Still Running — One Year Later
Running is pain.
Each and every step is a bone-grinding reminder that I’m not young anymore. I can’t quite do all the things I used to be able to do — at least not as fast, nor with as much ease.
But I try.
One year ago today, began my daily running routine. All 262 lumbering pounds of me shook the pavement with the full force of a jackhammer. I remember the pain as if it happened this morning. Perhaps that’s because today I felt many of those same pains once again. Indeed, I have come full circle to the place I was once before.
One year ago I weighed two-hundred and sixty-two pounds. Making it a full mile without stopping left me bent over, panting, and breathless. Running a few miles, even with deliberate stops in between, made my joints ache. After a few runs, my legs cramped up. At time, the pain was so severe, I felt paralyzed.
But I ran that first day. And the next. And the next, too. And with every step along the way, the one thereafter became just a little bit easier. Within a week of my daily run, I was already beginning to feel dramatic changes. Not only did I feel better physically, but mentally, as well. I also had lots more energy.
My lifestyle revolution — where I committed myself to running every single day with no excuses — began in the Bell Gardens section of Los Angeles on January 4, 2012.
And now today, it’s one year later. I have returned again to this place where it all started.
Running is a lonely pursuit.
I know some people run in groups or with friends. But I tend to run alone. When my wife joins me in Las Vegas, that is a rare treat. But when I’m on the road as I am many days and nights, running is a combination of solitude and loneliness.
There seems to be no purpose to running, really. Think about it. One runs in a certain direction and then usually returns again in the opposite direction to the original starting point. So, what’s the point? There’s no apparent highway or journey from one point to the next.
But if you think this way, you must not be a runner. Indeed, that might be the conventional view of running held by someone who hasn’t done it.
Alas, I find running — as painful as it is at times — to be intensely liberating. It can be a looking glass into a new world. For the mind wanders and goes off in new directions when you run, especially when your mental and physical limits are pushed to the test. In a sense, running is meditation, without the tranquility of relaxation.
If these shoes were used car tires, the tread would be long gone. Call it “burned rubber.”
By my estimate, I’ve put about 1,600 miles on these shoes. I base this calculation on 320 days of running over the past year, at approximately five miles per day. The bottom tread is completed worn out. You are looking at my third set of shoe laces (see photo above).
These shoes have been places. They have run along the beaches of South Florida. They have run around golf courses in Orlando. These shoes have run along the Atlantic City boardwalk. They have taken me alongside the Mississippi River and through the French Quarter in New Orleans. These shoes have seen the oil refineries of Gary, Indiana. They have run beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, They have pounded pavement in Las Vegas when the asphalt was hit by a 114-degree sun. They have stepped in snow at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Lake Tahoe. They have rounded the river walk in Shreveport. They have also carried me up and down the famous promenade along the French Riviera in Cannes, France.
These shoes have stepped in the Pacific. They’ve stepped in the Atlantic. They’ve even made it into the Mediterranean. They’ve stepped in dog shit and been chased by pit bulls.
And now, they have taken me into the Los Angeles aqueduct — where I stand here and now.
On this, the one-year anniversary of my daily running routine, I have come full circle.
Over the past year, running has improved my life. The most dramatic difference it made for me was in losing weight.
I’ve said this many time before, but losing weight is not about personal vanity. If I wanted to be thin, I could be. Easy. All I would have to do is reduce my calorie intake and stop drinking. I could do both. But at what cost?
No, I enjoy my food and drink far too much. So, running became an alternative way for me to indulge myself while maintaining a reasonably healthy mind, body, and spirit.
My “eat all you want, drink all you want, and run it all off” diet was a big success.
My first six months of running took me from 262 pounds all the way down to 215. That’s a loss of 48 pounds without ever missing a meal. Shedding the pounds wasn’t about hitting a specific number. In fact, I had no real target figure in mind as the excess weight began to sweat away one thundering step on the pavement at a time.
But I must also admit to experiencing a few relapses. In France, I packed on a whopping ten more pounds — due largely to more eating and drinking than usual combined with a reduction in running from about 5 miles a day down to perhaps 2 or 3. Then in December, I went on a food binge. Colder-than-usual weather in Las Vegas created no incentive for me to go out and run, especially with so many wonderful holiday distractions around. Who wants to run when it’s 35 degrees and the wind is blowing?
By year’s end, I had ballooned back up again to 238 pounds.
There’s an old saying that every journey begins with a first step.
Today, I took a few thousand first steps. I completed five miles. The photos here are a testament to that re-commitment. I took these photos as I ran along the same path where things all began a year ago. Departing Ford Park in Bell Gardens. Up through Downey. Over to Commerce, and across the cement embankment and a return run on the opposite side of the empty river.
As I ran again today, there were other memories which sparked my curiosity.
For it was a year ago that I wrote my very first blog entry (posted on July 26, 2012). That first story was about running along the aqueducts of Los Angeles and accidentally coming upon an illegal immigrant who was living alongside this barren wasteland in a tent.
You can revisit that unique experience here:
And so I decided that tomorrow will be a pilgrimage.
I intend to return again to that same place. I will find and then shall run to the tiny parcel of land where a Mexican man and his three dogs lived — a place they called “home.”
I want to see if it’s still there.
I want to see if they might still be there.
Coming Tomorrow: Revisiting the Home of Three Dogs and a Mexican