I’m running on a trail in the forest preserves southwest of the city of Chicago. It’s early, the weather is cold and dreary, and I ache pretty much everywhere. I’m probably frowning. No, I’m definitely frowning.
I hit mile one. A robotic voice calls out to me.
“Distance. One point zero miles. Average pace. Seven minutes, fifty-five seconds per mile.”
My frown quickly dissipates into a big smile.
It dawns on me that 6 years or so ago I would have stepped in that exact spot, and heard a similar robotic voice call out to me. Only then, it would have said, “Average pace. Thirteen minutes...” - that’s if I had managed to make it to that point without stopping a few times.
During that era I was very overweight, broke, in a failing relationship, shattered by the deaths of some loved ones, and generally uninspired & miserable. With each new day I felt the weight of life and the weight of my body grow heavier.
Then one day I decided I was tired of being this person, that I needed to be a different, better me. I ended the relationship, quit drinking, stopped eating meat, and started running.
Cut to the part where things are great now, right? It’s not quite that simple.
This growth or revival or whatever it was sucked. It really did. I missed beer. I craved burgers. I hated running. It was hard, it was painful, it was boring. I wanted to give up literally 3 minutes in to every single run.
ut I didn’t.
Each step I took, painful as they were, put me one step closer to becoming something I wanted to be. I was running toward a better version of me, and hopefully a better life.
And eventually, that happened. Eventually 230 pounds became 215 pounds became 190 pounds became 165. Eventually 13 minutes per mile became 11:45 per mile, became 10:00 per mile, became 8:00. Eventually I found a job, eventually things began to fall into place.
What I learned from this experience was that no one could help me - I had to do this by myself, for myself. Now, sure, people cheered me on during races I would run, or told me how much better I looked, or encouraged my newfound passion for life. But other people could not make things better for me until I took those steps to make things better for myself.
Back in the present day I find myself running for a reason again. While life is better than it’s ever been, I still have more to strive for. I still see a better version of myself a bit ahead. I still see reasons to take these steps, to push forward.
The robotic voice calls out to me again. “Distance. Six point zero miles. Average pace. Eight minutes, twenty-two seconds per mile.”
A big smile crosses my face.