Friday, January 14, 2011

Running both the good & bad

It’s been a long time since I shared my thoughts in writing but finding myself with a few moments today at peace I felt it was time to share some thoughts. Running provided and still provides an excellent outlet for my emotions as well as an avenue that opened the doors to my creative side that helped to build my self esteem. I learned early on that to be successful at sustaining a long term running program I would need to implement methods that helped me to focus on external influences outside of the internal functions of running itself. This came naturally to me as the start of my running career was initiated by a divorce. Having a need to release emotion I found that running served a purpose in my life.

Like most beginners my goal as a runner was to build strength by increasing my mileage. I set goals and worked hard to achieve those goals and then set higher goals. When I felt that I had reached my potential I took it up a notch by attempting longer distances. I started racing at the 5 mile distance with a goal to place but found myself coming up short over and over again. Over time I became physically stronger but more importantly I became smarter which helped me to develop strategies to satisfy my goal. Ultimately I began to place in almost every race at varying short distances. Placing at races was fun but as time went on it was not challenging enough to satisfy my inner drive. I became bored which was a prompt to step it up a notch.

At the marathon distance the goal was to finish in the time lime provided which I easily accomplished in my first attempt. Obsession set in. After the first I saw no end nor did I want to see an end to my running career. When my goal was achieved I set higher and higher goals each marathon thereafter. The ultimate thrill at the marathon distance was setting my personal best time of 2:53:12 in the 2000 Boston Marathon. I then followed it up with a similar time at the Philly Marathon in November of that same year .

It was not long before I became bored at the marathon distance so I took the JFK challenge. My first attempt at the 50 mile distance left me with a finish in the top 50 in a sub-8 hour time. I loved that race so much that I followed it up with 9 more in consecutive years. Completing 10 straight showed that I could run through adversity and injury but toward the end it also revealed the impact that my running had on others.

The 100 mile distance loomed and though a bit intimidated I tackled the distance with no tutelage from other but instead used what I learned through reading race reports to give it a go . The 1st result was failure but with failure brought more desire. I read, I asked questions and I read more. I changed my style of running, I deviated from my normal paths I challenged myself to work harder. My second attempt was a success as were my next 23 attempts in a row including the Grand Slam, Badwater and my personal best 15:57 Rocky Raccoon 100 (2nd Place National Champion)

I trained hard but a result of my hard training was negative impact on those around me. Though it is a difficult thought and something I did not willingly admit at first I neglected those around me. I have bad memories of times when I neglected to follow through on promises, respond to requests or to those in need. My actions were not malicious or deliberate but instead they were driven by my mind which focused on a goal that I felt to be unachievable without 24-7 attention. Successfully I achieved one goal after the other but unfortunately the goals never ceased nor did they move to another field in life. I was caught up in my own little selfish world leaving those who cared for me susceptible to hatred for me.

The thrill of accomplishment diminished with each ultramarathon finish leaving me with only the physical wounds as a memory of my run. I was left feeling empty and in pain. Finally, after 17 years, I understood that an entire world existed. While I am proud of my accomplishments I also hold myself accountable for neglecting to be a well rounded person.

My mind clear and open I find new challenges in the form of my new family. The challenges I face can be tough but my background as an ultramarathon runner leave me not intimidated. The reward that come along the way as being a productive member of a family are certainly more rewarding than any ultramaraton finish I have ever had. Though the memories are there the desire to toe the start line of an ultramarathon have long ago disappeared. My goals are family oriented and focused on those who I can positively influence to be productive in life. Lucky for me I found a good companion in life who is understanding and willing to be with a person of many flaws.

I was not the best runner but when looking back I am proud of the work I did to progress from square 1 to a person who completed 80+ races at the marathon distance or greater. I’m now at square 1 again making many mistakes and hope to learn enough to be able to look back at the age of 80 and be just as proud of my accomplishments as a family man.

See ya


The former “Relentless Runner