As far as runners go I’m pretty low rent. I’m fat, lazy, and not particularly fast. I have terrible form and the attention span of a five year old at the Chuck E Cheese which makes running without an mp3 player out of the question. Runner culture seems pretty pretentious to me and I have no friends that are addicted to the sport so I am under no ones influence in particular.
So then why do I love it? I have been taking running ‘seriously’ since about 2005. I used to compete in the Carteret County Beach Run Series 5Ks to help prepare myself for the Marine Corps. I was coaxed into it by Larry Stover and his daughter, Halley. I had already been doing some timed running with my wife Ashley who, fresh out of college where she ran on scholarship, would leave me eating sand, so I was alone with just the surf. Most of those races were hell. I was terribly out of shape and the course is the worst you can think of for those that can not be self amused. The course was a 1.6 mile run down the tideline until you get to the turnaround table. The reward at the turn around: A paper cup of ice cold water and the instruction to turn around and repeat if I wanted to see my car again. The greatest thing about the paper cup of ice water was flipping it over my shoulder and dumping it down my back to cool off. The sudden shock would cause an involuntary respiratory contraction and I’d immediately suck a lungful of air against my will. The second greatest part of the paper cup was crumpling it up and discarding it in the trash can as I ran, pretending I was nearing the finish of a marathon as if I were someone competant.
Running on the beach is fun for a while, but the delicate balance lies in running close enough to the water to find the packed sand without getting wet. A sudden tide surge or a misjudged leap over a sliver of water and your shoes are instantly soaked adding weight and discomfort to the ordeal. However, considering all the running I’ve done over the years I look back most fondly on the Beach Run series, complete with the 98% humidity and matching temperature. Larry continues to run it and I hope to rejoin as life permits.
When I was indoctrinated into the Corps I became an expert at the three mile run. I studied it, practiced it, and even dreamt about it. I analyzed every Performance Fitness Test track when reporting to a new base; paying attention to elevations, street crossings, and split markings. I memorized goal time splits and knew how to pace to get where I needed to be. The irony is I wholly under perform the other two events so the run is almost an afterthought when it comes to completing my score. My initial scored PFT at the end of boot camp was timed at 24:30 for three miles. I’ve only PR’d past that once, my first PFT after Iraq, with a 23:17.
Most of my time spent in Iraq I was overweight. In January I checked in at 267lbs. The first half of the year was spent with light cardio and weight lifting which lowered my weight to a more respectable 230. The latter half of the year I took up treadmill running. I followed the recommendation of a good Sergeant of mine and went to RunnersWorld.com and downloaded a SmartCoach configurable running routine. The first day called for a brisk two mile run that I completed in a little less than twenty minutes. My fitness routine so far in Iraq allowed me to slip considerably and there was a lot of work to do. Ten weeks later on my second program I could run for sixty minutes straight and cover nearly seven miles in the process. My weight fell to 220 pounds which is within Marine Corps standards for my height.
The most staggering part in all of this is that I am no kidding addicted to running. If I go more than two days without hitting the treadmill I go through a noticeable physical withdraw. I recently overcame a head cold that kept me off the treadmill for nearly a week. Lying in bed all night made me so miserable I ran a quick two mile maintenance run, fifteen minutes this time, and it made me feel noticeably better when nothing else worked all week. Sure the weight loss, which is tied directly to my diet and running regimen, contributes to my need to run. However the urge goes beyond vanity.
In short, I have become an obnoxious runner. I thumb through RunnersWorld, and I actually read the articles instead of staring at the taut abs of the woman on the cover. While sitting in Iraq I found a place in Raleigh, NC that will video tape my stride and match it to a specific shoe just so I can run better. When I walk around at work I challenge people to join me after crew for a six mile run knowing full well they’ll never go. And I’ll be damned if I let a morning go by that I do not mention how far and fast I ran the previous night. I really believe the old saying that I shouldn’t be a part of any club that would have me, but I am a pretentious, overconfident, self-indulgent runner and the Obnoxious Runners have a new colleague whether they like it or not.
*The bulk of this article originally appeared as a Facebook Note on September 24, 2009.