I run. Well, right now, I walk. But I'll run again.
I've dropped from 250 pounds to 180 pounds twice now and am working on dropping down again. Its not the healthiest way to live. The first time, it was all diet. The second time, it was working with a trainer. My trainer told me I had to get out of 24 Hour Fitness and find something I enjoy doing outside. He suggested jogging.
My wife dropped me off at Ala Moana Park that night and I figured I'd go for a nice brisk run around its perimeter. I think I ran for maybe 75 yards before I curled up into a gasping ball of calf cramps. I lay in the grass for about five minutes. I think that was the day I learned Ala Moana Park had stinging ants.
It took me something like eight weeks to get to the point that I could run around Ala Moana Park (and its impacted-twin park, Magic Island). I learned three important things. First, shoes matter. Who knew? Second, if you control your pace and breathing, you can run farther. Third, I like to measure distance based on how many songs I can listen to on my iPod.
It may surprise you to learn that no science was used in the creation of this distance measuring technique. Ala Moana was typically between 8 and 12 songs long. Sometimes 4-6 songs if "The Friends of Mr. Cairo" by Jon and Vangelis played back to back with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd. Or sometimes 1 song if that 1 song was "45:33" by LCD Soundsystem or like .75 of a track if Spark's "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman" were that day's random selection.
Here is where my love of music dovetails with my desire to get healthy. Whether I'm running or walking, I will go further as an excuse to listen to just one more song. I'm not saying my love of music is what has made me determined to run a marathon at some point in my life, but it made training for one a ridiculously fun experience for me even when my whole body would revolt.
For example, one day I was running a 17 mile route and I managed to both over saturate myself and give myself heat stroke at the same time. I barely noticed this because I was busy trying to learn all the words to "Stereo" by Pavement. I got back to my apartment able to flawlessly sing the chorus, even as I collapsed into a bathtub filled with ice cubes (which I both passionately recommend and discourage).
I'm not a fast runner or even a particularly determined one. I've come in last in a half marathon because I chose to walk the second half after I sweat so much I shorted out my earbuds. I almost gave up altogether until I found that if I turned up the volume to the maximum setting I could hear a tinny, distant version of The B-52's "Pump." If Kate Pierson could keep singing through the sweat, surely I could keep complete the course.
Its not just the music that keeps me moving though. The world is a different place when you walk through it. I first became aware of how true this was the first year I ran The Great Aloha Run. For me, its about a 30 song run (the best runners take about 10 songs to finish) that takes you down the Nimitz Highway to Aloha Stadium. The drive is about 10 minutes (75 minutes in rush hour traffic or on game day). The island got a little smaller for me that day.
Somehow, once you've run or walked a specific route, driving it seems unsatisfying. In a very literal sense, you can't see the flowers. Or read the signs in the shop windows. Or nod hello to the eldery man on the Segway. In a car, the world is blurs and anger. On your feet, the world is music and smells and people and sweat.
I've come to associate certain songs with certain parts of my walking routes. "60 Revolutions" by Gogol Bordello is just as I reach the top of the road next to Diamonhead and look out over the morning surfers. "This Summer" by Superchunk is when you go from Roundtop drive to Mott-Smith by the Contemporary Arts Museum (or whatever its called this year). And, of course, "Big Pimpin" is when I walked past the line of teenagers waiting outside of Ward Theatres and decided to set my pace to "strut." Nothing impresses the kids like a nearly-50 year old overweight dude ignoring them on full strut mode. Aw yeah.
Actually, strutting is the best thing about walking outside. If you ever need an ego boost, run or walk fast for about 10 songs and then, when you're done, immediately listen to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" as you do a cool down walk. Your posture will immediately improve, your body will naturally swagger and, for 4:30 you'll think that Rod Stewart genuinely finds you sexy. I walk for my health, but I also do it so everyone will know exactly what sexy looks like.
And then there's the most magical moment of all - you're walking around at about 10 at night, maybe somewhere in Manoa Valley or by Triangle Park and you realize there's nobody else around. The trade winds cool your skin, you pop off your headphones and just stand in the dark listening to the glorious, deafening nothingness of the world. Between the runners high and the glory of nature you're reminded of how amazing the planet is. Then the endorphins flush out of your system and you find yourself weeping at "Bad" by U2 during your drive home because nobody will ever believe that Bono looked right at you when you heard them play it in concert in 1984.
He did. I swear.
So anyhow, I run. I don't run to anything, I don't run from anything. I don't really know how far I'll go or when I'll be coming back. It all depends on how the songs shuffle.