VISIONRUNUSA Series (3): Why and how I started running
|April 2008, Country Music Marathon - beginning the longer distances|
I was never a natural runner or long distance runner. When I was in my teens, I witnessed my step-uncle, Ted Epstein, running a self-supported 6-day run on a 1/8th mile indoor track. That spurred me to want to run a marathon in my early 20s. I just ran for training. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew 26 miles was a long way, and I needed to run a lot if I was going to be able to run that distance. In 1993, I completed my first marathon in 3:14 and change. Then, I hung up my running shoes for 14 years.
In those 14 years, I had gotten married, had children, went to grad school and was busy trying to climb the corporate ladder. In 2006, I found myself living in Puerto Rico on a corporate assignment while working with GE. I was growing in my career, adding valuable skills to my resume, entertaining clients, eating tasty cuisine which was mostly fried, drinking rum & cokes and smoking cigars. I was not working out, and my weekly exercise consisted of washing the car on a fairly regular basis.
I had heard that a couple of my neighbors had started walking at a 1/4th mile track in a local park. I asked the guys if I could go walk with them. The first time I went, I was shocked to find out that I was out of breath just walking!!!. I was young, and I thought I was in average shape. I was shocked to learn that I was not. I was a walking heart attack waiting to happen - working long hours in a high pressure job and not taking care of my health. I secretly began going to the track and trying to run. I knew I should be able to run a mile at least. I struggled bad at first to hold a slow shuffle for a mile. I would keep at it, until I could run that mile continuously. Later, I rejoined my neighbors and was able to run as they walked.
That was the beginning.
I slowly built up my endurance. I had a good friend who ran 4-5 miles every weekend on the beach. I would meet him on the weekends to run. In the beginning, I couldn't make the distance. But, after months of consistently meeting my friend for runs, I was able to run the distance, and I was getting faster. I started competing in local 5k runs, then 10k runs. Then, I tried half marathons. Later, I chose to attempt the marathon again. My son has autism, and we started a school for him in Puerto Rico. In order to raise money for the school, I signed up for the Las Vegas marathon in 2007. I completed the marathon, but in very ugly fashion. At the end, my Mom met me and I fell to the ground. I couldn't walk or stand. I was totally decimated by the distance, and didn't think I would ever be able to go that distance again. I dreamed of competing in the Boston Marathon, and I chose to train for another marathon in April of 2008. I trained consistently with a plan for 4 months, and ran fast enough to qualify for Boston at that race. I was still about 15 lbs overweight, but I was running regularly. IT WAS VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN I FIRST STARTED RUNNING. As I built up my endurance, I noticed that my body was changing, and the discomfort lessened. Consistent running made things easier. When I took weeks off, I learned that it was difficult to build back up to where I was at before I took a break from training.
After the Boston Marathon, I went after triathlon and into the IronMan distance triathlon. In 2009, I moved back to Denver from Puerto Rico and went through a divorce. That was the point when my ultra-career began. Long, solitary runs occupied my life as my family unravelled. It was a type of therapy and solace. The first 100 mile run I attempted was a DNF. That hurt, A LOT. However, I vowed to take on that race and make it mine. In the next 3 years, I finished that race 3x. From there, I went to multi-day racing, 100+ mile races, and ultimately VISIONRUNUSA.
Why the progression? It is hard to say. What I do know, is that if we are looking for limits - we are pursuing the wrong goal. At this point in my life, my running is to celebrate the limitless possibilities that we all possess. Whether a walk with a friend or gruel-a-thon, my life will always be about moving forward and making Relentless Forward Progress.
Starting is always slow and hard. With patience and consistency, we can train our bodies and minds to do anything. This is the lesson I have learned with running. If I was able to learn to run long, I believe anybody can.
Jason Romero is a highly sought after inspirational speaker and the 1st and only blind person to run across America. Jason is a member of the US Paralympic Team, holds 11 world records in ultra-running, a former attorney and business executive, and a single father of 3 children. More information can be found on Jason at www.relentlessromero.com.