Let’s be clear, I am not a runner. I’m really not. Self-identifying as a runner, so I thought, means I have to pop off odd catch phrases like “get after it” and “crush it,” which I won’t do. I’d have to wear tight, stretchy clothes just to take out the trash, which I can’t do. And, well, I’d have to run, which was never part of any equation. Nope, not a runner.
Then life happened.
In early 2011, just shy of my 40th birthday, my wife suggested I live dangerously and register for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago. Enough years went by with me ogling the glossy Urbanathlon ads in the magazine and my wife finally took the leap for me. I’d get to sweat a lot and jump over and around tall things and be competitive, and we’d get a long-weekend family vacation in a city we love. Done and done.
In the months leading up to the race I nearly shut down the Internet searching for posts of previous races, videos demonstrating the obstacles, and conjuring up whatever I could find to put me in the right frame of mind about competing in this specific race. In-depth content was hard to come by [note: several weeks prior to the Chicago race Men’s Health and Gatorade launched the crushingthecourse.com blog, with guest bloggers Ray Maker and Sarah Dussault. Ray is a beast endurance athlete and Sarah a fierce personal trainer and fitness junkie who was running competitively for the first time, so it was a great mix of pro-style tips and ‘we’re all in this together’ support. I encourage you to reference it.].
Most importantly, besides info overload, I had to start running. No sweat. I laced up some old Nikes, gathered the kids, trekked to a nearby lake and put one foot in front of the other, then one stride in front of the other, and then nearly fell to my knees in disbelief (and near exhaustion). I felt heavy and sluggish. I was throat-burn winded. My legs and muscles were tight and unlubricated. I leaked my body weight in sweat. All this and I had run less than a mile.
In the end my mile split hovered well over 9 minutes. I was mortified, humbled, and disgusted, especially since the Urbanathlon was about 10 miles all told. But more so because the athletic stud that still loomed large in my heart and mind was nowhere to be found in this inexplicably fragile body.
I had 4 months to pull myself up by my leggings, set some goals (both realistic and lofty), train consistently (a few days a week, a few miles at a time), eat better (f@&# you sweet tooth), slim down a shtickle (regain my fighting weight of about 205 lbs), and make travel arrangements. Done, done, and done.
In Chicago I finished on the low threshold of where I anticipated I’d come in:
- A time of 1:30:39 (the night before I calculated I’d come in between 1:28 and 1:30)
- Placed 53 out of 201 men in the 40-44 age group (I really thought I would place closer to 35-40 in my age group)
- Placed 853 overall out of 2,999 total individual competitors (not bad, but I was fantasizing closer to the 600s)
Overall I felt really fulfilled and proud with my performance. I also felt that with some effort, and now some real-world experience in the rear view, I could dramatically improve in 2012 and make a serious run at placing in the top tier of my age group.
And that’s what this blog is about. First, I want to create a repository for future first-time Urbanathletes to get immersed in the experience of the race. It’s a great experience. Second, I want to share my path to redemption as I train and try new things in preparation for a more competitive 2012 race. Third, I’m sure you have your own mountains to climb, and perhaps in this space we can inspire one another to get to where we’re going.
So, yeah, I guess I’m a runner now. I’m cool with that. Sure my clothes are a little tighter and more elastic, and I’ve said ‘crush it’ in conversation at least twice. But the Urbanathlon beckons, and I’m gett’n after it.
Hope to see you in Chicago in 2012.