I've never been a runner.
An athlete my whole life, running for fun was deemed unnecessary, if not totally uncalled for. I was on the practice field almost all week gearing up for game day. I didn't think to put in extra gym time. My body was tuned for my sport and the rest of the time was focused on my schooling and social life. So running just to run was not in my realm of thought or routine.
It was not until later in life, post college that is, that I began my journey to becoming a fitter person. I started with the weights and worked my way up to more intense interval training. Yet, running was still a chore to me. It was undesirable, a bore at times. It consisted mostly of running on the treadmill or around the track. Ultimately, something happened that changed my view of the activity.
My daughter was born in 2013. She has been my greatest achievement, as well as my biggest game changer. She has opened doors for me that I never thought could be opened. And here within lies the connection and relevance to this article.
A year or so after she was born, we purchased a jogging stroller. It was a giant contraption that seemed harder to open than to run with. Little did I know that this purchase would be transformative. I began taking her on runs through the neighborhood. And as time went by, I took her on runs to the park down the street. They had some nice trails there and a prettier view. From there, the short runs turned into longer runs. The pace picked up a little bit. And as I ran, she ran with me.
My daughter first said, "Run, daddy, run," at a pretty early age. But it only took that first moment when the words left her mouth for me to feel a new energy moving through my body. She was having fun, feeling as if she was running with me. I initially thought she would feel dread and sheer boredom. Yet, she's telling me to go faster, gripping the sides of the stroller as if on a roller coaster thrill ride. And as she smiled, I smiled. And I ran faster.
The faster runs led to longer runs. It led to a change of venue. The boardwalk became home to our morning summer runs. Looking at the crashing waves and the seagulls flying became a part of our daily routine. Zooming through the great halls of the Asbury Park boardwalk to make echoes with our voices are now a tradition of our morning journeys.
The best part is, I kept going. I didn't stop running when I was alone. I found myself going for a run before teaching my Saturday morning sessions. I found a new location, with its own beauty. And every time I laced my sneakers to start, I thought of the smile on my little girl's face. I thought about those three simple words, "Run, daddy, run."
I still use these words today. I run more now than ever before. In this time span, my wife became a runner. This has opened up even more doors. We do 5k runs together, and sometime include my daughter. We look to spend our time running in parks or on the beachfront and plan for the treks in advance. We think of places that offer natural beauty to motivate us to keep moving forward. And it feels good. I never thought running would make me feel as good as I do today.
The funny thing is, it is more than running. It is what running has brought into my life. It has given my daughter happiness. It has brought my wife energy. It has made me a more mindful person of the environment around me. It brings me health. To think, something that was an afterthought to me has become a big part of my life and well-being. It took that one idea of buying a stroller to change me. It took three little words from a little girl to drive me. And it took my family's enthusiasm about it to make it concrete.
So my advice is this. Never say never. The minute you decide something is above you, below you or not your "cup of tea," you have closed the shutters on that thing to shed light into your life. I told myself I wasn't a runner from a young age. No matter how old you are, I am telling you at this moment, you are not defined by words, thoughts or perceptions. You are what you are based on the attempts, steps, achievements and failures that you make. There was no imprint on me that said I am not a runner. I never tried; I never took the initial step.
Take that initial step. At least you can say that you did it. Go for a run, walk, hike, ride. And if it is something else in your life that you've closed the door to but really wanted to open, then turn the knob. Pull the handle of that door and let yourself in. You never know what is on the other side until you do so. And if it is running that you want to take part in, go for it! The health benefits go beyond the physical. Besides creating a healthy heart, taking a run through the outdoor elements helps align your mind, body and soul. There is no coincidence that running helps the mind work more efficiently, thoughts to be clearer and stress to be lower.
Whatever it is you want to embark on, take that first step. You are the only one that can.
I'm glad I did. Now, I am a runner.