I ran a marathon in 3 hours and 22 minutes. A tough, hilly, marathon. I’ve got two sub-1:40 half marathons under my belt and a number over that mark, not to mention 10ks, 5 milers and 5ks, both on trails and roads. I’ve completed 8 Spartan Races, a Battlefrog and a Tough Mudder. (I was also forced to DNF from another Tough Mudder because a stupid rusty rail lodged itself in my hand and I had to be rushed to the hospital. Stupid rusty nail!) I’m not telling you all this to brag. Okay, maybe I am a little, but mostly I just want to make it clear: I’m a runner.
I still have the 26.2 sticker on my car, plus a magnet from one of those half marathons. But I didn’t run any marathons or half marathons last year; I didn’t run any obstacle course races, either. I ran one 10k trail race early in the season and one 5k with my 8 year old daughter (that was more mentally than physically exhausting). At some point during the year, I pretty much stopped running for fun or exercise. So, am I still a runner?
When do we stop being that thing we see ourselves as? When do others stop seeing us as what we were and start seeing us as what we are? I’m in the middle of a crisis of self, people!
Anyway, I don’t have an answer to those questions. Frankly, I don’t want one. Not yet. I’m not ready to not be a runner. I’m also definitely not ready to run a marathon, half marathon or obstacle course race. Not yet.
When I was a kid, my dad was a runner. I remember going with him to his races and cheering him on, hugging him at the finish line and helping myself to the free bananas and watermelon at then end. I distinctly remember the watermelon. Weird what sticks in your brain. I think the longest distance he ran were 5ks, but I had no doubt that he was a runner. We ran together, sometimes. When it was cold, we put socks on our hands. I can’t remember why gloves or mittens wouldn’t have done the trick; I just remember it had to be socks. He even showed me how to stretch; I don’t think “dynamic stretching” was a thing in the early 80s.
To be a runner, all you have to do is go outside and run. That is the very thing that drew me to the sport. You don’t need fancy equipment or a membership fee (though there is a TON of fun stuff to buy and my wife is forcing me to admit that I may have purchased a “membership” at a running store). You just need the will to start moving. You also don’t need to coordinate with teammates or friends. Running is you time: it’s singular, solitary and can be very Zen. Like they say, it’s cheaper than therapy. And all of this is great, 90% of the time. Sometimes you want a shared experience and other times you just want to kick some ass. Enter races. Literally, enter them. They give you an extra boost when you’re running on your own, a little bonus motivation. When you’re running with and against others on that big day, you’ll find you had speed you didn’t think possible. Plus, you usually get a free t-shirt! And, as anyone who truly knows me can attest, I tend to be a little competitive (and love free t-shirts!). Races come in all sorts of lengths and this year I plan on focusing on the snack-sized 5k (3.1 mile) races. Snack-sized? What an odd and interesting word choice.
Just because something is small doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Take, for example, Bulletproof’s line of healthy, filling snacks. BOOM! NAILED IT!
Okay, I may have crow-barred that in a little, but the truth is that I’m about as ready for a full life-changing all-in diet as I am for my next marathon. But I can make impactful, incremental changes. Instead of snacking on cereal, I can grab a Lemon Cookie, Fudge Brownie or Vanilla Shortbread from Bulletproof. Unlike the allegedly “healthy” cereal, these goodies are all loaded with collagen protein from grass-fed cows and are low in carbs and sugar. Instead of my normal dark chocolate treats, which invariably have sugar added, I can eat a Chocolate Fuel Bar, which clocks in at 78% dark raw chocolate and has Bulletproof XCT oil for smooth energy, but not a single gram of sugar. Bulletproof snacks aren’t going to change my life overnight. Neither will running short races. But they’re both positive steps that will help me be healthy and, just as importantly, will help me be the person that I think I already am but that I sometimes feel slipping away.
One of the aspects of long distance and obstacle course races that always bummed me out was that my family couldn’t come and cheer me on: the races took too much time, started too early, were too muddy, too far away and they only got to see me at the start and finish. My kids know I’m a runner, but they hardly ever actually see me run. I’m excited that Simon and Penny will get to give me high fives as I cross the finish line (they refuse to hug me when I’m sweaty), and help themselves to the free bananas at the end of the race. I can’t remember the last time I saw watermelons at a race, but maybe I’ll save a Lemon Cookie for them. It’ll be interesting to see what sticks in their brains in 30 years.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post brought to you by 3cConsulting. The opinions are completely my own based on my personal experience with the product.