"Why do you want to do this?" he was asked.
"I want to be a Navy SEAL," he responded.
"Well, we have two graduates from this year with contracts into SEAL training. And if you're smart and have the grades, we have one kid accepted to the Naval Academy. There's a lot of work, but being in Sea Cadets will open doors, son." Then he turned to address both of us. "We teach honor. Courage. Commitment. We focus on God, Family and Country."
I was told Jacob was his until 16:00. As I walked out, I heard someone ask firmly, "What's your name son?"
"What's your last name?"
"Mason's your name today!"
While he matured about five years in Alaska, I walked outside realizing again my boy is turning into a young man. Honor, Courage and Commitment. Who can argue with that?
I drove in a psychological fog for a while, realizing I now needed to put in fifty minutes on the road. I ran a route through a neighborhood where my son and I ran a 5K in 2008. He was just a pup, and we walked more than we ran. The homes are elegant over slight hills. Those small rises and drops were enough to make me sweat a bit more than normal. And that means I was sweating a WHOLE LOT.
I've been focusing on cadence, and the hills took me just enough off my routine to annoy me. About halfway out I tweaked my left calf on uneven payment. Not enough to stop me, but similar to jamming a finger when playing football. It hurts a bit, prevents normal movement and gets in the way of performing best. Annoying. After the run was a trip to the gym for an upper body circuit and a shower. Then brunch. The rest of the day finds me camped in Winter Park, waiting on 16:00. And continuing to ponder purpose.
I'm Not a Runner. Why Do I Run?
My first pair of running shoes was yellow waffle-soled with a blue stripe. I remember they were SO LIGHT. After that first pair, my dad would take me to the New Balance factory outlet in Boston where we'd get good deals on shoes I'd read about in Runner's World - my source for everything about running.
The loop around our neighborhood was exactly one mile, which my dad measured in our van. I ran it regularly. I don't remember what "regularly" was, but it was more than every once in awhile and less than every day. I ran a 5K and struggled through a 10K, and had dreams of one day running Boston. One fateful day, I decided to jump from running five miles to running ten. I made it to nine and stopped. Next day I experienced shin splints, with pain punctuated by super heavy steel-toed hiking boots in fashion at the time. Ideally, this would be the first lesson in "too much too soon." But that lesson didn't come until much later when age played a different role.
Following the shin splints, running-for-the-sake-of-running stopped. For the next several years, running was for another purpose - to get become the best football player I could become. While my frame was probably better suited for track or cross country (5'7" and 135lbs. as a senior), my mind was built for football. During that time, I ran a 5:20 mile and 3 miles in under 19 minutes. I also played for two football teams that played in the state championship game, one that lost (West Valley High School, Spokane, WA) and one that won (Daniel Hand High School, Madison, CT). My senior year I was named honorable mention on the All State football team in Connecticut, proving anything is possible with the right mix of grit and determination.
I went on to play rugby in college, but missed the structure and discipline of football. The new found freedom of college life strained my relationship with running as time with friends and alcohol competed with the discipline and consistency required to maintain any level of fitness. And that's when I started noticing something. Other people who I considered far less fit than I were completing marathons. And I was jealous. That was MY idea way back in fifth grade.
Fitness and running did not become a serious part of my life again until my third year of law school. The thought of a marathon didn't reappear until I moved to Chicago, which replaced Boston and New York as my favorite city on earth. Magazines and books said the Chicago marathon was good for rookies because it was flat. I watched friends run Chicago. So I picked Chicago. Four times I started the Hal Higdon marathon training program. Four times I injured myself. Juggling a family, an unhealthy marriage, a job with demanding travel and a struggle defining myself, I didn't have much room to fit the requirements of a marathon training program. I'd commit. I'd miss a few workouts, convincing myself I could recover. I'd compete with my 19 year old self. And I'd get injured.
Then 2011-2012 happened with a trifecta of change. First, I married a girl I knew in high school and dated briefly in college (a/k/a my inspiration because of her toughness, grace, beauty and sweetness). She reintroduced myself to me and since then has been the foundation for great things with our family. Second, my younger brother (who picked up endurance sports - triathlons and marathons) asked if I'd be interested in running Chicago with him. Third, I completed the Corporate Athlete Program hosted by The Human Performance Institute (more on that in another post).
My name didn't get selected to run Chicago, so I signed up with Susan G. Komen and raised $1,500 to fight breast cancer and run in honor of my wife, a breast cancer survivor. There were stretches where I missed runs, sometimes because of laziness (other priorities) and many times because of injury. What I've learned since (a DUH moment) is if you miss runs without first having a good base established and then pick up where you left off, you'll get injured. Especially if you're over 40. And especially if you're over 40 trying to compete with your 19-year old self. The result was an injured right calf and Achilles (I didn't realize until AFTER Chicago that poor form - heel striking - was the real culprit). With $1,500 raised by family and friends, NOT running wasn't an option. So I went to Chicago.
On October 13, 2013, I lined up with my brother having missed a month of critical road work due to that pesky Achilles. The weather was beautiful, and after my taper I actually felt pretty good. The first 13 miles were amazing. I was told we were keeping a 4-hour pace for the first 13 miles. Perfect. Until mile 14. The wheels fell off. The rest of the trek through Chicago was painful at best. I finished at 5:31:00 and I was proud. Kind of.
Then I gained weight, and woke up (see previous posts here). Yes, I ran a marathon. A big accomplishment. But it wasn't how I wanted to run it. Also, the dream in middle school was to run Boston.
But that's not WHY I run. I am NOT a runner, but today I run because I'm a better person if I'm healthy and fit. Today I run because I want to be here on earth with energy for a long time. Today I run because I want my kids to see my example and know they can take control of their fitness. Today I run to get stronger so I can carry my lovely wife wherever she wants to go. Today I run because I want my kids to (1) set goals; (2) make plans to achieve those goals; and (3) execute those plans, and know that's all it takes to achieve great things. Today I run to show I can keep promises I make to myself. Today I run because running engages me in life, allows me to see more and differently, and allows me to maintain a level of enthusiasm and energy I want to spread to others around me.
And that's why I run. But I'm not a runner.