In 2010, I started running reluctantly. I’m a doctor and everyday, I tell people to exercise. My patients tell me how boring it is, or how it’s too cold in the morning and hot in the evening and how they are tired in the morning and tired in the evening. I put on my “doctor knows best” face and advise them to put aside those excuses and exercise 3 times a week.
After giving people this advice for a month or two and completely neglecting to engage in any physical activity myself, I started to feel guilty and hypocritical. My running started with exercising in front of the Wii fit 30 minutes 3 times each week.
After several months, I moved my exercise outdoors and started running 2 miles. I was surprised at how hard it was hard to breathe. My breath came in short, hard pants and I felt nauseous. It was hard to breathe and while I knew intellectually the air was entering my lungs, it didn’t seem to make a difference to how I felt. My body desperately needed oxygen. I couldn’t BREATHE.
As the weeks passed, I felt this rhythm making sense and my lungs expanding and contracting with better oxygen penetration. I might still pant and gasp while running but at least I could feel the oxygen hitting my lungs. I had to relearn “running” breathing. I sucked in “1-2-3” followed by “1-2-3” out. I ran 2 miles three times a week for several years.
Both before and after starting running, people would ask me if I’m a runner. I would smile uncertainly and ponder how to respond. Were they asking because of my size? Was there something they recognized in my energy that identified me as a runner? Did my 2 mile runs make me a runner? To me, this barely counted for anything, although I knew that I felt better about myself and my life when I ran.
I started running a little bit more, 2.5 miles, instead of 2. Then I bumped this up to 3 miles. Other people mention their 5ks and their 10ks casually, like this is something you just “do.” I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, I thought, I run for myself. Plus the idea of competing makes my stomach churn. I knew though, that I could run the distance required in a 5k so when I stumbled across a 10k, I thought “I can do this.”
I signed up without telling anyone and started bumping up my mileage. My 2.5 mile runs became 3.5, then 4, then 4.5. Gradually, I was running up to 6 miles per day. The race came and I suffered from nerves but sailed through the 10k at a great pace. I kept running 6+ miles and looked for a half marathon. I researched the most beautiful half marathons in the USA and found the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah. I signed up, got my brother to sign up as well, and kept training.
My running went up to 21-23 miles per week, 3-4x more than it had been 6 months ago. I felt exhausted after my runs. I felt strong. I ate ravenously. I looked at my muscles and felt proud. I ran the half marathon and after few months break from running, found myself wondering what was next. I’d had triathlon in the back of my mind since my brother did his Ironman in Wisconsin so I set out to explore the world of triathlon. To be continued…