I am a runner. Not the super-disciplined runner who gets up at Oh-dark-thirty and runs 10 miles before the sun comes up (like my ultra-marathon running neighbor).  And not the super-fast runner who runs 7 minute miles as his easy run.  I’m more of a 9-10 minute mile guy–slow and steady.  I run outside, but only if the temp is north of 50 with no rain or major wind; otherwise I will use the trusty treadmill.  Sorry, I’m a fair weather runner.  I have one running accomplishment that I am really proud of.  I have run a marathon.  For you non-runners, that’s 26.2 miles.  I ran the 2004 Kiawah Island Marathon in under 4 hours (3:59. Hey, still under 4!).  I am one of those runners who has to have a goal to train for.  I can’t run just for the sake of running.  I am currently “training” for the Cooper River Bridge Run and possibly a half marathon (still undecided which one).

One of the things I’ve learned during my years of running is that it is a great metaphor for life.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Just like life, running has highs and lows and in-betweens; hills and valleys and traffic; good weather and bad weather.  Like today for example: I literally had to drag my butt off the couch (where I was snuggling with my extremely gorgeous wife) to go outside to run.  Luckily, I had been psyching myself up for it most of the day.  But that isn’t always the case.  Sometimes I just blow it off with any number of excuses, some good, some not so good: need to spend time with the family (good one), need to watch some football (not so good).  Don’t we sometimes do the same with life, making excuses so we can avoid some of things we “should” be doing in our lives? Once I finally got outside, the weather was anything but perfect: overcast and dreary, but 60-ish, which isn’t bad for January 24th.  So off I start.  Walk for a minute, then start a nice slow pace to get warmed up.  Now days it takes me a good mile or more to even start feeling good.  We live in a hilly neighborhood so right away I have a steady downhill, but the problem is, for me, running downhill is sometimes more painful (bad kind of pain) than running uphill.  Before the recession began, I felt like we as a family, and even our country was “coasting” (kind of like a nice steady downhill run), but we all soon discovered that if you coast long enough, you eventually hit some hills.  In running and in life doesn’t the best conditioning occur when doing hill-work?

So I’m sort of coasting down several hills ( we live almost at the top of the neighborhood elevation-wise) when I leave the safety of neighborhood roads and hit the 45 mph main road.  This is where it can get a bit scary.  There are some drivers (maybe even most) who will give you plenty of room to stay on the asphalt if they can.  I give them the thank you wave and smile as they go by.  There are other drivers though that almost seem to be daring me to stay on the asphalt.  I still wave at them because it will probably irritate them, but I am usually jumping onto the shoulder trying to get out of the way.  Now days with the texting and tweeting while driving, we runners (and cyclists) have to be extra careful.  When I see a garbage truck or bus or other large vehicle headed towards me, I don’t even hesitate to give them the entire road and then some.  I have a friend whose wife lost her job a few months ago, and it was completely unexpected.  Just this week I heard of a 43 year old dad (4 kids, 3 under the age of four) who finally got the kidney transplant he’s been waiting for, but something went terribly wrong after the surgery, and now his wife is a widow and his kids are without a father.

The downhill is over now, and I know what’s ahead: a long steady 1 mile climb.  For some strange reason, I kind of like this particular hill, maybe because I know that when I get to the top there is no more uphill, only flat easy running back to my house.  However, I still have to watch out for oncoming traffic, and there are a few blind curves where they won’t even see me until the last minute.  Occasionally I’ll have these freaky (morbid actually) thoughts pop into my head as a vehicle blows by me, like what if I tripped and fell toward that truck?  What’s that all about, and where did that come from?  These days, when I see an email from my boss, but before I read it, I have a similar thought pop into my head like, what if he wants to fire me?  What would we do?

So, I get to the top of the mile long hill and realize I only have a mile left to my house.  But there is a problem–that would only give me 3.5 miles, and I’m supposed to do 4.5 miles today.  Now I have to add in the extra mile using some creative running.  Oops! That means “heartbreak hill”.  This is the name my wife and I gave the very steep hill coming up to our house from the other side (I ran down it at the beginning of my run), because our heart rate speeds up so much it feels like it’s going to break.  I’m feeling pretty good at this point so I turn down this road and do a small loop.  Then turn into a circle and make the turn to head up “heartbreak”, and there is another runner coming down the hill.  You runners know what’s about to happen now, right?  I’ve gotta speed up!  There’s no way I’m gonna let another runner see me lolligagging (not sure of the proper spelling) up the steepest hill in the neighborhood!  I all but sprint to the top, and then I realize I still need a tenth of a mile to get to 4.5.  I almost cursed.  Okay maybe I did say one bad word, but nobody heard me.  Then I started lolligagging because I was dead after sprinting up Heartbreak, but I made my goal mileage.

I read recently (Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy) that when we humans complete a goal or task, our brains secrete endorphins which make us feel more positive, creative, and confident.

Running releases endorphins too.  How cool is that?!?

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27 (The Message)