02/12/2014 11:29 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Becoming a Runner


I tried unsuccessfully to become a runner many times. The allure was there, but not the desire. I wanted to be a runner so that I could be healthier, look younger, lose some weight, and call myself an athlete. The only thing missing was my desire to run.

When I turned 40, I found myself looking into the abyss for the first time. I was keenly aware that I was not a young man, but I also realized I had plenty of time left to do some heroic things if I was willing to apply myself. I needed to do something radical if I was going to break free from the habitual daily routine that was slowly damaging my body and stealing my youth.

I began hiking at first, and then after building up some endurance over the summer months, I began to run. My metamorphosis from desk-bound, sedentary man to runner wasn't some kind of miraculous change; it was more like a slow burn that grew in strength and intensity over a period of months. I began by setting modest, attainable goals for myself and running at least every other day.

Most importantly, I didn't attempt to do this alone. I enlisted the help of my wife and children. I encouraged all of them to join me in my effort to become a better version of myself. We ran together and agreed to run a local 5k race as a family. I posted my training log on the refrigerator and they kept me accountable.

After running three or four times a week for a few months, something quite unexpected happened. I began to look forward to putting on my shoes and heading outside for a few miles. It was like play time. A time for me to let go of my everyday worries and enjoy the feeling of movement and freedom.

The aches in my knees that had always sidetracked my efforts in the past had disappeared. A combination of ice and rest had seen me through the roughest parts of the first several weeks and my body had adapted. I was becoming a runner.

"Lightning may strike when you are 21 or not until you are 70. Today may be your day to leave the herd." -- Dr. George Sheehan, This Running Life

Running changes a person. I began craving healthy foods and modifying my diet so that I could support my new running habit. I started going to bed earlier and slept better than I had in years. In the first 12 months, I lost almost 40 pounds.

I changed in other ways too. I became less enamored with material possessions and status symbols. I longed for simplicity and fewer complications in my life. I wanted only to be with those I loved, enjoy the solitude and freedom of running, and live life by my own rules.

Three years later, after eight half marathons, one marathon and almost 5,000 training miles, I'm enjoying every run. Running isn't for everyone, and you can't force it upon yourself, but you should listen for that inner voice that says, "let's run."