After I finished my undergraduate education, I started a company, got married, had a child, bought a house, etc. This is the natural progression of life, and it also happens to contain a physical component. For me, this meant my already slow, youthful metabolism grinding down to a screeching halt. That, coupled with the fact that life was trying to conspire to make me too busy to continue running as a hobby meant that I gained a lot of weight, and it all came to a head last February.
I decided that I’d had enough with my deteriorating physical shape, and registered for the 2011 Chicago Marathon. At the time I was almost 50 pounds heavier than the previous two marathons I ran in college. It was going to be a long road to travel. Over 8 long months of training, there is a lot I could say, but I think a post I made on Facebook in June to friend who was starting an aerobics program says it well,
“Really glad to hear you're starting this. And I know what you mean, being embarrassed when exercising. I started in February, at 237 pounds. I started with a 25 minute aerobics routine for women, and literally could not make it through. Nearly died during that week. But, I kept plugging away, understanding that my goals were long term and every day that I did some moving was a good day. It might sound ridiculous, but I would try to do the aerobics when Katy and Addy were out shopping or something like that. I was so fat and out of shape that I was embarrassed to work out in front of my own wife.
More than six months later, I've dropped almost forty pounds and am running 25-30 miles a week, which will keep going up to a peak of 40 in seven weeks, as a part of this marathon training. I did eight miles today in the high heat at a nine minute pace. As I reflect on the run, I can't help but think about how I felt every day way back in February and how far I've come. Along the way there have been a lot of aches and pains and all that rigmarole. And there have been more days that I can count where I didn't want to do anything. But it is a conscious effort to shelve that feeling, and workout anyway. Like the dude in the P90X videos says, "Just keep pressing play." More accurately, just keep making positive decisions, every day.
One thing I didn’t mention in that blurb was the injury I sustained halfway through my training program. I was a bit blockheaded and pushed myself too hard on a six-miler in what I think was the hottest day of the year. I ended up catching an acute case of posterior tibial tendonitis. And, with those kinds of things, only rest will heal the problem. But, I needed every day I could in order to lose enough weight to be able to run the race. So, I was in a catch-22. I couldn’t train the way I needed to, because if I pushed it too hard, the injury would become unbearable. And if I didn't train enough, then well, could I make it?
Sounds like a pretty solid reason to give up. But I would not. I wanted to prove to myself that I had the guts to finish Chicago, no matter the circumstances. So I started doing Yoga very heavily, I began cross training in the pool, warming up thoroughly by stretching in the sauna, doing rehab exercises to strengthen my weak tendon, and all that. I got creative with my training.
And then the MS-TM started. The level of effort this program requires is extraordinary. It too, is like running a marathon, which is the whole reason I wrote this post. You will have your mettle tested. You will work harder than you ever have before - it takes significant exertion to learn to think differently on fundamental levels. There are many times where I just need a break from exams and projects and meetings and papers. But, like the marathon/p90x analogy, you just have to keep pressing play.
There was a talk a few weeks in our Frontiers course by David Moon, who is doing some amazing work innovating a new model in the venture capital space. When he was on the verge of completing his big deal, for those weeks, he ran on adrenaline and hardly slept, he said. That is exactly what happened when school started. It takes a strong personal act of will to literally pull an all-nighter, attended mentally challenging classes all day, and then hit the gym for a ten mile run on the treadmill at night. Examples like that about from Aug 12 to Oct 9, and I had to dig deep down and push myself about as hard as I ever have.
The upshot is that I finished the race. It was hot, my training wasn’t perfect, and I was still too heavy even after losing 35 pounds. So, my time was not anything I’ll ever shout from the rooftops, being well over an hour slower than my other two marathons. But honestly, I don’t too much care. In life, we all have our special moments. Coming around that last corner and seeing that finish line; it’s hard to get much better than that. Which reminds me of a poster I have framed on my wall in my office. It is an essay by Vince Lombardi called “What it Take to be Number 1.” He ends it with:
"...And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don't say these things because I believe in the "brute" nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour - his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear - is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he's exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."