I love sports. I’m just not good at them.
As a kid, I spent hours playing basketball, football, tennis and baseball among other sports recreationally, but never had the skills to be part of any team other than the ones comprising a church league, where no child was turned away. My swing was horrible, my throws were always off target, I dribbled off my feet with regularity and catching was never my strong suit, but I loved playing.
By the time middle school rolled around, it became painfully evident my athletic career was pretty much over. Not only was I bad at most sports I loved, I was consumed with the fear of letting teammates down due to my lackluster play, so I abandoned all team sports and basically haven’t touched a ball of any kind since.
I recently rediscovered my inner athlete, though.
After running casually for a number of years and competing in several races annually, I fully committed myself to running as a new year’s resolution. I was not satisfied with some of my past racing performances and decided to do everything in my power to make sure I was completely prepared to achieve my desired time at the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in November, making it my sole goal for 2013.
And for the first time ever, I followed through totally. At least, so far.
I enveloped myself in running, increasing my mileage to an all-time high, while lowing my pace to averages I had not seen in years. Then I inadvertently had my first encounter with a longtime phenomenon known as streak running and have been doing it every day for several weeks now.
Basically, it involves running at least one mile every day for as many days as an individual chooses. Mark Covert holds the U.S. record, dating back to July 23, 1968. Exactly 45 years later, the 62-year-old intends to intentionally end the streak due to some lingering injuries stemming from his continual running.
While nowhere near as impressive, my personal streak concluded earlier this week at 50 consecutive days. I predetermined the number after reading about Covert and learning of streak running. The goal seemed relatively unattainable at the time I undertook it as my body ached from approximately 10 consecutive days of running far more than the required one mile per day.
But I continued to push through the pain and 10 days stretched into 20, which turned into 30 and so on. It never got easier, but it became more bearable. I learned to embrace running like never before as my confidence grew in conjunction with my stamina.
I developed a belief that I can cover any distance and reach the pinnacle of any of the Hill Country’s most daunting ascents. I also developed an addiction.
Running became my focus and my priority. I ran in pitch dark conditions at midnight after long days or in the sweltering heat when the only free hour I had was during the hottest part of the day.
My eating habits began revolving around my runs, and junk food was cut out of my diet in an effort to further improve my times.
For the first time in my life, I had the focus of an athlete and was thriving in something athletically. I created a lifestyle change, and while the streak is over after more than 300 miles and around 45 hours of pounding the pavement, I couldn’t be happier.
I now have the foundation needed to excel further as a runner, and I am completely confident I will finish before the time I originally hoped to achieve in my first marathon three years ago.
I always knew my streak would end at some point, but internally I hoped to extend it to triple digits. Perhaps one day.
Normally, it would take a steel trap constructed to capture grizzly bears to keep me from my daily run, but like Covert, I willing let go of my streak. For 50 days, 90-plus degree heat, rain, a chest cold, stiff joints, sore muscles, lack of sleep, the occasional hangover and hills steep enough to leave the drivers passing me out of breath could not detour me from lacing up my sneakers.
On the 51st day, though, a promise to take my two-year old daughter swimming and to Lampasas’ Spring Ho! pet parade did the trick.
I might finally feel like a real athlete, but I’m a dad first – one who is learning sometimes sacrifice is more important than personal achievements or goals.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org