In our darkest moments of life, we all need something to bring us back to the light.
In this feature series, we share your answers.
This is Tim Lineaweaver’s:
It was true then and is still true today. I started thirty years ago, when I was twenty-eight, out of shape, overweight by twenty-five pounds, addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine. I was pasty-faced, fat-assed and would often have to pause wheezing, halfway up the stairs of my apartment. The prideful high school hockey and baseball player within me was long gone.
I overate and was sedentary. My marriage fell apart. My dissatisfied wife cheated on me. I ended up in detox, angry and disappointed in others and disgusted in myself. I was defeated and shrouded in failure.
Running became the means by which I reclaimed my earlier self. I wanted to be an athlete again. When I played hockey, there was a pure joy to being able to slice across the ice at breakneck pace, cupping the puck on the blade of my stick, then muscling it past the goalie, as the net billowed behind him, my teammates group-hugging me.
The games gave visceral thrills that ordinary life lacked. Yes, I wanted to lose weight and look better, the way I should look. But running was also a way of pushing back against the stigma of being an addict, against those that gave up on me and betrayed me: my ex-wife, my peter-pan using friends and the naysayers and “For-Christ-Sakers” that people small town life.
But running was also about becoming. Becoming someone I could be proud of; an even tempered self, a contented winning self. Someone less defined by others and more defined by myself. A man with pride, not the show-boat-look-at-me variety but someone satisfied with himself, a man who knows where he he’s going.
At first it took all I had to run a mile. Often I would have to stop gasping for air. I was plagued by soreness as long-dormant muscles rebelled under new expectations. There was no glamour in trudging along the back roads of the town I had flamed out in. The only rule was to go, no excuses. I didn’t worry about distance or time just about going. Going meant trying and trying meant prevailing. Quitting meant losing.
As the days weeks and months dragged by I began to get a little bit stronger and less winded. One mile became two and after six months I worked up to five miles four or five times a week. After a year I shed the weight and then some. I now weighed five pounds less than I did in high school.
More importantly, my body now looked for the exercise, craved it almost. It felt foreign to not run. I began to stretch the distance adding six and seven mile runs. I began to push the tempo, trying some shorter distances at a faster pace. After years of running on my own, I decided to run the Falmouth Road Race, a national seven mile race with thousands of runners that just happens to be in my home town. I was now thirty-five years old.
A runner friend helped me to put together a training regimen with the following weekly plan: One thirteen-mile run slow. One interval run at seven miles, two minutes at “race pace” the next two jogging to recover. One tempo run at five miles at a pace comfortably hard as well as a couple slow-to-medium five mile runs. Thirty-five miles a week for twelve weeks then tapering off the mileage one week before the race. I hewed to this schedule with religious devotion. That year I ran Falmouth at a less than seven minute per mile clip for a race total of 46:30. When I crossed the finish line that year I felt like I had accomplished something that no one could take from me.
I still run today, now fifty-nine.
I joke that I am driven by some long-past Gumpian trauma and so I plod on mindlessly mile after mile. I run Falmouth every year albeit more slowly. The goal now is to do it under an hour. People ask me all the time why I run. I have multiple answers. After I do a speed run I feel happy warm sweat rain every last toxin out of my body. My appetite is strong, I am thin. I feel more energetic during the day. Maybe I will live longer. Anxiety and depression are mostly kept at bay. I also find myself thinking about problems when I run and sometimes a solution pops into my head serendipitously. Is it because my neurochemistry fires differently when I run? Perhaps.
My mother, also a runner says that on most runs she saw something beautiful or unusual. I can attest to that. I had a small, tan-red-coated fox fall in behind me on a run and he maintained a fifteen foot space but kept pace for a full mile then veered off into the woods. One day I come face to face with a huge coyote who lingered in the road a few feet ahead of me and maintained eye contact with me just long enough to let me know who was boss, the sauntered away.
But if I am to drill down and really give the most compelling reason why I run I would admit that nature, glory and even health benefits aren’t the main reason. It’s more like this:
When I run, for those moments of those days, I feel more free, safer and full shout out loud joyful than in any of the other parts of my days.
For The Good Men Project Sports’ Why We Run feature, we are looking to collect YOUR comments, posts, Tweets, and emails that answer the questions: Why do you run? What are you running from? What are you running towards, if anything?”
Please send us your submission via email to myself at [email protected] or via Twitter @michaelkasdan #WhyWeRunGMP and #GMPSports. Submissions can also be made through the below comments section or on our Facebook page.
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