I'm going to admit something that I never have told anyone. I'm a runner. I'm finally ready to admit it. It's hard for me to say it because for the longest time, I told myself that I can't run. I could run to play sports or run to get on a train, but if you told me 5 years ago that I would complete a full marathon, I would ask about my bionic legs because that's the only way I imagined it would happen.
From 12 years old I have been peppered with knee issues that were just bad enough to keep me on the couch. Between osgood schlatter disease, patellofemoral chondromalacia, medial tibial stress syndrome, and never ending patellar tendinitis, It didn't seem like my body could handle more than a few weeks of exercise before I was back to laying on the couch with my ice packs and heat pad. I am under no delusion that the things are chronic illnesses or even debilitating problems. These are the things that held me back and it wasn't until a serious attitude change and the right motivation came along that I was able to get past it.
It wasn't until I discovered a free fitness group called November Project DC that I. They meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:30am for a 45 minute workout. I had just read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which likens morning exercise to "Sharpening the Saw" so it didn't take much to convince me to show up for my first workout. They start with cultish chanting, hips-in bear hugs, and a whole lot of smiles. The workout was humbling to say the least. It sounds simple, 17 laps of the Lincoln Memorial stairs. By the time I finished lap ten, I couldn't run anymore. I walked another three and quit. As someone who considered myself an "athletic guy", I couldn't believe how out of shape i was after taking several years off of regimented exercise. I thought I must have maintained some of it. I would have never guessed that after only 20 minutes I would have been completely out of gas. That's when i began my return to fitness.
At first, my goal wasn't to get faster, or run further. My only goal was to do the next workout. I just wanted to get there, run as much as I could, walk less than the last time, and do all of the burpees, squats, sit-ups, or whatever it was that was chosen for the spice that day. As I made more friends within the group, I had more reasons to show up. Eventually I had enough stamina that i could run to the workouts and a few of us ran in to the workouts together.
I quickly came to the realization that running wasn't the monotonous drone like task that I once thought it was. Sure, when you break it down it's the same motion over and over again until you reach exhaustion, but that's like saying eating is just putting sugar, fat and salt into your mouth until you're full. It's not a false statement but you are missing out of the fact that food is amazing and it provides the nutrition we need to physically keep going. Running can take many forms. Whether it's letting off steam, finding a "quiet place" to think, challenging yourself to push your body's limit, or just going places and seeing things because let's not forget that our legs can take us places!
As for my knee issues, becoming a smarter athlete has played a big role in keeping me relatively pain free and on my feet. I have more flexibility in the areas that I should, my core doesn't resemble a garden hose, and I sometimes ramp up mileage gradually over time to reduce the risk of an overuse injury. I can't forget that I have an amazing PT who understands my issues and gives me advice that helps me avoid injury while staying active instead of the usual cliche of "Take some time off and start back slowly"that athletes are used to hearing.
Two years and a few hundred miles later, I'm ready to admit that I'm a runner. It's no longer a question of if my body can handle it. Sure, the occasional injury or bike accident may have me running less at times but I'm convinced that there isn't much left that can take this away from me. As long as I see injury as a challenge that I need to get past in order to continue running, instead of a reason not to run, there won't be many excuses left not to.