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July 18, 2019

Runcoach Success Story: Joe K

Written by lindsay Flanagan
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Take hold of life's 3C's: Choice, Change, Chance. Make the choice, take the chance, and see the change... 

“You are built like a runner,” Christi said to me about a year ago. I rolled my eyes. “You could do a half marathon tomorrow.”

I’d been a gym regular for three years. At Christi’s class, I’d grind out burpees, stack up squats, and groan through pushups. Showing up got me in fair shape for guy almost 49 years old.

But running? No one ever said I looked like a runner. I finished last in sprints during baseball practice.  “Somebody didn’t beat the clock, so we’re all going to run again,” Mr. Claussen said day after day. “I won’t say his name, but his initials are Joe Kolman.”

I never ran for fun or fitness, let alone competition. Yet last month, in the shadow of Glacier National Park I stood on a podium for the first time holding a silver medal like a baby chicken.  I ran 13.1 miles up and down a mountain with 1,827 runners of all shapes and sizes.I beat 1,737 of them, including all but nine my age or older. My 1:49:38 beat My Run Plan projection by 22 seconds.

Joe_k_glaicer

By God, I looked like a runner.

Here are the cliches of which I’m guilty. Like a lot of guys who approach a half century, I look in the mirror and see mortality with crows feet around the eyes, gray hair, and a mouth that frowns more than it should. Christi is engaging, enthusiastic, and positive. She almost makes the impossible seem possible. But it was still up to me to make it happen.

I am also at a point in life where I need to prove that I can do something alone. I gravitate toward team sports and team professions. I work hard and contribute to a team effort with my middling abilities. But as I faced the Grim Reaper’s nephew in the mirror (he wears button down shirts and khaki pants, by the way) I figured it was time to take charge of myself.

As I mulled becoming a runner, my wife Kris signed us up for the Glacier half marathon. She spontaneously does things that sound fun. A 13.1 mile run near our favorite place in the world and a cool t-shirt? Enough said. She also knows I need goals.

Christi uses My Run Plan and suggested I try it. The doubt came in waves as I answered the questions. Current miles per week? Zero. Average miles run per week in the last year? Just a smidge under none.

I have a great support network. And the Runcoach team is always online to help. But only one person can make you run. On day one of my life as a runner, the assignment starred up from my phone. Run 1.5 miles easy at a 13 minute mile pace. My Run Plan takes the research, guesswork, and hearsay out of training. By nature, I question things. That first run of 1.5 miles in 20 minutes? I ran 3.2 in 39 minutes. It was easier than I thought. And fun. For that first month, I ran faster and longer than the plan. Then I got hurt. My left knee ached. The right one had sharp pains. Unlike the algorithm, my ego is a biased source. I didn’t double check myself. I was out for more than a week and deep in the doldrums. I needed to run.

Running makes me happy. I am an introvert by birth. I speak to people to succeed at life and work, but it often exhausts me. Except when I run. I wave to people.  I offer words of encouragement. I try to be funny. “Hey, only three miles to pizza and beer.”  People who know me don’t believe it. This is not me; at least not sober.

I recently got caught in a  downpour. It was fantastic. I was healthy and free, running on a mountain. Lightning could have killed me on the ridge. I would not have traded places with anybody.

Running forces my mind to focus. Spine straight. Gut taut. The focus sets me free. It allows me to push beyond what I think is possible. In the rest of life, I fear failure and often stop when I reach good enough.

I make running a series of little victories. My Run Plan makes it easy. Run 5 miles in 50 minutes.  Where’s my medal? Run four sets of 200 meter sprints in 52 seconds each. Two beers. Run up the hill before Prince gets out of that Little Red Corvette.

I will run where life takes me, for no one but me. I’d like to win a more gaudy medals, but I will run because it makes me alive. My feet hitting the earth is at once humbling and powerful.  Running demands I be good to myself.  Eat well. Get sleep, Treat myself to massages and physical therapy. Work to make my mind agile and at peace. Being a better runner is very similar to becoming a better person.

People frequently tell me now that I look like a runner. For a while, I was miffed. Why now? I’ve always looked this way. Here’s my theory: You want to look like a runner? Start running. Short, fat, tall, skinny. Genetics don’t mean jack. Use a training plan or don’t. Someone, including other runners, will help and encourage any newbie. But in the end, it’s you against yourself.

I’ve cried for pure joy three times: the day I got married, the day I got my current job, and about a mile from the finish of my first half marathon. Alone on the trail, a middle-aged man weeping. Despite all I thought I knew about myself and what I could not do, I did it. I made myself a runner.

Last modified on July 21, 2019
lindsay Flanagan

lindsay Flanagan

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