A Pebble in My Shoe

Mumbai Marathon
Short shorts, ripped muscles, blurred landscape. This isn’t me.

I have friends who run for fitness.  Quite a few, actually.  I think they’re crazy.  But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me begin at the beginning…

I’ve always hated running for fitness.  Oh, I love to run.  I enjoy the wind in my face, gliding over bright green grass to chase down a fly ball in the outfield.  Or to hear the crack of the bat, and bolting out of the batter’s box and racing to first base for a single.  I love the feeling when my wife is chasing me with a water-gun and I out-pace her during my getaway or the devious little jog I have sneaking up behind her with a water balloon.  The joy of running for play is not lost on me.  I do not take it for granted.

Okay, maybe that’s not true.  I do take it for granted.  I think a lot of adults do.  We get to that point where we aren’t playing every day like we did as kids.  When we get a little goofy like that now serious people call it “grab-ass” – A term I loathe.

When we’re kids we still have the dynamic wonder of learning new things and making every day about fun.  Too often we become adults and lose that constant state of learning.  Our lives become routine.  We don’t run as much for fun.

But this isn’t meant to be a depressing post on growing older.  In fact, just the opposite.  Each day I rediscover myself, and find that the philosophies I have and the motivation in my life develop new meaning.  The world spins, the clock ticks and each moment is a new opportunity.  But only if we take it.

I have friends who run for fitness.  It’s like a Déjà vu all over again, eh?  I think they’re crazy.

The real beginning of the story is that I’ve always hated running for fitness.  All through high school I had to run as part of being a football player or on the wrestling squad.  Running for fitness was mandatory.  And hard work wasn’t really my credo in high school.  I had a lot going on, and well, laziness was high on my list.  Oh, I did it.  I ran.  Heck, I played more full court basketball in high school than many people play in a lifetime.  Running up and down the court, like EVERY NIGHT.  I know, right?  With my awesome height and jumping ability it’s a wonder I didn’t go pro.  But I digress.

Stay with me, people.

I ran for fitness in high school.  Hated every minute of it.  I even ran on my own time to cut weight for wrestling.  Hate may not even be a strong enough word.  Honestly, I made a pact with myself.  Running for fitness was out.  As soon as I finished school, that was it.  It wasn’t a matter of health or anything else.  Running became the enemy.  I even had a personal motto –

“I only run if I’m being chased.”

Ha ha ha ha…ahem.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, crazy people.

So my whole adult life I’ve had friends who run.  Run for fitness.  They’ve all tried to tell me the benefits of running.  I crack my joke – “I only run if I’m being chased.”  They laugh, I’m rewarded with laughter, they stop telling me about the benefits of running.  Win, Win.

Most of my running friends aren’t just running a few times a week for exercise.  They are training for something.  A 5K, 10K, Sprint Triathlon, Baker to Vegas, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, Mud Run…The list goes on.  With the advent of Facebook, I’ve been privy to the pictures and stories and sharing and blah, blah, blah…The list goes on.

These people are kee-raazy!

 So, there is this weird dichotomy in my life where I believe we have the power to make change in our life, but I also believe that things happen for a reason.  I start seeing signs everywhere and it’s just too much to ignore.  I think maybe this is what the so-called midlife looks like.  Only, I plan on living until I’m 120 years old, so I haven’t yet reached midlife.  But for the sake of the minions, I’ll play along.  I’m beginning to see things differently.

I’ve preached a constant state of learning for some time now, and I’m always in awe when it happens in new ways.

Brooks Cascadia 7

The First Sign

In reality, the first sign has been the number of friends I have that run.  A lot.  And they smile.  A lot.  That is the real first sign, but for educational purposes I’m going to disregard the friends and family I hold dearest.  They’ll have an opportunity to tell me “I told you so” later, so I’m not that worried about it.

I met a friend online who is a runner.  But that’s not why we met.  She is a fan of the television show Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and is a fan of my work as a writer and so we became friends online.  Over the course of our friendship, we have discovered that we both have a passion for the outdoors and fitness.  I love to hike and surf, she loves to run.  In fact, she works for Brooks Running and so I consider that she runs for a living.  Crazy, but okay.  She of all people will probably hate this post, but stay with me.  I do have a point.

Anyway, I’ve been working on some plans to expand my mountaineering experiences and have talked online about training.  She invited me to try out a pair of the Brooks Running Cascadia 7 trail running shoes and for me to let her know what I think.  When I met her and tried the shoes on she mentioned that people actually run marathons in the shoes (subliminal messaging, subliminal messaging).  We talked about the outdoors, staying fit.  I told her “I only run if I’m being chased.”  She laughed, we stopped talking about running.  Win, Win?  The first sign

The Second Sign

This should probably be higher on the list but it isn’t.  One of my oldest and dearest friends is tall, rail thin and a runner.  I don’t begrudge him for being tall or thin.  It doesn’t make me happy, but I don’t begrudge him these things.  I love him like a brother and well…we can’t all be perfect.  Anyway, he runs.  And he brags about it on his Facebook page every day with posts from the app MapMyRun.  Yeah, like I need to see how many miles you’re doing?  Puhleeze…If I calculated how many times I’ve walked up and down my hallway from the desk to the fridge, I’ve probably done a few miles myself buddy.  You don’t see me posting it on Facebook, do you?  But I digress.

We’re friends, in real life and in make believe online world, and so I see his updates every day.  Like a nagging little reminder that running still exists in the world.

I joke, but seriously…He’s an inspiration to me in many, many ways.  MapMyRun.  The second sign.

The Third Sign

Happy Birthday to Me.  Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday DEEEEAAARRRR MEEEEeeeee. Happy Birthday to Me!

I turned 40 this year.  I even wrote a journal entry about it, whining about this and whining about that.  All four of my readers LOVED it!

But let’s be clear.  I’m not your average 40 year old.  Midlife implies that it’s all downhill from here.  Not a chance.  Comb-overs, paisley polyester button downs, powder blue pants, black socks and Velcro shoes are NOT in my future.  I don’t even part my hair.  I have an aversion to grown-ups. Don’t get me wrong, I take my responsibilities seriously, I just don’t take myself too seriously.

But I’ve realized that I can’t will or muscle my way through my physical activities anymore.  As a child I was a monkey, climbing every tree I could find.  I lost count how many trees I fell out from.  Like I was made of rubber, I would always bounce right up and find the next tree, never worrying about pain or injury.  I have a high tolerance for pain, so I’ve always just played through it.  Oh, emotionally I’m not quite so tough but physically I’m pretty rugged.  Short, but rugged.

I know that’s not going to be the case forever, though.  And one of my favorite quotes keeps making its way back to the surface:

“If you’re not prepared, don’t be surprised if you fail.” – Laird Hamilton

Physically I’m changing, which means I have to take an active role in my fitness.  It has to be planned and more importantly, it has to be given time and worked on.  The third sign.

The world is a place to explore. This walk took me to beautiful places.
The world is a place to explore. This walk took me to beautiful places.

The Fourth Sign(s)

This is one category, though it’s multiple signs.  They all relate.  Hey it’s my journal, I can make up my own rules, right?

Mountains.  I’ve written poems, stories, books.  About mountains.  They are a majestic castle with endless corridors to be explored.  They are royalty.  They are forbidden, enchanting, welcoming, beautiful.  They are all of these things.

There is little doubt I love the mountains.  And so, I’ve chosen to spend a great deal of my life among them.  But aside from beauty and mystery and spectacle, they are dangerous.  And being fit helps when you play with danger.

The first of the fourth signs was a trip to REI, for a free class on climbing Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states).  My buddy Brett and I have had Whitney on our list for some time, but life has so far prevented us from getting there.  I went to REI in February for the class, as there is a chance we might make it to Whitney this year.  Might being the key word.  Of all the preparations for the climb, the only one I am woefully unprepared for is the training.  Specifically, running.   My serious climbs have been 9-10 hour days in relatively low altitude.  Whitney is a 16-18 hour day, nearly five thousand feet above the tree line.  The guy conducting the class said the best way to ENJOY Mt. Whitney was to implement a training schedule that included running.  I want to enjoy the mountain.  The first of the fourth signs.

The second of the fourth signs is my participating in a fundraising climb of Mt. Baldy, in April.  Baldy is a mountain I’ve been on countless times, and many of my four readers will be familiar with it from my book and my journals here online.  Regarding my fitness, I’ve never had a problem with climbing Mt. Baldy.  But there is more to this fundraiser than a day hike up a mountain I’ve been on before.

We are raising money for wounded veterans, to fund trips for them to travel the globe and climb the world’s highest peaks, providing a new beginning for these soldiers.  I’ve been following The Heroes Project online for some time, and it’s inspiring.  The level of dedication and hard work and endurance and pain these men endure to climb these mountains is proof that summits can be achieved through great effort.

This fundraiser isn’t just about walking a trail.  It’s about being ready for what the trail might offer.  It’s about being prepared.  Making an effort to achieve a goal.  How can I climb a mountain to support men with artificial limbs when I complain about my knees or how hard fitness is or how much I hate training?

Or running?

The second of the fourth signs…


I still think people who run are crazy.  Toby, my Brooks Guru, is probably nervously re-reading this sentence hoping I didn’t just write that.  But the truth is I did.  I still feel that way.  But now?

Join the club.

Yesterday I ran for two miles.  I covered a total distance of five miles, but I only ran two.  My split times for the run were good.  I’m even thinking about what I can do to improve those split times.  I even looked up local 5K, 10K and Sprint Triathlons, to determine how much time I have to train for something like that.  I’m looking forward to my next run.  AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!  What is happening to me?!?

I’ve become crazy.

But here’s the thing.  I’ve been lazy.  Pure and simple.  I only run if I’m being chased isn’t win, win.  It’s win, lose (I’ll still score the laugh as a win, thank you very much).  But the mindset is a losing proposition.  My excuse FOREVER has been “I have bad knees”.  And I do.  They hurt on good days.  Doesn’t stop me from surfing or hiking or climbing.  Why the heck is it stopping me from running?  Do I think the wounded warriors are going to listen to me gripe about my knees?  No.  And having bad knees or a bad back or anything else isn’t an excuse to not exercise.  I can run safely, limit my time pounding the pavement and take care of my knees.  The point remains that I can run.

Because I’ve been lazy.  LAZY.  A great deal of us are.  We can make excuses until the cows come home (which by the way, where WERE the cows?), but the fact is that I haven’t been willing to put in the work.  I want to lose weight (running is great for that).  I have wanted to increase my cardio-vascular capability (running is great for that).  I’ve wanted to be more fit, but I don’t want to spend the money on a gym membership (running is great for that).  Sensing a pattern?  Me too.

I realized that my attitude was a pebble in my shoe.

And I’m hoping that getting that pebble out will free me up to run.  To make my life healthier and allow me the physical strength to enjoy my life more.  To run for fun and play.  To lose weight.  To be fit.  To mentally and emotionally be stronger.  For me.

To be a better friend and husband for my wife.

Oh, I still think it’s crazy.  But I’d replace lazy with crazy any day.  Because the one thing I’ve noticed overall is that my crazy running friends online always seem to be smiling.  And that doesn’t suck, right?

And today I found this quote online that is going to help me keep motivated.  It says everything I want to say:

Muhammad Ali Champion
I want to be a champion too

What’s that?  How did I start?  I’ll tell you.  I’ve been walking and jogging for about two weeks now.  I started with walking.  In my Brooks Cascadia 7 trail runners.  Every day.  One hour.  Not speed walking, per se, but determined, motivated walking.  Walking with a steady pace.  Steady, not casual.  Up hills, up stairs, down streets.  One hour, minimum.  Every day.  When I felt ready, I hopped into a jog.  I jogged for as long as I could stand it.  Then I slowed to a walk again.  I could stop and start and much as I wanted, as long as I was out for an hour.  Every day.  Last night I started with a jog.  Then a walk, jog and sprint.  Back to a walk.  Then a jog and sprint and walk.  I jogged the last mile home.

And I use an Excel spreadsheet to log my progress.  And that darn MapMyRun app.  I’m starting to like it.  I’m starting to look forward to it.  It might be addicting.

I know, crazy right?  Just don’t tell my friends, okay?

15 thoughts on “A Pebble in My Shoe”

  1. Greg-I love this beyond words. Thank you for sharing your story and a little of mine. True inspiration. My favorite part- crazy is beter then lazy!

  2. Congrats in getting that pebble out of your shoe 🙂 Think I might be next….walking though not running I’m not that crazy 🙂

    1. Thanks Cindy!! It’s a process, for sure. I completely encourage you to get out there. Walking is the best way to start. Out the front door, for no less than an hour. You may surprise yourself and find that you’re entertaining thoughts of picking up the pace a little because you feel so good. But set your first goal at two weeks straight of walking. After that, who knows?

      Alright, I gotta go. Time to hit the streets. 🙂 Good luck!!!

  3. I walk the treadmill 6 days a week, but not sure if I will ever get up to speed of running… I’m a dancer so guess I’m best at “running” with choreography. Congratulations and Good Luck towards your progress.

  4. OK…. you might have gotten me… that pebble – yeah I had it in my show for a very long time. But I have the same thoughts…. running is crazy. But I’ll go for the walking an hour! Hey I already hike it… why not try the walking right?
    ❤ xoxo

  5. Excellent as always! You always bring a smile to my face when I read your words. I am happy you’ve become “crazy” & are motivated now to walk, jog & run for an hour every day. Good on you! I have recently become more motivated in activity myself from exercising at my Physical Therapy for my broken leg. I just “feel” better with exercise. A silver lining that came out of something not so fun. Keep up the good work: the writing & the running. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Dava!! It is proven that exercise releases chemicals within us that make us happier and make us feel better. Children who exercise regularly are more likely to be better students. Those chemical releases are addicting. As tired as I have been immediately following a run/walk, I’ve been more happy and pleased with the surge of just feeling great.

  6. I don’t walk an hour every day, but I do walk an hour at least three times a week, sometimes four. We live out in the country, so I have a favorite path I can walk where I can watch the changing of the seasons in the trees and occasionally catch a glimpse of some wildlife. I always feel like I’ve accomplished something huge after a walk. Maybe because it gives me time to think. Enjoy your runs. A friend used to tell me, “There’s nothing wrong with doing something a little crazy because it keeps you sane.” 🙂

    1. AWESOME!! I would MUCH rather do my exercise out doors where I get a chance to commune with nature than in a gym staring at a TV or walls. Sometimes that’s all people can really fit in, and for some they really enjoy the gym. I’m more like you. Being outside helps give me a sense of accomplishment. Keep up the great work. Walking a few times a week is PERFECT! Thanks for stopping in and commenting!!

  7. Awesome Greg!!! Aside for spending countless hours shooting baskets, I have found running as a way to clear my mind and collect my thoughts! The fitness biproducts of that activity are just a bonus. Keep up the good work!!

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