Once a Runner, Always a Runner

I was thirty-five. I tossed my last pack of cigarettes in the garbage, never to take up the nasty habit again. I was still slim and trim, so I thought, till I paid a yearly visit to my gynecologist.

“You’ve gained six pounds. And you gained it all in your butt!”

“Wow! A whole six pounds, I mocked.”

“Six pounds this year, another six pounds next year, and the next, and the next. You get my drift?”

“Yeah, I get it.”

So I bought an exercise tape and started jogging in place which was a total bore. I’m an outdoorsy kinda girl, so after a few weeks I started walking around the neighborhood. That was boring too, so I ventured up town to the gulf course which was fine till the guys started gawking at me and asking me if I was lost.

So I began walking on the well trodden streets of down town High Point, North Carolina where I felt safe. It was noisy, but safe . . . except for seemingly blind drivers cutting in front of me as I was crossing an intersection, or smart alecks honking their horns and yelling, “Hey baby! Wanna ride?”

For three months, sixty minutes a day I’d walk. Every day. Aches and pains. Rain or shine.

Pushing through the sweat and tears, horn-honking and jerk-yelling paid off. I lost ten pounds. My legs were firmer, I was breathing better, and I felt stronger than I had felt in years.

I was very athletic in grade school, running relays, 50 yard dashes, and jumping the high rope. My long, skinny legs could outrun any guy any time.

So, at the ripe old age of thirty-six, I started jogging, first two minutes, then four, then ten. The first time I jogged twenty minutes non-stop, I felt like a bird gliding through the air. There was no stopping me now. I was a runner.

Three to four times a week, every week for seventeen years I’d lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement, never stopping till my sixty minutes were up. I didn’t run for speed, I ran for distance. Saturdays, I’d throw in an extra thirty or sixty minutes for added strength and endurance.

Then I entered a few 10k’s, never seeking to win but, to push myself a little harder. One race, my son ran with me, encouraging me all the way to the finish line.

Most people thought I was nuts and asked me why I’d spend so much time running, especially in the hot, summer months of North Carolina.

Running gave me peace of mind and a tremendous sense of power and control that I never felt growing up. My self-confidence soared and I was simply a much happier person. People who don’t run or do some other type of strenuous sport can never understand that.

Sadly though, in spite of all the life-changing benefits, I stopped. Not cold turkey, but my runs became less frequent and less and less enjoyable. During every run, feeling as heavy as cinder blocks, my legs rebelled. I became frustrated and discouraged. It’s as if my body was screaming, “I’m not doing this anymore!”

But, my brain kept yelling, “Oh, Yes you are! You’ve worked too long and hard to stop now!”

Finally, I told them both to shut up, that I was done.

Then came the excuses: I’m too old. It’s too hard. Too hot. Too not my thing anymore.

I tried walking, but after all the years of running, walking didn’t do it for me. I had to walk too fast and hard to get my heart rate up. So ignoring the guilt of even thinking of giving up, and because I’m an all or nothing nut case, I just quit.

It’s been twelve years since I made my fateful decision, regretting every minute of it. By now I have a ton of excuses not to run: I’m sixty-eight . . . way too old now. My bones are too fragile. My legs are too weak. I’ll fall and break something. And I’m just too fat, too tired and lazy, too far gone to ever get back in shape again. Besides, who cares anyway?

I care for one. My family cares. My doctors care. And I don’t want to just sit around eating candy and drinking sodas while my life slides down the tubes. Now is the time to think about my health and well-being. Now is the time to get off my big fat butt and do something.

I’m into my fourth week of walking, four to five days a week. This week I started jogging. Not because I’m not afraid of getting injured, but because my Oncologist’s words keep bouncing around in my head, “Once a runner, always a runner.”

Plus, my son is a fitness trainer: Making An Impact : Robert Staton Selected For The Cobra-Defense and doesn’t allow for wimpy, fat momma excuses . . . no matter what your age or how out of shape you are. As long as you’re breathing, you can do something.

But, I don’t have the luxury of going to Robert’s boot camp over thirty miles away. And I envy those who get his grueling training in the flesh. All I get is his distant voice ringing in my ears, “Go momma! Push through the burn! You can do more than you think! Never give up! Push, momma! Push!”

Excitedly I call him and share every small victory. His words of praise and encouragement thrills my heart, giving me the strength and desire to keep at it.

I don’t want to put my family through unnecessary grief because I won’t take care of myself. I don’t want them to see me old and helpless. I don’t want them to visit me in a nursing home because I failed them and myself. I know that there are some circumstances that can’t be helped. But, in my case, I can and I’m a fool if I stubbornly refuse to do it.

God has blessed me with a strong and healthy body and expects me to take care of it. He says so in His Word (1 Corinthians 6:19). He healed me of colon cancer. He delivered me from emotional bondage. And He’s with me every day, rain or shine, encouraging me to be all that I can be. Giving me all the strength I need. Loving me every step of the way. How can I give anything less than my best in return to Him?