petzlSometimes life takes you places you’d never expect. Suddenly you are walking the apocalyptic aisles of a rural Target, and you just have to wonder at the strange series of seemingly unconnected choices that lead you there. For me, the strange journey has brought me to the foreign shore of running.

I was never very athletic as a youth. I was picked last in PE. I had a hard time running because my legs were wracked with growing pains. I’ve lifted weights on and off over the years to try to stay in shape, but I never got very serious about it.

The important step for me was cycling. I’ve ridden bikes most of my life, but when I moved to Little Bay Root, I depended on a bike to get to work. Right away I was riding 10 to 14 miles a day. I rode the same commute, rain or shine for nearly seven years. I learned to enjoy the suffering of it.

At some point I realized that my legs had become strong and muscular, but I had plateaued. I wasn’t riding any stronger, so I decided to do some cross training. I did some ‘research’ and decided that running would make a good complement to the cycling. Running would build core strength that my cycling could benefit from.

So I started to run. I was lousy. I couldn’t run a mile. It took me a whole summer of struggling at it before I could run that mile without stopping. I was humbled, but I came back for more.

After a year of running, I made the transition to running in Fivefingers. I started over from scratch, running barely a mile. Over time, my legs started to redevelop. My calves got stronger, as did my feet. I focused on my foot strike and turnover. I logged the miles, but tried not to think about how slow I was.

My range increased. I started running to work once a week. There was a thrill to be able to say that I had done it. My cycling was banal, but when I told people that I had run to work, they were impressed. I could get used to that. I ran more and more.

I don’t have a day job any more, so the commute and most of the cycling is gone. Running has become my main form of exercise, other than walking. I get up early to run before I walk my son to school. I’m out before dawn, running down an unlit (but paved) trail. A friend gave me his spare headlamp so that I could see where I was going.

This is when it hit me. I realized that I get up at 5 am and go running in the dark three days a week. Sometimes it is damn cold. Sometimes it is raining. I go anyway. I’ve never been to a race or run even with another person, but I am a runner. I actually enjoy running without stopping for as long as I can keep it up, and I plan to do more of it.

I’ve become a runner.

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