Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why I Run (Shane's Story)

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Chinese Proverb

I never dreamed I would become a runner. I've always been an active person, love the outdoors, love to hike, camp, explore, shoot, but organized sports have never been my thing. So how did it come to be that I've become a full blown run junkie?  I think even I am surprised by how far I've come, and how much further I'm starting to believe I can go.

I've never enjoyed running, in fact, I'd say I hated it. But I've always admired people who could. Running was always painful for me, cardio aside, wthin 200 yards my shins would be killing me.  I've always LOVED to walk or hike, and have done some pretty intense hikes out west, including climbing a few 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet). So I guess I knew there was a LITTLE bit of an endurance enthusiast in there.

Basically, two things happened that set in motion the events that have led me to where I am:
1) I read a fantastic book, called 'Born to Run' - by Christopher McDougall; and 
2) I was diagnosed with anxiety (self diagnosed actually) and panic attacks.

To make a long story short, not long after my 40th birthday, I ended up in the emergency room for what I thought was a heart attack: shortness of breath, tingling, and dizziness.  I ended up being tested, x-rayed, referred to my general care doc, nuclear stress tested, sonogrammed, and they found nothing. My doc's nurse suggested an anxiety or panic attack, which I found absurd, until I started researching this possibility. As I read down the list of 'symptoms' on a website, I realized that almost every symptom I was experiencing fit this to a T.  I began to accept this as a possibility.

The next few months I experienced a sort of downhill slide with anxiety and mild depression. Anxiety is not well understood, but they sure will throw a lot of drugs at it in this country! I didn't want to go that route, I fought with myself to avoid drugs, but I kept getting worse and at some point my wife got fed up with my general change in behavior, mood, and personality, and insisted I go see a doctor. She was right. She almost always is.

I began my journey with meds. It took a few tries and experimenting to figure out which one worked best for me (Zoloft), but once they got it right, it made a huge difference. There were some side effects, but they were mostly mild and over time, the anxiety completely disappeared. I spent nine months on the meds, and when it came time to renew the prescription, I asked the doc if I could try stopping. He gave me the go ahead, and I weaned myself off. The anxiety started up again, though very mild at first and now I was so much more educated about ways to cope with it, I was much better at recognizing it for what it was and redirecting my brain.

It was around this time I read Born to Run. It was a great read for me, combining several of my interests: the west, native american culture, and adventure. The book is basically about the Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico who run incredible distances in homemade sandals made out of car tires, and the efforts of some in the United States ultra running community to get these shy people to race in the U.S. The book also spends a lot of time analyzing why so many people get injured running, including studies on running barefoot that seem to show that running barefoot, or with a forefoot strike, instead of a heel strike, is the way we were designed and evolved to run. It made a lot of sense to me. So much so I was inspired to try it. I had been a heel striker my whole life.

So I went out and tried running down the road, landing on the balls of my feet and toes instead of my heels. It felt totally alien to me, but low and behold, no pain! I ran until I ran out of breath. (which wasn't very far!) but the point being, I stopped from being out of breath, not from pain.

I believe it was at this moment when I realized it could be possible for me to run painfree. It also just so happened that many of the things I had been reading on anxiety suggested that daily intense cardio excercise could be very helpful in controlling anxiety.

The culmination of these two events led me to decide: I want to see if I can run two miles! But can I even run two minutes? There was only one way to find out!!!

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