Ten Things I Learned Running a Mini-Marathon, Part 1
At the ripe old age of sixty, I recently competed in my first half-marathon, known as a mini-marathon. Needless to say I learned or reaffirmed some lessons along the way. My next few blogs will discuss my experience and pass along these lessons. What does this have to do with funeral directing? Maybe nothing but it might keep me around in better shape for a longer time.
No. 1: It’s seldom too late to start something new in your life. The time that you have left and physical limitations may limit you but you can still enjoy a sense of fulfillment or other benefits from the experience.
In June 2012, at the age of 56 I decided to make some changes in my life based on three things I experienced around that time. I needed to have a minor surgery and in preparation for that surgery I was told that my blood pressure was higher than it should be. Secondly, I can remember going to the hospital for the out patient procedure and stepping on the scales to see them read 205 which was up 20 pounds from where I used to be. I got to thinking that I need to make a change or I was going to end up like a lot of guys my age that I saw being buried at the not so ripe old age of 50 to 60. The clincher came when I got word that a family member had died very unexpectedly from an apparent heart attack. I can remember going to the funeral home and an “enhanced width” (a kinder term for oversized) casket and thinking to myself, that's not going to be me.
I knew that it was going to take a change in my life style and I was reminded of what I heard many times that to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more. So I decided that I would begin getting up earlier and walk for 30 minutes before getting ready for work. I had started this several times throughout my adult life but the attempt was always short lived. I had been in my best shape physically a few years earlier when for a year and a half Sharon and I had gotten up every day to deliver the Lexington Herald-Leader which required a brisk walk. At the time we were trying to shed debt instead of weight but I was able to both at the same time, but that's a different story.
No. 2. Start at the beginning
Where else would you start? Sometimes I have a tendency to start in the middle. I see someone doing something and thinking I would like do that to. If it takes special gear or equipment I start looking at the latest greatest thing out there. Like most people I have spent money on things only to find out that I didn’t need that thing or I bought the wrong thing or that I didn’t enjoy the activity. That thing ends up in the closet or in a yard sale.
When I decided to start walking the closest thing I had to athletic shoes at the time were the sneakers I wore with jeans and shorts. After a few walks I could tell they probably weren’t the best shoes to walk in so I bought a pair of running shoes I found on sale at a department store.
This was probably not the best way to pick out a pair of running shoes but they were better than what I had. If you decide to take up walking or running, just be sure that the shoes you buy are not too small. I recently lost a toe nail as a result of my toe repeatedly hitting the end of my shoe.
As time goes on you can accumulate other things that will enhance your experience. My existing cell phone runs the app that tracks my runs and I started with some earbuds I already had to listen to music while I ran. Since I started running I have purchased better shoes, cold weather apparel and other gadgets. My point is in whatever you do, begin with basic stuff.
No.3 When something becomes a priority you can find the time.
So my quest to shed pounds started with early morning walks in the neighborhood. I knew from listening to my favorite motivational speakers that to reach a goal that first you have to set a goal. Losing weight was not specific enough. My goal was to drop 20 pounds and get back down to 185.
I wanted to keep track of my efforts so I began by using a website called walkjogrun.com to measure the routes I walked and jogged. Through a Facebook friend I soon learned of an app available on smartphones that would use GPS to record my activities. That app is Runkeeper and I use it to this day. I know there are similar apps available but I like Runkeeper so I stay with it. With it I can look back on every walk and run I have made since 2012. Recently I received an email from Runkeeper congratulating me on completing 1000 miles. That’s like running from here to Miami. That seems impossible in my mind but when you do it a few miles per day, a day at a time it soon adds up.
I don't always run in the morning now but it is one of my favorite times to run. Early morning is also when I normally have my daily quiet time of Bible study and prayer so it takes some scheduling to get it all in but like I said when something becomes a priority the time can usually be found.
No. 4. Understand that it might take some time for results and you must persevere through some struggles.
For me, impatience is a natural tendency and my goal was to shed 20 pounds. I figured I could get more accomplished by moving faster so I started jogging some. Of course at first when I graduated from a walk to a jog, I could only jog a few minutes at a time then it was back to a walk. As time went on my stamina increased and the jogs became farther and faster and I could start to see the results. I was watching what I ate and started shedding a few pounds and I just started to feel better and have more energy. At some point I did start to experience pain in my knees and I thought my running days were going to be short lived but the thing was I didn't want to stop. I was enjoying the benefits that the activity was bringing. I was running farther faster which was bringing a feeling of accomplishment to my life.
I made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon to check on my knees and was told that I had bursitis, a condition I had heard of which I thought only old people had. Being in my late fifties, I wasn't feeling as old anymore and I didn't want my inflamed bursa to slow me down. The doctor prescribed a strong anti inflammatory drug and told me to take it easy for a few days and back off some when I felt the pain. The meds and rest worked and the pain soon went away. To this day I haven't had a recurrence of the bursitis other than temporary tenderness after longer runs.