I’ve been a runner since the early seventies. I joined Cross Country duand loved it. Being able to jog the trails in the cool early morning hours was a freeing experience even when I was competing with others.
I’m not going to portray myself as a big winner. That’s just not true. We had cross country teams that would compete seven at a time and we were listed in numerically based on how good we were. I was doing great if I was number 5 out of the 7 for a cross country meet. I just wasn’t fast, no matter what I did.
And I say runner very loosely, because every self identified ‘runner’ has their own definition of what it means. Some people call themselves runners, because they jog regularly and it’s their primary means of exercise with very little definition beyond that. Some people are runners, but focus on speed and achieving new goals. Some people are runners and focus on distance. So much of it is in the subjective eye of the individual.
I had periods of hiatus from running for various reasons. Navy life in the 1980’s on a heavy cruiser with multiple underway deployments during the cold war and 18 hour days in ship yards when not under way. Work and parenting responsibilities made it a challenge, but do able. As I got older and joined the military reserves, the lengthy work day challenges, repeated deployments also mounted on top of trying to be a decent parent.
I recognized the value of running as a stress management activity. Work pressures, command pressure, pressure of divorce, relationships and parenting. I tended to make time for running when I could. I always went back to it.
Age and experience eventually catch up and around 2007 time frame I was experiencing significant issues with running. Surprisingly serious pain would occur in muscles with no pattern or discernible reason. I went through a low point where I questioned my ability to jog, much less run at all for any length of time without being crippled by some painful malady.
I went through highs and lows but I never seemed to run more than a few months and something would lay me low. Many times it was muscle pulls. Sometimes it was a flu or cold. And frequently it was almost a depression that I needed to overcome to get going again.
Running was no longer that enjoyable experience of release and revitalization. It became a struggle.
I never related it to the alcohol that I was consuming. Other than making sure I was hydrated or kept up my electrolytes, I didn’t pay much attention to it.
I kept going along like that repeatedly. Rededicating myself to running, beginning to feel strong, maybe finishing an organized 5K and then being laid low with injury and struggling through emotions and motivation. The cycle would generally be a three month evolution repeatedly suffering the disappointment of not doing what I enjoyed. This cycle continued until 2016.
It was only after going sober in 2016 that I was able to run for an extended period of time without the three month cycle of being laid low. I kept waiting for the cycle to once again repeat itself, but after four or five months of running while sober, nothing challenging occurred. Then I started setting goals for myself for distance. Then I signed up for a 5K in January of 2017. And then scheduling 5K’s regularly. Now its a 5K a month.
I’m not going to say I had no problems. I pushed excessively hard and caused a piriformis (hamstring tendon) strain that was an inconvenience for a couple months. I took about a week and a half due to the excessive tenderness of the tendons and muscles. But it wasn’t so severe that I actually stopped running entirely. I was able to still run, but did so much more slowly to ensure I stayed conditioned without re-injuring myself and frequently for much shorter distances.
With all that, I’ve been running a few times a week at a minimum consistently for more than a year.
I blame drinking for my past inability to recover quickly and get back on the road. It’s the only significant relevant health factor that I’ve changed.
Sobriety has given me a clear head seven days a week to focus on and be mindful of what I’m doing in so many aspects. Whether it’s my exercise, my motivation, my attention to posture, my overall conditioning, etc., having a clear head alone has made it so much easier. All that incremental time, mental focus and improved health contributed.
I can run again and I thank my sobriety.