It took me seven hours.
Four years ago, I went to a lake in Nevada and ran for SEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS.
All for what? For a mass-produced lanyard with a medal attached to it? Um, actually yeah, that's pretty much it...
Oh, but there were other things that came with it, like... all the stuff that wasn't tangible, all the stuff that wasn't known to anyone else besides myself.
All the stuff that really kept me going.
I started running during my senior year of undergrad, and I don't quite remember what exactly sparked me to get up and get out, but... as Forrest Gump once famously said: I just felt like runnin'.
It was a tricky time in my life — I wasn't quite sure where I was headed, whether I was progressing or falling back. School, work, short-term future, long-term goals, tacos or chow mein — the choices of life (and its consequences) were attacking me like never before. Usual escapes like TV, video games, and the internet just weren't cutting it anymore.
I had to unplug and GTFO.
I quickly discovered that running was immensely therapeutic and it became my most effective method for self-reflection and stress relief.
At first, I ran just to clear my mind.
I wasn't even focused on health or weight loss, because thinking about those things always gave me unwanted pressure. Instead, I approached running with no goals, none whatsoever — I wanted it to be as freeing of an experience as possible.
I guess you could say it became an addiction. I ran almost every day, even weekends when I visited my parents. I ran at work during my lunch breaks with my co-worker David. I ran so often that I got tired of listening to music on my iPod, so I'd run with naked ears and I'd take in the sounds of the nature and streets around me.
It was a total escape.
One run stands out in particular, when I woke up at 5 AM and drove to the La Jolla coast. I walked down to the dampened sand and ran with the serene, waking waves beside my feet. I felt like Chris Martin in the music video for Coldplay's "Yellow". In fact, that's exactly how it was — I was cold, alone, and floating through the misty blue.
It was bliss.
Before I signed up for my first official, big race (a half-marathon) I had never ran for more than 5 miles in one outing. But one day I went ahead and did it, all 13 miles, with the aid of adrenaline and some delicious energy gels.
After that first one, I ended up doing 7 more half-marathons over the course of a few years. Crazy? Stupid? To the average person, yes it was, but I ran all of them with Stacy by my side and we somehow made it enjoyable.
They were a lot of fun, but they were no joke either — with all the training, proper care for the body, and enduring the actual races themselves, it was the closest I'll ever be to knowing what a professional athlete must feel like.
I remember limping the last quarter mile ... grimacing harder than the angriest, most constipated bully in human history.
Intermixed were handfuls of 5K's and 10K's, most of which were for charitable purposes such as awareness for Autism and breast cancer. Going to those events would always remind me of how fortunate I was, and I'd quickly stop my petty complaints about a nagging pain in my foot.
Throughout it all, I got sooo many shirts, bags, and post-race muffins and bananas. The finisher medals were piling on and I had amassed enough of them to break my freakin' neck.
The best part about running a race was always that final stretch, those last few minutes before the end when you can see the giant FINISH banner in the far distance.
One time I remember running the last 100 yards so fast, I wished an NFL scout was there to witness me. But another time I remember limping the last quarter mile with both my calves cramped up, heavy as stones, and grimacing harder than the angriest, most constipated bully in human history.
Whatever was the case, the euphoria was always there, whether I was strong enough to show it or not. The realization of accomplishing something you never thought you could do, something that didn't come easy and took a long-ass time, is one of the most powerful feelings one could have, especially when it's something you do for yourself and not anyone else.
Those last few steps before the finish line were what made running the previous 2, 12, or 25 miles totally worth it.
Perhaps foolish, but experiencing that feeling always helped me believe that my life was heading somewhere.
After completing the marathon, I downed a big bowl of homemade spaghetti and a drumstick from El Pollo Loco. Then I tried my best to sleep with bags of ice wrapped all over my body (trust me, it's not fun).
It took about a full week to recover.
Since then I have only raced in a few 5/10K's, but nothing that requires regimented training. I consider myself "retired" from running, but I am not opposed to getting back into it someday.
Just not for seven straight hours.
Super huge thanks to Stacy, Meesh, Tito Totoy, Tita Nora, and Joe for supporting me during a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.