I've been fortunate in that I have never hated running. I was a mediocre high school track athlete. My best race was a 2:10.9 half mile. But I thought a half mile was distance running. I went out for my college track team and they asked me what I ran. I said 'distance' so they set me up with the distance runners - whose definition of distance was much different than mine. I lasted 3 days on the team. I was able to hang with the group for the first half mile of each day's run but after that, they lost me. I think we ran 'only' 5 or 6 miles, but literally by the time I finished my run, the rest of the team had finished, showered and eaten dinner - and I do mean literally, not today's meaning of the word. So much for my collegiate track career.
During my 20's to 40's, I didn't run a lot. I stopped almost altogether until my early 40's when I picked up running again. This is when the 'I used to hate running' concept started forming, although it certainly did not have a name back then. I started very slowly - a 2 mile run was a big deal to me. I gradually increased my distance and after a few months, I was up to three miles, but seemed to peak there. By the time I finished three miles, I was finished. Then one day, I ran 3 miles and realized I could keep running. I was no longer spent after 3 miles. It was a Eureka moment for me. I decided to try the Bellin 10K in Green Bay - which is now one of the largest 10K races in the US. I did OK, not great finishing in 51:35 in 1998. I did not improve until 2007 (age 49) when I cut my time down to 49:25. In 2010, I set my personal record for a 10K - 48:07 at age 52. In 2011, I again broke my Bellin record at age 53, running 7:37 miles. Not many people are still hitting PR's in their 50's. It pays to start slow.
Once I realized I could run a 10K, I thought why not a half marathon? (If you can run 50 feet, you can run a 100, if you can run a 10K, you can run a half marathon.) 10K is almost half way to a half marathon and so I signed up for one in 2001. This was quite a leap for me. It was only three years before when I could only run 3 miles. A marathon was still something that only 'running freaks' did. But something happened to me while training for the half marathon - I realized that I was more than half way there in training for a full marathon. So that same year I signed up for and completed a full marathon. I felt I already had too much invested in the half marathon training not to take the extra step. It really only took three additional months of training to run a marathon from where I was.
Mission accomplished and by then the fitness and racing bug bit me. I started doing Adventure Races, which includes trail running, hiking, biking, orienteering, canoeing, rappelling, and running around the woods in the dark. The hardest Adventure Races I did included a couple of 24 hour (not stop) races and a two day stage race where we raced 14 hours, slept and then started all over again for 14 more hours (if you can race for 4 hours, you can race for 24). All told, I have completed somewhere around 20 Adventure Races.
If I thought marathons were for 'running freaks', I knew that only the most physically fit / completely nuts individuals would ever do the Iron Man (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike followed by a 26.2 run). In 2005, I completed Iron Man Wisconsin in 15:25:46. I told you about my running breakthrough (3 miles) in 1998. In 2003, I could only swim a lap or two and other than the Adventure Races, did not do a lot of biking.
I predict that someone reading this will get motivated and complete a marathon and maybe even an Iron Man. Is it you? You have to give it time, but slow steady increases will take your further than you can imagine. If you can run 25 feet, you can run fifty...... you can run a marathon......you can complete the Iron Man - if you want to. If not, just being able to enjoy running is reward enough. Before I started getting in shape in my 40's, I weighed 25 pounds more than I do today.
I'd like to leave you with a portion of the autograph I have from Sarah Reinertsen (middle picture) - the first female above the knee amputee to complete the Iron Man in Hawaii and past participant of The Amazing Race (you can visit Sarah at her website www.alwaystri.net). She signed her Runner's World cover including the words "no excuses" to which I would like to add to my sign off, "no limits".
I wish you all well as you advance in your level of fitness no matter how you accomplish that.
No limits, no excuses