“Now that I look back I know that I am just obsessive compulsive, like many addicts, and I have just learned that I can shift that focus from obsession to obsession.”
Where I Started
On June 24th I ran a 5k and it took me just a little over 26 minutes to finish. For me this was the fastest that I had run a 5k since I hurt myself a couple of years back. How did I hurt myself?
I did what a lot of people do when they start running. I went too fast, too soon, too often.
I was the typical couch to 5k story. I was a pack a day smoker. I drank copious amounts of Jim Beam and Pepsi. I had an affinity for super hoppy IPA’s and I was not a fan of any kind of moderation.
I had just started dating someone. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She still is 6 years later and I can not wait to marry her. I was a little surprised at what she saw in me, but I knew I didn’t want to lose her. So I decided that I had to give this relationship my all.
I knew that she could decide at any time to leave, because she’s a human and we don’t live in the Middle East. This perspective continues to give me gratitude daily. Knowing this and making peace with it also made me think about regret.
If our relationship were to end I did not want to look back on it and think, “Oh fuck, I should have tried harder.”
One night on the phone I drunkenly proclaimed that I had intense self control. Now that I look back I know that I am just obsessive compulsive, like many addicts, and I have just learned that I can shift that focus from obsession to obsession.
“I can quit smoking. Whenever I want.”
“Oh yeah, if so then just do it right now.”
I flicked out my last cigarette. Seriously. I haven’t smoked since that night six years ago.
During brunch at the beginning of our relationship I proposed that we take time off of boozing. She went 30 days and I think I went 72 days. In that time I decided I needed to take care of my body. I mean I was dating a fucking goddess with a six pack.
I went for a run. Well I tried to go for a run. I couldn’t make it around the block. I stopped after a minute. I bent over and pressed my sweaty palms onto my sweaty knees.
Then I put my arms on my head and walked back home.
Remember I have an addicts brain. So the next day I ran again after talking to some friends who told me I just needed to pace myself. I had not ran a mile in over a decade. I wasn’t going to be able to run a 7:00 minute mile.
So I went out. I jogged.
When I say jogged I mean I jogged the fuck out of that mile. I think I got it done in 12:30.
I was exhausted.
I continued running for several months. 4–5 times a week. I would hop on a treadmill or go outside and go as hard as I could. I eventually got to a sub 20 minute 5k. I was progressing pretty quickly, because I’m a maniac.
Then one day I woke up and felt like a dagger was being stabbed into my ankle. The pain was excruciating. Every morning would be like this for the next year. I basically quit running.
I would jog off and on. The pain in my heel slowly started to go away. I’m pretty sure I had plantar fasciitis. I just googled how to spell fasciitis and I read this;
Yes, in some cases, plantar fasciitis will go away on its own, provided the planter fascia is given adequate time to rest and heal. This is more likely in the very early stages of plantar fasciitis, when the damage to the plantar fascia is minimal. There can be consequences to allowing plantar fasciitis to heal on its own such as:
There can be consequences to allowing plantar fasciitis to heal on its own such as:
- Increasing pain as time goes on
- Prolonged duration of the condition
- Worstening of the condition instead of healing
- Manifestation of secondary ailments or complications
So definitely go see a doctor. I didn’t because I don’t have insurance. I worked as a bartender and a server for 15 years and I’m in my second year as a full time freelancer. So maybe I’ll have insurance one day. Currently I don’t so I tried everything I read online that could possibly help me. I finally found a solution.
Yoga and Ice baths.
I did yoga every other day for a few months and I would submerge my foot into a 35 degree bucket of ice water three times a day. I replaced my cigarette budget with bags of ice. No joke.
After my foot returned to normal I started running again. Honestly it was more of a jog. I would go out for an hour, sometimes two, and I would just cruise along at an 11:00 to 12:00 minute pace. I would fantasize of running marathons, ultra marathons, and fast 5k’s. I was afraid to try and go quicker. I didn’t want to get hurt again.
I would get bored of running slowly and I would stop. I would gain weight and I would eventually go out for another jog.
A marathon, a documentary, and a fundraiser.
In September of 2020 I made a spontaneous decision to run a marathon. All the races were getting cancelled in my area and I got sad for some reason. It’s not like I was signed up for any.
Nonetheless I said fuck it and I announced on IG live that I was going to run a marathon on my own. I would do it on a 3.7 mile loop in the woods by my house. I would run 7 laps. One of my friends asked if he could join me and then we ran together. I made a documentary about it. I’ll link it at the bottom of this article.
I was incredibly out of shape when I ran this marathon. I only had 8 weeks to train. So I just would go out and stay on my feet as long as I could no matter how slowly I went. I don’t think I ever broke a 10 minute mile in the entire 26.2 miles. But dammit, I got it done.
After the marathon. I celebrated for 5 months. I gained more weight.
Going Faster and Being Accountable
I am 6'3" and a healthy weight for me can be anywhere between 195lbs and 210lbs. When I say healthy I am just going off of how I feel and look. I’ve been more muscular at the 210lb end of the spectrum and felt great. Then at times I have been an active runner and felt great down at 195lbs.
I stepped on a scale at my mother in laws house. I weighed 240lbs. Holy fuck. This is not ok. I was and still am not fine with how badly I treated my body.
My foot felt great and I now knew enough about running to try again.
I sat down and came up with a schedule. I would run 3–4 days a week. 2 of the days were just sprints. I hate sprints, but I made myself do it. If you’re a runner and you want to go fast you have to do two things.
- Run slow, run really slow, and for a long time.
- Run faster than you ever would run in a race. Stop. Bring your heart rate down and repeat.
I did this for three months before I ran a 5k on June 24th of this year. When I was training for a marathon I could not break a 30 minute 5k. So on June 24th when I ran a 26 minute 5k I felt happy. I wanted to go faster and I knew I could, but for now that was awesome.
I woke up the next day and I was a little sore, but it was manageable. That morning as I was completing errands and driving around the city I listened to the Rich Roll Podcast. His guest was a kid named, Hellah. Hellah had just ran from the West Coast of the United States to the East Coast in just 84 days. He ran 3,061 miles in 84 days. Holy hell that is crazy.
During the podcast he talked about how he got into running. He was and is to this day on a 3 plus year running streak. It started by going out for at least a mile a day. Then that turned into a run across America.
As soon as I went home I started my running streak. I said I was going to go for at least a year. My rules were similar.
- At least ten minutes or a mile a day
- It has to be outside
- It doesn’t matter how slow you do it, you just have to get it done everyday.
Didn’t you get hurt doing this?
My goddess of a fiance was concerned. Rightfully so. She has watched me over do almost everything I do. I assured her that this time was different. I understood that I could get hurt and that I would probably either have to stop or I would keep going and hurt myself worse than the first time.
At this point in running I had tried a lot of different techniques and acquired enough knowledge to hopefully learn from my past. I wasn’t going to go as fast as I could everyday. Honestly knowing that I can’t take a day off has been one of the best mental exercises for me.
Mentally I used to view every run as a chance to do my best. Now I know that your best only can happen a few times a year. Which seems crazy to a person with a day to day mindset. If you’re going to be successful at anything you have to develop a system to slowly inch towards your goals. With running, for me at least, it seemed like it was the daily running streak.
My Foot It Hurts
Around day 40 the ball of my foot started to feel odd. I wasn’t experiencing any pain. It just felt swollen, but it wasn’t. Again, maybe stop running or go and see a doctor. I didn’t and maybe that’s a bad idea. I’m just being honest with you.
I iced my foot three times a day and I only ran a mile a day for a week. Those miles were 10:30 miles. Which sucked because I ran a PR of 6:45 in the mile just a week before. My average daily runs were slowly speeding up, but I didn’t want to quit.
The odd feeling went away. Then it came back between day 60–70. I was seriously considering quitting. I slowed down the runs and limited myself to a mile a day again.
The feeling went away and I eased myself back into a quicker groove. I was and am very comfortable now around an 8 minute and 30 second pace. I still run slower for two to three runs a week, but for short runs I don’t go below 8:30.
On day 85 I went on a run with my son. He is in middle school cross country and I struggled to keep up with him even on his recovery runs. That was until this Sunday. We started down the trail cruising around an 8 minute pace.
“Do you feel comfortable, is this easy?”
“Yeah Dad this is so easy.”
He in in Middle School and they run 3k’s. He runs them in 11 minutes. So I know 8 minute miles are fairly easy for him, but doing 4 of them might be more than he is used to.
Sure enough around the 30 minute mark he asked if we were almost done. I asked him if he was tired and he said,
“Yeah Dad, I didn’t think you could stay at this pace for that long.”
We high fived and he told me that he was proud of me. I told him how proud I was of him and we walked back home together.
Day 100 just happened two days ago. I don’t really remember much from the run. I posted about it on social media and a few people told me good job. What was remarkable was the day before. I thought I was just going to do an easy mile because I was a tad sore from a long slow 7 mile run the day before.
I set out running down my block. I knew I was going quick for me, but I didn’t know how fast. As I turned onto the trail in front of my house I realized I was on pace to run a sub 24 minute 5k. I adjusted my route so I wouldn’t have to get stuck waiting for traffic and I cruised to a comfortable finish at 23:13.
Holy Fuck. I accidentally got so much better without trying. Yeah I was trying because I ran everyday, but speed was never on my mind. I just wanted to build a daily habit. I knew if I could build a solid habit and have a decent running base I could eventually refine my system and put in efforts to get better.
I honestly didn’t expect to get so much better so soon. Yeah I have a long way to go but this tiny daily habit has radically changed my fitness. I’m more lean and I am faster. I can finally run with my son, albeit on his recovery days.
The Power of a Small Goal
I can’t imagine if you’re still reading this that you are not a runner, but if you are I know you can apply this habit building tool in whatever it is you do.
Obviously I am a writer because, well…
Like running, writing has been something that has come and gone in my life. Right now I am writing more than I have since college. My writing story is quite similar to my running story. I went out too hard, too fast, too soon, and I got burnt out. Last December is when I really picked up some momentum with writing. It’s when I started this medium page.
I wrote a blog a day for 30 days. The rules were;
- Write and publish a story everyday.
- It has to be just one sentence.
Like running and my simple rule of 1 mile or ten minutes, the one sentence rule is so easy to do that it tricks me into sitting down to do the work. I still have never written a one sentence blog, but maybe one day…
I just released a documentary about my first Marathon;
Here is the article I mentioned half way through this story: