As I sit here in the front yard on this beautiful spring evening, the sun is setting.  The birds are singing.  The neighbors are mowing their yards.  The children are playing in the cul-de-sac, giggling those carefree laughs of innocence.  Off in the distance, the faint sound of the ice cream truck playing its familiar summer tune rings softly in the background.  It’s a beautiful opportunity to sit and enjoy life.  To reflect on the day.  To relax and rest.  And yet, I find myself longing for something more.  Something is missing.

It’s been a little over a year since I started this run journey.  Run journey…it seems odd to even call it that really.  It’s not so much a “run” journey, per se, as it is a “fitness” or “health” journey.  I try to do other things to mix up my workouts…swimming, strength training, stretching and circuit training.  I’m open to any kind of workout really…anything to break up the monotony.  It’s just that running is what’s finally motivated me to keep going…the catapult that’s launched my passion and resolve to improve my overall fitness and level of health.  So a run journey is what I shall call it.

Which is still odd to me, really.  I mean I’ve always hated running.  And yet, here I am, only two months shy of turning 39, and I just recently “retired” my first pair of running shoes.  I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say I love running or that I even enjoy it.  I still really don’t like it much…which is, I suppose, an improvement over hating it.  It’s really more about how it makes me feel that I enjoy…that I know it’s helping me shed some pounds…how much better I feel about myself after I’ve logged some miles…and that I know the long term benefits far outweigh any negative I can ever conjure up.

As the sun drops behind the neighbor’s house, and the day draws near its end, a coolness fills the air.  The warmth of the sun now gone, I sit in the shadows of a day now also gone. I’m feeling a sense of loss.  I’ve missed an opportunity.  I have a longing deep within to take today back and start again.  To start it the way I know I should have.  To start it the way I really wanted to.  To start it with a run.  And that’s when it hits me.  That longing to run…that desire to be out there pounding the pavement…that internal passion to want to subject my body to pain…it all adds up to one thing that I’ve been fighting for a year now.  I’m not who I was a year ago at the start of this journey.  I’m a runner now.

And still, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a runner looking back at me…at least not in the sense of how I picture a runner.  So, I have to ask myself…when did this happen?  I mean, I don’t really believe I woke up this morning and said, “I’m a runner.”  I think this has been a slow onset, one I should have seen coming…but didn’t.  I guess it’s kinda like how you would cook a live frog without him ever knowing he’s dinner…not that I’ve ever boiled a frog.  But I can imagine that rather than tossing him right in the boiling water…where he would simply jump right out, you’d put him in a pot of cool water and then slowly bring it to a boil, so that by the time he knows he’s dinner, it’s too late…he never saw it coming.  That’s kinda how I feel…like someone tossed me in a pot of cool water about a year ago and has slowly been turning up the heat on me.  I adapted to my changing environment with each slow adjustment, and now I look back and realize I’m not who I was a year ago.  I’ve changed.  I’ve morphed into something new.  Without ever seeing it coming, I’ve become a runner.

A few weeks ago, I was driving around town doing some errands, and I had to have passed a dozen or more people who were taking advantage of the cool weather to get their run in.  Fellow runners out there logging their miles. It wasn’t until after about the fourth runner that I realized I was even doing it.  Until recently, when I saw a runner on the road, I would quietly think to myself, “don’t know why you’re out there doing that!  You won’t catch me running unless someone bigger than me is trying to kill me.”  But today, I caught myself doing it…what I would imagine other runners do when they see a fellow runner.  I was checking them out.  Several times, I was actually staring…intently focusing on their stance, their stride, and their attire…what cool accessories were they wearing that might make my runs easier?  What kind of outfit is he wearing?  That hat looks nice.  Those shoes look worn…I bet her stride would improve if she bought a new pair.  Nice sunglasses…I need to get a strap for the back of mine too.  I think that’s when this little thought hit me…Whoa!  I’m a runner now.

And what’s even better is that my NE and SI want to run with me.  NE and I ran together earlier this week for the first time…a little over 1/4 mile on two different occasions…and SI joined us for just under 1/4 mile.  Bubba, watching you run that lap all out as fast as you could was glorious and encouragingly exciting…to know you both wanted to run it to be with me makes me want to bring y’all out more often, to begin fostering in your young lives now a desire to be healthy and active.  To reinforce to you that I’m not who I was.  I’m a runner now.

So as I sit here in the shadows of having recently finished my second half, I’m looking to the future…to my summer and fall schedule to see where I can fit in two more by the end of the year…and how I can get 4-5 in next year…maybe even a triathlon.  I just typed out the word “half”.  That I’m now typing out the jargon of a runner, and not just saying it, has to scream I’m not who I was…I’m a runner now.

That feeling of getting out there and pushing past that initial pain threshold to reach a state of acceptance.  Acceptance that this is the new normal.  Acceptance that this is what it’s going to take.  Acceptance that I’m not who I was…that this is who I am now…I’m a runner now.

Love,

Dad

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