Running and the Process of Regeneration

Getting old just sort of creeps up on you, there are various ways to fasten the process but less you can do to slow down the unrelenting march to deterioration.  Yet the process of regeneration does work as well in the opposite direction you just have to find the right sport for you. I found it in running as there are multiple benefits of Running. While the process of regeneration is slow, you can be assured that once you start, at whatever age, the benefits will follow. Like the tag line from the old ad for “Pantene” hair conditioner said, “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen!” The following story begins with me putting the brakes on my own deterioration and ends, in time, with my near total transformation.

Not long after my 35th Birthday I was reversing the car out of the garage, on my way to visit my newborn son and wife in hospital, when I caught a glimpse of my bloated head profiled in the rear view mirror. I hit the brakes grabbed the mirror turning it a couple of times to take in the full picture. Good Lord! What had become of me? 20 years earlier I’d been a young healthy surfer. I wasn’t the boy my sister knew or even the man my wife married. Slapping the mirror in disgust I sighed, “Man you’ve got to get on to that!”

And so I did.  The next day I gave up the cigarettes, something I did often over that first year, fished out the closest thing I had to running gear, a navy blue cotton trucker’s singlet, and my old surf shorts and I hit the road. Later that half hour I was back, but resolved to do this as often as I needed in order not to have to look at the rotund dial I’d caught sight of that previous day. I slowly built up to run 5 days a week. I wasn’t gauging the pace on any charts I simply chose a pace that enabled me to jog for 30 minutes at a time without stopping. My commitment was beginning to build but at this stage I wasn’t quite ready to call myself a runner. My first marathon changed all that.

The first time almost everyone overestimates their ability and thinks they can go faster then they actual do. My first marathon remains my slowest yet most enjoyable to date. I did, like most, over estimated my ability and underestimated just how hard it would be but I was elated when I crossed the finish line. Later I read this line by Doctor George Sheehan that helped it all make sense. He wrote; “Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.”

The Process of Regeneration

The process of regeneration and transformation had begun in earnest.  Still, how I managed to keep going in the first few years is a bit of a mystery to me now. I guess the enthusiasm of the newbie played its role. I was able to smile through gritted teeth the frustration and pain of Plantar Fasciitis and Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Basically I was enjoying the day to day, the process, not thinking too far ahead. It was all very Zen. A friend of mine who practices Aikido told me about an old martial arts saying that goes “The master is the one who stays on the mat five minutes longer every day than anybody else.” I was only chipping away at my times at that stage but most importantly I was “staying on the mat”. This is a life lesson not only for runners. As “Dory” from “Finding Nemo” advises “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

It is not an instant thing but sometime within the first few years of beginning running you will get “better”. When I began to run faster, I also seemed not to be getting injured as much all the while absorbing the harder training sessions and longer mileage. My weight was falling off, my muscles were adapting, tendons and connective tissues toughened up. You know how you feel when things go wrong and suddenly the spiral of negativity creates a perfect storm of events can leads inevitably to disaster. Well the same was happening to me but I was happily spiraling up! The physical changes enabled me to run with more consistency and that in turn made me stronger. It was a beautiful thing to see. It was suddenly coming a lot easier. Is this why long time runners are so kind and encouraging? I think it is, they know that the hardest part is in getting to the next stage and any decent runner/human being has nothing but respect for those going through the process.

Napolian Hill, “the Father self help” wrote that you must be “persistent” if you are to gain success in any field. He also noted, one of the ways that you can do this is by “a friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.” Find a running friend or a group but most importantly take action. Be prepared for opposition, your body won’t always cooperate yet expect to complete the action and expect to see the benefits.