My feet hurt. My calves hurt. My back hurts. And I am tired of getting up at 4:30 am every morning and going for a long run, often 8-10 miles. Every day. For a month.
You see, I am slow. When I think of someone who averaged over 10 miles per day running, I think of a sleek-legged gazelle-looking long-distance runner, easily eating up the miles with the wind in their face, their AirPods feeding soothing music into their inner sanctum while time and distance just melt way.
That is NOT me.
I was a bit – plump
I used to be a bit on the, uhm, shall we say, hefty side. A wee bit plump. Too many Crispy Cream donuts and Reeses Cups. And ice cream. Not to mention fast-food hamburgers and greasy French fries. Oh, and chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.
I grew up on that stuff. My wife tried to get me to eat healthy, but man, I love mama’s home cooking too much. I always told myself “I’m a busy, active guy. I ride motorcycles, bicycles, fly airplanes. I will be just fine.”
Open heart surgery
As anyone who knows much about fitness and health understands, it doesn’t work that way. The end result was two heart attacks over 10 years, five stents, and eventually in 2018, quadruple bypass open-heart surgery.
Luckily, a couple of years before my heart surgery I realized the error of my ways and started running. Well, not running. I couldn’t run 50 feet. I started walking. A mile at first. Then two miles. Then three. In six months I ran my first 5K race, and I just kept running. The summer before my heart surgery, I ran my first OKC Marathon.
After heart surgery, which was unbelievably difficult, painful, and a long, hard recovery, I got back to running. Actually I was walking during my entire one-month stay in the hospital. But as soon as I was released, I started running again.
I wasn’t a gazelle. More like a water buffalo. Slow and ponderous, but determined. Boy was I determined. I was convinced that if I didn’t run today, I was going to die tomorrow.
I ran my second 26.2 mile OKC marathon six months after heart surgery. I was pretty slow, running it in about 5.5 hours. Like a snail. My pace usually ends up being in the 12-13 minute per mile pace. I can run at about a 8-9 minute per mile pace, but my heart just can’t maintain that pace for long. So I run a bit, walk a bit.
SageNet Step Challenge
When the SageNet step challenge was announced, I was fired up. I was on a team with two other SageNet folks, Tricia Plett from our Tulsa office and Allen Greer, who works remotely from Dallas. They were excited about the challenge just like me. A total of 25 teams competed in the month-long event where we tracked our steps on our personal digital devices and reported them each week. So while most of my steps were from running, there was also a mix of walking. I work at my desk in front of a computer most of the day, so the vast majority of my steps were from running.
I thought “I can do this”. However, I knew that since I was slower than a snail, I would need to get up early. I set my alarm for 4:30 am every morning, even on the weekends. I would get up, head to Lake Hefner or Mitch Park, and just slowly plod out the miles, and be back at my desk ready to work by 8 am. I could usually run about a half mile before I became winded and had to rest. I am still dealing with a partially collapsed lung from my heart surgery, so my legs were fairly strong but my cardiovascular system seems to be in permanent wimp mode.
Push hard, then coast
The first week I cranked out seven days of running at least ten miles or more per day. Our team plan was to hit it hard at the beginning, build up a big lead, then coast at the end just enough to maintain our lead.
Little did I know another team would be right on our tails the entire month. That meant no coasting. By the end of week one I was hurting, having ran a bit over 70 miles. But I had to keep cranking them out every morning. Eventually my feet started hurting. I would massage and stretch them each night. My Achilles got really sore. My legs felt like dead weight. I started using heating pads and ice packs and ibuprofen at night so I could sleep.
A tight race
Every week I would check the results and dang-it if we were barely holding our lead. One bad day and we would drop into second place. Dang, dang, dang. We couldn’t coast at all. We had to push even more.
By the middle of May, I was limping around like a banged-up mummy. Everyone else on my team was pitching in, and they were hurting too. The second-place team was hot on our tails. In the end, we were able to log more miles each week of the challenge, which was quite amazing. There was no coasting. If we had coasted, we would have fallen to second place. And as Ricky Bobby says, “second place is the first loser.”
In the end I pounded out 312.5 miles in 31 days, averaging a bit over 10 miles per day to help our team win the company challenge. I had never in my life imagined running that much over such a short period of time. Heck, the prior year I had only ran 800 miles for the entire year, an average of 66 miles per month. In May 2020, I ran 312 miles!!
The end result is I am probably the fittest I have been since my heart surgery. Running 10 miles per day is my new “normal”. I plan to get back to swimming and cycling now, since it gives me basically the same cardio workout but spread out over more muscle groups. While I will back off a bit on the running, I still plan to average around 100 miles per month.
Each team member wins a pair of Apple AirPods. I already have a fairly new pair, so I promised my new set to my 13-year old granddaughter. On one condition. She goes on a run with me.
I am pretty darn proud of our team and my personal effort, but I doubt I will ever be doing that again. At 60 years old, that is just not something I want to repeat!