running-manThis guy, Michael Ward, worked the same job for 10 years, hammering out a routine that began at 6 every morning. When he got laid off, his internal clock didn’t get the message. He found himself wide awake at the crack of dawn every day with nothing to do. He had never been a runner, but he decided to start. First with just a couple miles a day. And then building, and building and building, and eventually, he ran a marathon. He called running his salvation in a time of tremendous financial and professional strife.

Wow, I totally get that. I’ve been running for years but it’s never been more necessary than in the last year, as I purposely set out to create a new identify after intentionally abandoning the previous one.

Running is now something I need every day, like a glass of Malbec and a few minutes with Jon Stewart. The best thing I did for my health when I was in my 30s was to stop smoking. The best thing I did for my health in my 40s was to start running.

And it began on a whim. Flying back from my sister’s in Seattle after setting the world’s record for gorging on Thanksgiving, I was thumbing through an in-flight magazine and came across an advertisement for the Austin Marathon. It got my attention for two reasons: I love Austin AND the marathon was on my birthday. I started thinking:

• I feel as big as a house.
• I need to lose weight.
• Running might help.
• It’s been a while since I’ve been to Austin.
• I like doing something on my birthday I’ve never done before.
• Where is the flight attendant? I could use another beer.

So I turned to my “partner at the time,” henceforth referred to as Pat (a marathon runner himself), and said, “You think I could do this?” showing him the advertisement.

At that time I described myself as someone who couldn’t run from here to the corner without begging for mercy. I was in good shape, but I climbed mountains in those days, I wasn’t a runner. A long run for me was from here to the closest bathroom, which, for purposes of this scenario, is a really long ways away.

The point is, I decided to run the half marathon.

Pat set me up on a training regimen which culminated with me running 13.1 miles without stopping! I ran the Austin Marathon after just two months of training, on my 45th birthday. It was at the peek of the 2008 presidential election, Obama placards everywhere, and a group of spectators at the finish line chanting “Si se puede!” to which I replied in a breathless voice, “Yes HE can, and yes I DID!”

I started crying because I couldn’t believe I had just run a half marathon.

I had done something I said I could never do.

And I’ve been hooked ever since. I ran one other half marathon and, just this year–a month after turning 50–I ran a full marathon. I try to run at least four times a week, four miles a pop. If I go two days without running I get very moody. If I had to go a week without running I’d probably be homicidal.

I’m like a Jehovah’s Witness. I’ll get in your face about running. Or at least about some form of cardio exercise. Friends tell me they want to lose weight but won’t commit to a running regimen. Because they say they’re not runners. Well you know what? If you can walk you’re already on your way to being a runner.

Anyway the point is this: You should find an hour every day to walk, or run, or get cardio somehow. You won’t believe how good you’ll feel when you’re finished. And you will lose weight. And you’ll be outside in the wonderful weather. It’s invigorating! Well, in Los Angeles it is. And no doubt where you are, too. December was made for outdoor activities, right?

And, if you’re unemployed, or under employed, or just frustrated with your life, there’s nothing like strapping on a pair of running shoes, popping in the ear buds, and running until your troubles seem so far away.

(To be continued …)

  1. Brian says:

    Keep it up… I love the rads!!

  2. stvrsnbrgr says:

    And if you don’t / can’t run (in your 50s) because you want working knees (in your 60s), I can highly recommend swimming. It’s great cardio, works all of your muscle groups, zero impact – and offers all the mind-body benes of yoga.

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