At 27-years-old, and similar to a Forest Gump storyline, I just felt like running.
I can’t tell you why I started, perhaps it was meant to be or maybe I just got lucky, but what I do know is running became the catalyst that changed my life.
My beginning runs make me chuckle, I didn’t even have running shoes on! Ever present was my brain rattling off fear, insecurities, doubts, “What if I can’t finish? I better not go too far. Is my form okay? Am I a runner?”
(The answer to this question is YES, we all are. We were built to run! *DID YOU KNOW: Humans have spring-like ligaments and tendons in the feet and legs that are crucial for running along with a well developed gluteus maximus- active while running.)
I continued to run despite my rusty brain trying to get in the way. A run around the block grew to a mile, a mile grew to a 5k, all the while being happy I hadn’t spontaneously combusted. Hmm, maybe I was a runner?
As I spent more time hitting the streets and pounding the pavement, a shift was occurring. Bigger questions were growing and tugging at my heart, a healthy curiosity started growing its appetite.
What are my limits? What am I capable of? What if I am good enough?
To be honest, I had long forgotten the answer to these questions.
Let me explain….
Junior High School was not a fun time for me, with a combination of what others would have described as “small, quiet, and scrawny” I was a natural pick for bullies. My days consisted of being teased about what I looked like, my personal belongings being stolen and hidden, and losing pieces of my, barely present, self esteem. 13-years-old and too young to understand why kids would do this, I came up with the only “logical” answer-
I wasn’t good enough. Unable to sustain what felt like daily torture, I came up with a plan. I decided I could shortcut the bullies and just not feel, bury my feelings and fool myself into thinking I possessed none. We humans go to great lengths to protect ourselves. I found a way to describe what acting out my plan felt like and I’ll share that with you, but for now, I should add it wasn’t all bad.
I did have friends, most of which are still friends to this day, and I did find sports. Playing football was a savior to me. It was an escape and an outlet. Though my scars still anchored my behavior and fear kept me inside the box, hoping to never draw too much attention to myself.
High School ended, football was over, and my pain turned to deeper depression. I felt lonely. I felt a million miles away at times. I can only describe it as “The Island”. I became familiar with my own private island. It was not a tropical paradise, but it was my ultimate comfort zone. I visited it often and sometimes felt uncomfortable if I left it for too long.
I kept busy, maintaining a social life, working while in college, graduating, getting married. Distraction is a great band-aid, but I was ready for a better solution.
During a long run, I pieced it together. Life was better in running shoes. The more I ran, the less I visited “The Island”. Running made me FEEL and I was oddly okay with that. Piling on more and more miles, steps, and breaths, I started to build the bridge to leave “The Island”.
There is a lot that has happened from that moment to today and I think I’ll save the in-between for another time because there is a secret I want to share with you.
Running is a SUPERPOWER. It’s a magic available to so many- yet the gruel, the grit, the stamina is not for everyone. It is saved for a select few. I’m talking about YOU!
Growing up my little league coach, the late and great, Sandy Scharf ran the LA Marathon. All I could think is that he was crazy, how could anyone run that far, and why would they want too? (I hope my change of heart brings a smile to Sandy up above.)
To answer my younger self, yes we are crazy. I’ve come to learn that is the greatest compliment you can give to a runner.
We push the limits of the human spirit; we test how far our body can take us and then surrender to the magic of our hearts to carry us through. We endure temporary pain to find the euphoric land of “Runners High.” The road becomes the ultimate listener and truth teller. The crap, the clutter, the mess and complexity of the human condition melts away and somehow everything becomes clear. We lose ourselves and find ourselves at the very same time. We come to believe in the run. When they say, “Running never takes more than it gives back,” it’s true.
I think by now you know more about me but this isn’t just about me, it’s also about you.
I want you to know how amazing, strong, capable, worthy, incredible YOU are. Not because of this or that but because you had the courage to start, the commitment to show up, and the heart to do what others won’t.
Run Short. Run Long. It doesn’t matter….Just Run!
- Josh Robinson , @jdrob30
The Starting Nine
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