How I Became A Runner

How I Became A Runner

Out of the blue and completely unexpectedly…I have become a runner.

I never liked running.
I stopped running when I was a child, frolicking around my neighborhood playing games with other kids.

I have not run since, preferring the less intense and more “gentle” forms of exercise, like yoga, swimming and long distance walking.

My husband Jules loves running and has been running on and off since his junior high school days, although he was not a disciplined runner and did not keep it up regularly.

In all my years as an adult, I only ran once.
We were traveling in Okinawa, Japan, when a typhoon hit the island.
The beaches were full of debris and the water was cold.
As an emergency measure, all the shops were closed and we had nothing to do the day after the storm.

The sun looked inviting and the wind was very calm, so Jules suggested that we go for a short jog around the neighborhood where we were staying.

We laced on our sneakers and went for a slow jog.
It was a mildly hilly neighborhood and I was huffing and puffing.
Needless to say, I did not enjoy the run.
I was hot, sweaty, achy and felt more like I was getting a heart attack than exercising for greater health and fitness.
I have not run again since.

But this year, at the end of winter, something inside me changed.
I read some books written by people who were total novices to fitness, who became triathletes, simply by starting to run, swim, cycle, surf, and developing the endurance to keep going despite pains and difficulties.

The most inspiring books I read were written by elderly people who decided to take on intense forms of exercise, as a way of making their bodies and minds stronger.

The more I read their stories, the more inspired I became.
Some of these elderly have so overcome the concept of age and aging, that they ran marathons every month.
Other say that they “no longer run marathons, because they had moved on to running ULTRA Marathons.”
(Ultra is a minimum distance of 40 miles, but many described running 100, 300, 400 miles and more.)

In late February this year, we had many mild, sunny days.
The ski slopes were crowded, so on sunny days, instead of heading to the mountains to ski, we went for slow jogs.

I read a book about the benefits of slow jogging, and later read the “Run Walk Run Method” by Jeff Galloway.

We dressed in layers, intending to take off some layers as we started running in chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and slowly got warmed up.

I knew we could do the run walk run method, because in this method you decide how long you walk and how long or short you run, as long as you repeat it in a consistent manner.

Jules and I are good walkers.
We can walk for many miles per day without feeling any strain.
I trusted that if I felt achy, we could run less and walk more.

We are blessed with many trails in our area of Colorado.
We chose a trail in the town where we swim in the hot springs, and decided to run 5 km.
We started with a one minute slow run followed by a one minute walk.
It was so chilly that we took a break in the middle to have hot tea in Starbucks.
But we finished the 5 km run and went home feeling on top of the world.

They say all beginnings are difficult, and it sure proved difficult to me.
In the first few weeks, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, my thighs burnt and I experienced fatigue that was worse than a full day of walking on a pilgrimage.

But to my amazement, I LOVED it.
I loved getting stronger every day, loved observing how a pain that seemed so deep, that seem to last, disappeared overnight.

When Kira, Jules’ daughter, passed away unexpectedly a month later in March , I experienced how running can heal a broken heart and help restore balance.
We ran a 10 km in her memory, still using the run-walk-run method.
It helped us through the grieving, since she had passed away from suicide.

A few weeks after her passing, we took a trip to the Maldives with Kira’s husband and son.
We dived every day in the beautiful turquoise Indian Ocean, and Mother Nature blessed us with amazing encounters under the ocean.

We saw Whale Sharks multiple times, two adult octopi dancing, and many feeding sharks as well as beautiful coral and small colorful creatures.
We were treated to a long display of more than a dozen huge Manta Rays, who graced us with their presence, swimming so close to us that they grazed our heads with their wide wingspans.

We even ran 5km daily in the Maldives despite the heat.
Jules and I ran every afternoon after my two morning dives and a relaxed lunch.
We took a break mid run to swim in the ocean and cool off.
A friend we made on this trip, even asked us if she and her son could run with us, so they can learn the run-walk method.

I never would have imagined that I would become a runner.
At first, I was advised to “bundle up” the running with some fun things, like having a nice lunch or sitting in a cafe, on the days that you go running.
But soon I needed no motivation to go running.
I enjoyed it so much that the “runner’s high” that every runner experiences, is enough for me.

Now, I have to admit that I have a new goal….
I plan to run a marathon in the year I turn 60.
Hopefully it will become a yearly habit, and I will be able to run a marathon every year from then on.

Some people will tell you that running long distances and too often is not so healthy for elders who tend to have weaker bones.
But in truth, running helped me heal my knee, which had pain caused by a ski injury.
Running strengthened the muscles around my knee, and I no longer feel any pain or hear a cracking sound in my knee.

Let me say this:
it is lack of exercise and being too sedentary, that is damaging to your health and limiting your life!

The body is a wholly Neutral thing!
It will rise up to the occasion if you demand it, and it will crumble and age if you believe that it cannot do much.
It will heal overnight if you let it, and it will hold on to pain if your mind directs it to do so, by focusing on the sensation of pain.

This is a valuable lesson in Truth that I first learned while on a Vipassana meditation retreat where we sat on the floor with crossed legs for 14 hours a day.
Without back support, I experienced pain that felt insurmountable.
But we were not allowed to move, so I simply observed the pain.
First I felt it between my shoulders, but I didn’t move.
Soon it moved to my back and traveled down my spine to my lower back, and then on to my folded legs and then to my feet.
The pain in my shoulders that had felt so “real” only minutes before, was completely gone.
All I needed to do was wait and observe how the snake of pain moved through my body and disappeared.

In the meditation sessions when my mind was focused on the pain, obsessing about the unbearable discomfort, the pain stayed with me until I was able to move again.
Now I know that pain and suffering are not “real” and will go away if you do not “feed that demon.”

To make my commitment to running a marathon on my 60th birthday which will happen in two years, I started a “Marathon Running Fund.”
Every day that we go running a minimum of 5km, I put $20 in a jar,
$10 for me and $10 for Jules.
On days when we run 10km, I double my contribution to the Marathon fund.

The money is only a symbolic motivation, but it is a constant reminder that I have a larger goal.
I already benefit from the runs we do in the snow and in the relentless summer heat.
I am getting seriously stronger.
On a recent diving trip to Mexico a month ago, people commented about how strong I was, as I walked up and down many stairs to dive in the sinkholes, carrying the tanks and heavy double weights.

Getting stronger and having greater joy in life, are some of the unexpected benefits of becoming a runner.
Learning to endure despite difficulties, like the loss of loved ones, the intense heat, or a big bear that was recently blocking our running path that forced us to take an unexpected detour without water in our water bottles, are all parts of becoming not just a runner, but a person who can endure the challenges of life.

We need to remember that at our core, we are not mere mortal beings.
We are unlimited Spirits, powerful Creators, born for greatness and created in the image and likeness of God!

I will end with a quote that was tattooed on the leg of a Spanish ultra marathon athlete.
It said:
“The Devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm…”
I whispered back: “I AM the storm…”

With love and blessings,

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