Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Just Have Fun Run

So, to be honest, running has been a bit of a downer this year.

I love running. It's been a huge help for staying in shape and getting to know people in our town, but let's just say this year did not go how I envisioned.

It started out at the beginning of 2013. Knee pain.

I would rehab, slow down, try to strengthen my legs, and go again and....knee pain again.

The whole year so far has felt like a physical see-saw of exercise/injury/rehab/reboot.

Then I finally got to where I was feeling pretty good, and I was getting ready for a local race, and....I got sick. No running for over a week and a half.

By the time I was training again, I knew that I wouldn't have time to really prepare well for my next race.

So, I decided to have fun. Crazy concept I know.

I got up on the morning of the race, got ready and headed out. It was a trail run, which I was excited for, cuz there aren't many trail races here.

Normally, when I run, I have an annoying mantra to remind myself to get going, like F.O.D. (Short for: Fat Old Dad) the idea being that I don't want to be one of those so I should run faster...or something equally inspiring.
Today, as I started the race, my feel-good phrase was..."just have fun!" And for the first few kilometers, that was what I kept telling myself. Shortly after starting, I was feeling good, and then I felt awesome. The love of my life and my four kids were next to the race course, cheering me on before I headed into the forest. Yup. I was having fun.
After running down a stream bed (slippery rocks and water included), slowly pulling myself up a muddy hill by hanging on to roots and branches, making many hairy descents, and basically putting my heart rate somewhere between really good exercise and Stop-now-before-I-keel-over, my phrase switched to: "Just. Keep. Running."

Which I did... depending on your definition of running. Sometimes it was more like a muddy waddle.

But I had to admit, I was having the time of my life. Outside, soaking up God's creation, early morning, beautiful weather, in the middle of a Philippine forest...It was awesome.

I stopped thinking so much about the race time I was getting, and more about the time I was having.

Towards the end, I kept trading places with another runner, he would lead, then I would lead. Finally, on the last, ridiculously steep hill, I decided it was now or never. I poured on all the coal that my approaching-four-decades-old body could give, and "sprinted" the rest of the way up the hill and the last few hundred meters to the finish line. I sprinted straight through the finish, not even doing my customary hand-on-my-wristwatch-to-stop-the-stop-watch-so-I-get-my-exact-time ritual. I finished, stopped, then stopped my time.

 And there, at the finish line, were my kiddos and my beautiful wife of 10 years. And that, without question, was the best part of an awesome race.

After a year of exercise ups and downs, this race was a great reminder of why we exercise. For me, it's fun. But more than that, it's a habit I'm trying to model for my kids. It's a chance to enjoy nature. It's a way to show respect for the life and the body that God has given me. It's good discipline. And all my kids want to run a race now.

And...besides. I got a third-place age group medal.

 And... Hey, that's not why I run. But, sure don't hurt.

Just have fun. Just go run!

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