.
A few blocks later, sweat was dripping down my face. I love that during a run. Makes it feel like a good workout. About a mile in, I felt great, running faster as we crossed 17th Street and jogged through Washburn’s campus.
Halfway through, I’d passed several runners, which gave me a little confidence. Then as we jogged on the south side of campus, the course veered back to the north. Damnit, a steady incline for more than a block. I was told this was a flat course. My ass!
At two miles, I was tired. Pretty much worn out. In full snot rocket mode. You know, holding one nostril and blowing snot out the other. Yes, it’s disgusting, but I’m not stopping to blow my nose. In fact, I’m not stopping for anything, period.
That’s what I told myself. You’ve put in too much work, run too many miles, crunched too many situps, pushed too many bench presses and cut out way too much cheese (as in all cheese) to stop now.
At about 2 1/2 miles, relief came in the form of a small cup of ice cold water. I’d kill to have these kids on Shunga trail handing me a cup of water during my daily runs. That got me through the next quarter mile.
I could feel my face get hot. I’m sure it was bright red. My left heel was aching. I swear I heard a voice from my shoe screaming “You masochistic son of a bitch” as I hit the 2 3/4 mile mark. No turning back now. Run it out. And I did.
There have been promotions, writing awards, sports section awards, wins in big games, some great moments in life. Finishing that 5K without walking ranks right up there. To be able to share it with family, friends and my girl … priceless.
PAY IT FORWARD
One of the best things about this fitness/lifestyle change is the support I’ve received from so many people, whether it’s a “you look great” or somebody asking how I’ve done it … it means a lot. Every compliment is HUGE.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing my story with folks. It’s awesome to have people ask about fitness. When I weighed 300 pounds less than two years ago, people asked if I wanted my meal supersized. Now they’re asking which lifts I do at the gym.
I tell people this often, and I mean it. If I can do this, you can do this. It’s worth it. Seeing your quality of life improve drastically is something everybody should experience.
You might even pass me at a 5K someday.