I never became good at basketball, no matter how hard I practiced. I was never a fan of football and I really didn’t have the patience for baseball. Watching the New York Marathon did spark my interest in running but I was not fully sold until summer of 1996.
The summer of 1996 was the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia. When I watched track and field superstars like Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson dominate at the Olympics, I knew I wanted to run. I remember talking to my father about my interest and he laughed saying “I would be the second runner in the family his cousin Otis Drayton was a track and field runner in 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo”. He finished the Olympics winning a gold and silver medal. I thought I would become next Olympian in the family to come home with a medal.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school, I made the cross-country team. When I first started running cross country, I flat out stunk. I stuck with it, though, and would go running on the weekends in Central Park to build my endurance. My coach also gave me guidance on techniques. I went from worst on the team to one the strongest on the team. I applied to several colleges and was convinced that I would either get a scholarship to run or attend a school and make the team as a walk-on.
My plans changed when I was kicked off the team in the middle of the season. My grades were horrible; I was between average and failing student. I frequently cut class to hang out with friends. I thought I was hot stuff like the character Omar Epps played in the film Higher Learning. My attitude caught up with me and I was bounced off the team before any scout had an opportunity to check me out.
When I did get to college my dreams of running were behind me. I enjoyed the college life of drinking and partying. One my friends was actually a runner on the team at my school and would always try to get me to go on these long 6 or 7 mile runs with him. He always told me if I could get back in shape and could try to walk on the team. I was stubborn though and unwilling to give up my habit of smoking and preferred to spend my mornings sleeping in from a hangover then up running. My friend would go on to become one of the best runners in the nation and a two-time Olympian. I was happy for him, although I felt like a loser for not even attempting to go for my dream.
It was during my darkest days that I renewed my interest in running. My roommate at the time had told me about a trail that he had discovered perfect for bike riding and running. One Sunday afternoon, we hit the trail and after that, I was hooked on running again. Some days I would go to the gym and workout lifting weights. On other days, I would go for a two- or three-mile run. Running through the trails through nature gave me a sense of peace, too.
As men, we don’t like to talk about depression or how we handle stress. At various times of my life, I turned to alcohol when I felt the world closing in on me. Running became my way to deal with high levels of stress or periods of depression. They say running is an excellent exercise because it releases endorphins that help combat those feelings. When I run it release all that sweat and bad energy from me.
I have been running continually for the last seven years. I love the feeling of being outside running through a trail or park breathing in fresh air. When I run, I push myself to run as much as I can as many miles as I can. Memories pop up in my head of racing up and downhill with my cousins where my grandmother home was. I also think of my ancestors and how much they endured yet still pushed forward. Sometimes I even feel their energy with me on my runs and it makes me go hard and faster. At the end of those runs, I feel physically drained but my mind is sharper. Whether it’s stress from work, family, or a relationship, running has gotten me through some difficult times in my life. I may never be an Olympic runner but I will continue to run for peace and clarity.
Hey Good Men Project Readers! Fitbit is an affiliate partner of ours, check them out! Then you can answer the question “How far?” along with “Why?”
From our “Why We Run” Series
Because My Heart is No Longer Broken by James Woodruff
More Than Just a Running Group by Kase Johnstun
Because I Deserve to Be Empowered by Tessa G
Chasing the Gingerbread Man by Bob Varettoni
For Marianne by Lisa Duggan
To Remember Who I Am by Keola Birano
I Run Because I Almost Couldn’t, and Sometimes I Can’t by Joanna Schroeder
For Life by James Fell
Born to Do It by Whit Honea
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