“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – – T.S. Eliot
For the longest time I’ve wondered what it would be like to be at “peak” health, and think I came close maybe ten years ago due to a healthier diet and running sometimes twice a day. I dropped down from a little over two hundred pounds to about 148, felt great, but couldn’t help notice (and go into denial about) frequent bouts with feeling tired. Go figure. I was averaging about 50-60 miles per week in training for Twin Cities Marathon, but for a few weeks was more in the 80-90 range. Insanity for anybody but an “elite” runner, but I managed, and quite frankly as I mentioned, in-between the tired bouts I felt fantastic. And trim. And finished with my third best marathon time ever. A few notes to myself: I was ten years younger then, was earning considerably more money and thus could more easily afford training stuffs, I was ten years younger then, plus I was ten years younger then. Did I mention that I was ten years younger then? Still, that stubborn streak, or possibly some lack of acceptance about aging, has me going for 1000 miles total by Labor Day. I began my goal on June 1st, thus giving me 92 days to average 10.87 miles per day. Quite the daunting feat for anyone, (except my ultra-running friend Sheila and her husband who likely both take care of 10% of that before they brush their teeth in the morning), much less a 58 year old.
A large part of what I’m doing is with what feels like a very extended mid-life crisis. I finally decided a year ago that I want to write for a living, not work in a call center as I have been doing for so many years. The process to get there has been painfully slow, and this fall I’ll finally be getting enrolled into a creative writing program. Granted, the call center I’m in has likely been the most pleasant experience of all I’ve been thru, it still is difficult to be in as they all are from time to time. With all due respect to a great employer, I just don’t want to be there any more. I read of a similar plight in Marshall Ullrich’s book “Running On Empty,” his diary of running across the entire country in hopes of finding his own depth and quelling various internal fires. It didn’t sound pleasant much of the time, still I’ve been intrigued ever since by the idea of what it must have felt like to go through such self-induced agony. I have no idea how he feels about himself now, about five years later, but at the time it seemed like he reached a major life break-through. If that’s the case, I’m all in.
I’ve not had the pleasure of doing what I love for a living as many of us have the misfortune to be able to say. The very least this experience is giving me is one more thing to write about. Already I’m having some beginning fears, ups-and-downs, the mood swings that accompany jumping from running about 20 miles a week to 50-60. Plus, in order to reach my goal on time I’ll need to average in the 80-90 range for at least part of my little journey. My work buddy Brian has a child who suffers from a nut allergy, and is active with FARE , Food Allergy Research & Education. I told Brian earlier in the year that if I had a cause, I would run 1000 miles for it if someone else was willing to do all of the administrative/fund raising end. The result has been a beautiful personalized website (see below) complete by Brian’s wife Beth where anyone can donate money for research or just leave me an encouraging word. Believe me, I’ll need them.
So inward hoe to the writing source again, and likely I’ll be writing with more frequency about my joys and sorrows in the next few months. Already I’ve encountered some nasty obstacles: I’m being denied access to my favorite ten mile route due to road construction. My five mile route then got closed off, and most recently my 8 and 4 milers have been altered considerably. I mapped about the various routes years ago and strategically planned them with various SA pit-stops and other stores where I could stop and re-fuel. I don’t own a “fanny-pack” nor do I care to use one, I’ve always found such equipment to be overly cumbersome. So I’ve usually plunked down a buck or two for whatever beverage or fruit/candy bar that struck my fancy at various stations. No more. So I’ve compensated by doing laps on a pair of makeshift routes that allow me to stop home for a drink, or at a local BP station close to home. The good news there I guess is that I may spend a little less money over the next month or so (construction in some of my blocked areas is supposed to be done by the end of this month), then return to my regular haunts.
I usually go through three pairs of running shoes a year which are typically anywhere from $100-$150 depending on make and model, and boy are they a godsend. I honestly don’t know how distance runners survived pre-70’s without specially designed shoes. It has become quite the science over the last few decades, and there is a particular shoe type for just about every type and size of runner imaginable. The downfall is that shoes are advertised to be supportive for 300-500 miles or three months, whichever comes first. In my experience it’s been more like 200-300 miles. Max. Thus I’ll likely go through 3 pairs of shoes this summer alone, rather than the full year it usually takes to wear out the same number. Luckily for me, I still have what feels like another hundred miles or so in my current pair. There’s a lot more to running than most people think. We don’t just put on any pair of shoes and head out the door for a half hour or so, then spend the rest of the day eating spaghetti. If most of us adhered to the imaginations of a lot of non-runners, more of us would have a lot more injuries than we do and would weigh about 350 pounds. I prefer to buck the image.
As I build my endurance and try to lose some weight, I am finishing out week number one at 50 miles with today’s five miler. I am tired, and wondering how I’ll be feeling a few weeks from now, but finding more and more arguments to stay in the “here-and-now.” I need to pay extra attention to diet and once again look at food as fuel, not just something to satisfy my taste buds with or to overindulge in. Running right now is an obvious drug for me: when I’m alone and running any cares seem miles away, and I’ve had a lot of them lately – – miles and worries that is, worries of things real or imagined, and wondering if I’m ever going to fulfill my dream of writing as a vocation. So in addition to the improvement in health and attention to the now, I also am finding additional motivation to indulge in my passion, my first love, symbolically “putting the pen to paper.” Many are giving me leeway to not run the entire thousand miles by Labor Day, but at this time I’m of a different bend. I may not make it, but I’m going to go down swinging. Regardless, I suspect I’m going to come out a pretty different person on the other side. My crystal ball doesn’t afford me the details of exactly what that might be, but it is yet another carrot I’m dangling in front of myself. I feel a Presence with me more and more lately that is carrying me through to the other side no matter what the outcome, and I look forward to regularly spending very focused time with It for an hour or two on the road every day. It is one of my Comforts, indeed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a thousand miles to run.
If you’d like to donate, please go to http://www.teamfare.org/mw2015/ejerzak
And please check out my other posts at magicianstouch.net