While drinking beer near a lake my house, me and my friends saw a couple of guys running along side the water. My friend said, “Look at these fools. Instead of drinking beer in this beautiful weather, they are running around like idiots”. “Well, I jog, too” I responded.
Probably around the age of 17th, more than a decade ago, I started running. I don’t remember why, or how exactly I convinced myself to run around a lake for more than 30 minutes, sweating, pretty much daily, but I do it since then.
I grew up in an apartment near a rowing facility (regatta venue), where are held local and international rowing competitions. It’s actually one of the biggest sightseeings in my home town Plovdiv. As you can imagine, the area covered by this whole structure is pretty huge. The length of the water channel is 2.4 kilometers, and width is around 200 meters, which means that one full tour around it is almost 5 kilometers. Perfect for running, riding a bicycle or simply walking around with your friends.
People all over the town are visiting this place to do their exercise routines. It’s the biggest training grounds.
Before Becoming a Runner
As I mentioned, I am not quite sure what exactly inspired me to start running long distances, but I am pretty sure it has something to do with my weight when I was young. Let’s put it this way, I was a fat little boy. I had the biggest cheeks when I was a baby. Even though they are a bit smaller now, they still occupy most of my head space. The only difference is that now, they are all hairy, covered with beard.
When I entered the teenage period called puberty, I lost a lot of weight, which was really cool. I thought that now I have a really good chance of touching a real girl, not only the ones printed in the magazines. However, I won’t forget what my personal doctor told me once I visit: “Ivaylo, I see you’ve lost weight. That’s great. Still, you will get your kilos back once you’re out of puberty”. Fuck, that hurts. With one simple sentence, she ruined all the joy of having a skinny ass back then. Without her knowing, this had a huge impact on my life.
I thought that I should do something that will help me from keeping this marvelous, Apollo looking kind of physic.
Signing up for a Gym membership
I did spend a couple of months swimming, but that didn’t satisfy my need for exhaustion. I thought I needed something more, something harder, with more sweat. And like every respectful teenager, trying to impress the sexiest, blondes, beauty queen of the local school, with his six-pack and huge arms pumped after series of push-ups done every time before leaving home, so they can look bigger, I signed up for a gym membership.
I started going with a couple of my friends, first. They were members of the local gym for several months now, and they knew a lot about how to turn your body into a magnet to the opposite sex: how to eat, what to eat, how to train, when to train and all sorts of tips and tricks that will help you look bigger and better. Of course, being a member of a gym also comes with one extra benefit – you get to hear all “great”, absolutely not confronting each other pieces of advice from the older, robust, pumped with testosterone from drinking all kind of pills, guys:
“You need to warm up at least 20 minutes before workout”; “You need to warm up at least 40 minutes before workout”
“You should eat before work out”; “You shouldn’t eat before work out”
“You are not doing this exercise correctly. Here let me show you.”
“You should do chest with triceps”; “You should do chest only in one workout”
And yes, there is a lot of screaming in the gym. The biggest, baddest person in the gym just have to scream so that everybody understands that he is lifting X amount of weights.
I’ve changed a couple of clubs and finally, I decided that I should visit the gym all alone. Going to a smaller place, wearing headphones, going early in the morning, or late at night, when there are fewer people. Very social kind of visit. Unfortunately, or not, that didn’t last long. I bonded with a couple of guys, which was cool, but still, there were others, who I didn’t want to interact with but it was inevitable.
Finally, after around 2 years of going to the gym, I decided to stop. I was up for a new challenge.
First Steps to 5k
Wearing long distance running shoes? Heck, no! Old sneakers, baggy sweatpants, and my brothers old MP3 player, smartphones were too expensive back then. This is how I remember one of my first runs.
I ran only a few kilometers when I started, 2 or 3, and I felt exhausted as fuck. Once a week, twice, three up to five times a week. I started gaining strength and my endurance was increasing. A 5-kilometer run was soon a regular workout, with no pressure. From around 6 and a half minutes per kilometer, I pulled it down to 5 minutes at some point. I was running 5 kilometers under 25 minutes, which if you are not in the running business, is quite fast. Yeah, it’s not Usain Bolt fast, but it was really ok for me.
Being a teenager comes with some cool perks. Some of the obvious are: that you are young, you go to parties, you get the chance to have casual sex with girls, not in my case, but it’s a valid option, you also, have a lot of strength.
Teenage boys and teenage girls start producing more testosterone than ever during their puberty. This is multiplied when you work out and eat kind of healthy. Which leads to more power and more agility. Sometimes, I felt like a machine with never-ending batteries.
I could go to a bar, drink all night, go back home at around 5 am, sleep for 2 hours, work 8 hours, and I was still able to run 5 kilometers without a problem. If I do this routine now, I should go and dig my grave before that.
Running Long Distances As a Part of My Life
I once read a book about leadership. At around half of the chapter, the author mentioned something about a person who was ill from a specific disease. He had to do regular exercises, and of course, take pills, to stay alive. These two things were part of his life, like sleeping, going to work and eating.
Soon after I read this book, a friend asked me why I run. “Well, to keep my weight and to stay healthy” I responded. “Yeah, but you have to do it every day, right?”, he replied.
I thought about it then. Yes, I was doing it regularly and if I wanted to sustain my weight I had to continue to do it, probably for the rest of my life. It sounded scary and overwhelming at first, but soon I realized that it’s a good habit. It was indeed becoming a habit. If half of the day had passed and I hadn’t yet gone for a run, my feet started to ask for it. I wasn’t able to stand still and I was constantly walking around the office.
However, it’s a way better habit than watching TV, sleeping till noon or playing video games. When running, you are actually getting something in return: agility, focus, discipline, good health. I haven’t been ill for nearly 4 years now. Friends, family, coworkers are constantly calling in sick and telling me that they don’t feel good and will go to the doctor. Me, till 8 am I am already 5 km ahead of them all.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Running Long Distances
Let’s start with the shortcomings because they are not that many.
For 10+ years of running I found these 3 negativities of running long distances:
- At least once a year you need a good new pair of running shoes. You can go with cheap ones but they will quickly end up in the garbage can.
- Figure out what to do when it’s raining as hell outside. I’ve run when outside was raining and it’s fun, still, there are times when God decides to pour a gazillion tons of water on a square inch. In such cases, staying at home is a better option.
- And of course, the daily struggle fighting that brick, son of a gun, a.k.a your other lazy, self.
I can talk for weeks about my other nasty, low self-esteem, fat, donuts loving self. I imagine him as a little, looking like the Michelin mascot, devil, standing over my shoulder every time I want to go for a run.
…07:00 am in the morning and my alarm goes on
Me: “I have to get up and go for a run”
Michelin devil: “Come on. Hit the snooze button. We will sleep for one more hour and then have a huge sandwich for a breakfast. We like pillows and warm bed.”
I have to admit, that some mornings, this little bastard prevailed over me.
No matter for how long you run, exercise, lift weights or do whatever sport you do, the struggle between you, and your lower self will exist. The only solutions, shut your other, lower self, mouth, with more workouts and more exercise. It’s hard requires a lot of persistence and character, but there is no other way.
There are many benefits from running long distances, that’s why I will narrow them to these three:
- Feeling energetic for the whole day. When you make 5k or 10k in the morning, you will feel much better for you rest of your day. If you don’t run, you will probably think that this will exhaust you, but that’s not nearly the case. All of my colleagues are extremely astonished by my energy early in the morning. Most of them come to work with their pillow, so to speak, and wake up around noon. Me, on the other hand, am ready for action and business. The contrast is huge.
- Extends your limitations. Each run makes you a bit better. You start to run faster, longer, you no longer have issues breathing, you also build discipline.
- Gives you a sense of purpose. Running and especially tracking your kilometers gives you kind of perception that you are achieving something great. You are not, but the feeling it’s something I can’t really explain. The satisfaction after a nice run is awesome. Especially, if you achieved better results than the last time. I won’t forget the time I ran 15 kilometers without stopping. I took me exactly one hour and nineteen minutes. Was I tired? Yes. Was I thirsty? Hell yes! Was I extremely astonished, excited from my achievement and totally looking forward to the next run? You bet.
All the things above are absolutely correct and true, but my main reason for running long distances is this:
My number one motive for running long distances
I get to eat what I want.
Yes, it sounds very primitive, I know. But, I’ve always been kind of addicted to cakes, pancakes, pastries, burgers, cookies, french fries and all kind of goodies. When I lived with my parents, my mom always cooked something very special every weekend. Now, I have the opportunity to enjoy my fiancee recipes. She is a master in the kitchen. Probably this is one of the main reasons I love her so much.
I can’t say I am muscular or have a good physic, I’m kind of ok but nothing more. Nothing that can make a girl bend her neck on the beach to stare at my butt. I run and sweat to have enough room to eat a variety of high cholesterol foods. I am trying to change that, but it’s hard. That little Michelin devil has that spot pretty well occupied.
When I was younger, I was trying so hard to turn my belly into a six-pack. I didn’t get even close to that desire. Alcohol and chocolate cakes prevailed.
You don’t necessarily need to run, go to a gym or swim to be healthy and look good. Some of us have pretty good physic by nature (I envy all of them) and need really little to sustain that look. Still, running long distances, cycling, conquering peaks or doing any kind of regular workouts is something you should definitely make part of your daily life.
No matter your age, sex, beliefs, or where your hometown is, do something that will get you moving. This will surely help you live a better, healthier and more fulfilled life.
My inspiration to write this article comes from this one here: LINK. Once I read this guy story, I immediately felt connected to him. And how I can’t be, this guy runs for the same reason as I do. I totally recommend going through his site and checking the work he is doing there.