Like most people, I too have been blindsided by life's curve balls that at times have left me feeling battered, despondent, and alone. And through all that, no matter how far I've fallen or how high I've rebounded, running -- my constant companion -- has never left my side. It makes no difference if you're a veteran of over 100 marathons and ultra marathons like I am, or if you're heading out the door to pound the pavement or to hit the treadmill at the gym because you promised yourself that, "This year, I'll start running." Your faithful companion asks only one thing of you -- simply to show up. Running is in our veins. It's organic and primal, and it reminds us of the freedom of our childhood and harkens to the earliest of our ancestors.
I'm a creature of habit, so I typically rise with the alarm at 4:15 every day and head out into the dark city streets for my run that ranges anywhere from 20 to 65 km, depending on the day. No matter how bad the weather is, or how tired I may be, I know that by the end of my run, I will feel better, lighter, and more joyful. I've logged a lot of miles on the pavement and on the trails, and throughout the years, a few simple truths have revealed themselves to me.
1. My priorities have most definitely changed. There was a time I'd stay up late on a Saturday, eat and drink whatever I wanted, but not anymore. I've shifted my priorities to make room for running in my life, and in the process, running has cleared a space inside of me that allows me to appreciate what is really important in this world.
2. Believe it or not, I became less socially-competitive and more self-competitive. Don't get me wrong -- the moment I hear the gun go off at the beginning of a race, I want to cross that finish line before the person in front of me. That being said, the majority of the time I'm running and training, I'm only competing against myself, trying to beat my last kilometer split on my GPS watch.
3. Instead of running away from something, I started running towards something. As a recovering addict, I spent a lot of years numbing myself with drugs and alcohol and running away from all of the things inside of me I just couldn't face. One of the gifts you get when you lace up your shoes and head out for a run is that you begin to connect to that part of your soul that demands your complete attention. The longer I run, the more I run towards that place inside me.
4. I am now completely in tune with my body. Unlike most other sports, running is just about you, and you alone, propelling your body through space. It's because of this very simplicity that runners are naturally more in tune with their body. Stick with it long enough and you'll do your damnedest to stay healthy and keep your body in motion.
5. In order to pursue your passion, you need a "Sherpa." It doesn't matter if you're a pampered elite runner or a novice out for your first 5k race -- every runner needs a "Sherpa." I would be completely lost without my incredible wife, Mary-Anne, who drops me off at races, snaps pictures of me along the course, and is always waiting for me at the finish line with a BIG hug and warm clothes. Running has made me realize that to be successful in any passion you pursue, you should never underestimate the importance of your support team.
6. Running has brought me to my senses. Let's face it -- we as a society are becoming lazier. We drive everywhere, and we entomb ourselves in a little iBubble, a byproduct of our smartphones, headsets, and game devices. I love running because it puts me right into the streets or into the wilderness. When I run, every sense is electric and buzzing. From the crunching of the snow beneath my feet to the sounds and smells of the city core coming alive, I feel authentically connected to everything around me.
7. For a sport that uses a stopwatch, time is really irrelevant. Even if you're in the middle of a race trying to hit your goal time or on the track for a speed workout, time is ultimately irrelevant. Running compels you to stay in the moment, connect with your breath, and roll with your cadence. So for me, every run has nothing to do with cumulative time, and everything to do with a series of connected and highly charged moments.
8. I have built up my resiliency bank. Running has made me not only physically stronger but also more mentally resilient. Running requires you dig deep, and access that "will" inside that many non-runners never access. I think this has a lot to do with why runners wear their scrapes, bruises, and blisters like badges of honor. You've earned it, so wear it proudly!
9. I've learned the importance of belonging to a tribe. My running family is an incredibly supportive community. I look forward to connecting with my "tribe" every day on social media, and meeting them at races across the country, and around the world. This caring group of friends has been there to share in my triumphs and to hold my head up when I've hit some dark, challenging times.
10. In order to keep it, I need to give it away. The irony of running is that it is a bountiful gift that will bring immense joy into your life, but in order to keep that joy, you need to give it away and "pay it forward." I owe an incredible debt to the running community for everything it has brought to me and for everything it has unearthed in me. It is with this in my heart, that I am always eager to speak to running clinics around the city so that I can share the wealth of this way of life.