It Takes an Army

The absolutely stunning view from my birthday run along the Willamette River last Saturday.

I crossed into old age this weekend. I turned forty! One of my favorite things to do on my birthday is to start the day off with a run. Given that it was a Saturday, I had time for a longer run — not forty miles as my age would suggest but nine seemed like a good number. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on years past and think of the years to come.

Right around my thirtieth birthday, I learned that I was going to become a dad for the first. The past decade has involved welcoming three boys into the world and having the joy (and challenge) of being their dad.

Around that same time, I also made the decision to take control of my health by eating better and consistently running three to four days per week. In ten years I’ve been able to stay almost injury-free while completing fifteen half marathons and eight full marathons. I’m proud of those accomplishments — but you know it wouldn’t be possible without a handful of products. Here’s a list of the products I couldn’t run without:

  • Running Socks – Made of moisture wicking fabric, these keep the blisters away.
  • Running Shoes and Inserts – Good running shoes give my feet the appropriate amount of cushion and arch support. I’m a big guy so without them I’d have significant knee pain.
  • Body Glide and Medical Tape – These two products prevent chafing and bleeding in key areas. I’ll leave it at that.
  • Moisture Wicking Fabric – When is comes to shirt, shorts, and briefs, polyester is a really good thing. When you sweat as much as I do, you need all the help you can get.
  • Warm Clothes – Since moving to Oregon, I’ve come to love my running pants, long-sleeve shirts, gloves, and beanies. Without them, I’d conveniently stay indoors once the temperatures dip below 40 degrees.
  • Water Bottle and Hydration Pack – After finishing my first half marathon in the hospital, I realized how important it is to stay hydrated. Without hydration I can’t run for more than an hour.
  • GPS Watch – This is slightly optional but it sure is a nice to have when it comes to tracking speed and distance.
  • Knee Band – Without a strap to hold my knee cap in place, my right knee would really hurt on those long runs.
  • Alarm Clock – I typically run around 5:30 AM each day. If I didn’t get out first thing in the morning, I’d have a difficult time prioritizing it later in the day.
  • Head Lamp – The sun doesn’t rise until 7:30 AM in the winter which means I spend a lot of time in the dark.

Looking at this list I feel like I’m a little high maintenance, but I also realize just what all goes into keeping myself out on the road for the past decade. But it doesn’t stop there. As I thought further I was reminded of the people who’ve made this possible. Here are just a few:

  • Race Volunteers – Without them races don’t happen.
  • Running Buddies – I have a handful of friends who’ve dared to get up at ungodly hours, listen to me talk, help me onto the ambulance, and challenge me to not only be a better runner, but a better person.
  •  All four of my siblings have taken up running in some way, shape, or form. It’s been special to share this with them.
  • My Job – This would not be possible if I wasn’t gainfully employed.
  • My Kids – Many of our runs involve the doughnut shop. It’s a little chaotic running with two kids in a double stroller and one on a bike but they sure are fun to be with.
  • My Wife – She’s so incredibly encouraging and supportive. Without her it just doesn’t work.

My point here is that at the beginning of this thought process I said, “Hooray for me. I’m so awesome for consistently running for a decade.” While I’m certainly proud of it, it also becomes very apparent very quickly that if you take any one of these things or people away, things would be very different.

If you’re tracking with me, you’ve realized that this thinking doesn’t merely apply to running. Take a moment to think about the good things in your life. Hopefully, like me you come to realize that you didn’t achieve any of them on your own. Now, take time to be thankful for the people and things that make those good things possible. After all, it takes an army.

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