There’s a checkered flag or banner at the end of most races. To earn it, and whatever else comes with it, there must also be a beginning.
My beginning started on the John Muir Trail in California. To clarify: I was sitting on my couch watching a documentary about the popular mountain trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains. For some reason it struck a chord.
The idea of possibly keeling over from a heart attack on a trail like that would never have crossed my mind when I was young, but it did that January night. Fifty-three years old, overweight, high blood pressure, using walking sticks to help me get around because of bad knees and gout . . . I was a mess.
That night I turned to my wife and said five words: “I’m going to the gym.”
I walked about a mile on the treadmill that night. No, I didn’t feel great afterwards. My knees didn’t approve. They wanted to take the next day off. That nagging voice in my head insisted I couldn’t get in shape after years of neglecting myself.
It was wrong.
The next day, I was back, and struggling through the pain. I was slow, but constant in my movement. By chance, a colleague was on the treadmill next to me.
“Rehabbing my knee,” I said.
“Well, you’re moving. You’re here. That’s a great start,” she said.
I soon added some time on the elliptical. The low impact allowed for longer workouts and took a lot of pressure off my knees. I was able to move a little faster, almost a jog.
In the process, I began losing weight.
I added a free app to my phone that helped me count calories. It was like adding a downhill to a foot race, and made losing so much easier. As I lost, I worked my muscles more, and I discovered that I wanted to “hit the road.” Yep, I wanted to try to run.
A friend recommended another app that eased me into running. I walked and mixed in short periods of jogging, and started lifting weights. One workout, one run, one step, and one bucket of sweat at a time, I transitioned to running almost daily. My wife bought me a fancy GPS watch to keep track of times when I’m running trails.
After eight months, I’m seventy pounds lighter, my blood pressure is down, and I’ve lost track of my walking sticks. They’re around somewhere.
My first 10k race was last weekend, and that checkered banner at the finish line was … glorious.