Why I Run

I’ve never been one for sports or exercise, adopting as my life verse “bodily exercise profiteth little” (1 Tim 4:8a).

A while back someone asked my dad why I started running. My dad had an interesting answer. “I think he got a new phone that had a running program on it that let him track his location with GPS and keep track of his time, distance, heart rate and a bunch of other stuff. I think he started running so he could play with all that stuff.”

That’s not too far from the truth. About seven or eight years ago I started working out when my doctor put me on cholesterol and blood pressure medication. I was doing 30-45 minutes on an elliptical machine three days a week. About three years ago I was heading down to my dark basement on a beautiful spring day to work out when I thought, “why not run instead?” So I headed out the front door to see how far I could run. I ran until I got dizzy and my stomach got upset, then walked home. I got in my car and drove the same route and found I had run about three quarters of a mile.

Two days later I headed out again, this time with a program on my iPhone (RunKeeper, www.RunKeeper.com) that tracked my distance and time. I made it a mile before I couldn’t go farther.

I read online that it helps to run short intervals then walk for a minute or two. I started running quarter mile intervals with 2 minute walks in between and found I could cover 2-3 miles without wearing myself out.

A knee injury took me out the rest of that year (2009). I started up again the following spring and got my running intervals up to a mile and a half by the end of the summer, with total distances around 4.5 to 6 miles of running.

By now I was hooked. I enjoyed the challenge of running. Being able to track my progress on RunKeeper’s website was highly motivating. Running itself is hard and at times, boring. But it’s like the guy who was pounding his head against the wall. When asked why he did it, he replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.” when I’m done, there’s a feeling of accomplishment.

This summer a friend told me she does the same kind of interval running, but runs 5 minutes then walks 1 minute. I switched to that method and increased my distance to about 7.3 miles.

A change in my work schedule made it more convenient for me to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I added a Saturday morning run to my schedule. Three weeks ago I had a crazy idea and turned left when I should’ve gone straight and my usual 7-mile route became a 10-mile route. 10 miles wasn’t bad.

I told my friend about my weekend run and she said, “If you can run 10 you can do a half marathon (13.1 miles). So the next weekend I made another left turn and my 10-mile route became a 13.1 mile route.

The problem with running farther than you’ve ever run before is that you first have to run as far as you’ve ever run before, then you have to keep running after that. At about 11 miles I was re-thinking my decision but then I hit 12 and it seemed like a waste not to go all the way. I made it 13.1 miles in just under two and a half hours.

The following Monday, my sadistic friend said I should look for a “real” half-marathon to run. I went online and discovered the local running club was sponsoring a half-marathon the very next weekend. $36 later I was registered for my first official half-marathon, which I completed in about two hours and 23 minutes, beating the personal record I set the week before.

I told you all that so I could talk about technology. The core of the technology I carry with me is RunKeeper running on my iPhone. To that I add a pulse rate monitor from Wahoo Fitness (Www.wahoofitness.com). This provides real-time heart rate data to RunKeeper.

So that RunKeeper can calculate calories burned, it needs to know my weight. So I have a Withings WiFi-connected scale (www.Withings.com) that automatically uploads my weight and body mass index (BMI) to a website where RunKeeper can access it. This has the further benefit of tracking my weight loss without me having to create a spreadsheet and update it manually.

That’s the computing technology that keeps me running. But there are some other products that are essential. First, A Speed 2 hydration belt from Nathan Sports (Www.nathansports.com) lets me carry 20 oz of water or Gatorade along with a pouch full of “energy gel” packets for replenishing electrolytes (they’re what plants need) in long runs. (For runs that are ten miles or more I need more liquid so I have to plan my run to pass a water supply).

Absolutely essential are NipGuards (www.nipguards.com). Running longer than an hour or so causes a lot of nipple abrasion. Running without a shirt is not an option for me (I run past a school, and the sight of me shirtless frightens small children and some animals), so affixing a pair of NipGuards protects me from embarrassing blood-streaked shirts.

I’m currently running in Mizuno Wave Rider 14 shoes. These lightweight shoes give me a medium amount of support and cushioning without getting in the way of the normal flexing of my feet. The provide less structure than the Asics I was running in before, but are lighter and more flexible.

Other than my winter running gear, I’ve been able to find good shorts and shirts at Target. You need something that wicks moisture away and lets it evaporate, as opposed to a traditional cotton that will just hold sweat.

So yes, a lot of why I run is all the cool toys. But I can’t dismiss the feeling of accomplishment watching my times improve and distances get longer.

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