The doorbell rang aloud twice before I managed to get to it. Upon opening the door, I met a delivery guy and we began chatting. Half way through our conversation, he casts a look over to the right hand side where the usual pile of mucky football boots reside outside my front door. In the mix there was a pair of my own mucky runners, fresh from the morning run through the woods.
Are you a runner? He asks in an enquiring tone. My answer surprised me.
I am, I said confidently. More confidently than I had intended but it seemed to carry with it a seal of commitment, entirely spontaneously. Our conversation moved on and we parted ways but as I closed the door, I could feel a wry smile beginning to emerge. I surprised myself there.
I only began running when I turned 39. At that time I was amidst what some called a mid life crisis. I prefer to think of it as an awakening of sorts. When my father passed away, something changed inside of me. Compounded by the arrival of my first son, the life force inside of me was in full tornado mode. Everything was uncertain and I could not seem to find steady ground so to speak. I was highly strung, working full time chasing career progression, more money, more clout, more status, more more more. So while I was laser focused on all of the above, these two massive life events hit me like a truck from the side.
I started a crusade back then to build better health for myself and my emerging family. I researched the best ways to live, best ways to eat, went back to college to study, how to deal with stress and bring more purpose, meaning and fulfillment into my life. This is where thehealthproject.ie was born, my quest for better health.
This is where running started to show up in my life. I had recently been made redundant for the first time in my life and it was yet another a traumatic life event. I now had a family to think of and bills to pay. I decided to take a few months off to heal my hurts and get some perspective on things, which was badly needed. The biggest thing about not having a job to get up for and go to each day is the structure that the job gives you, it provides scaffolding for your day. You probably don’t realise this until you do not have it anymore but it is hugely important for a lot of people, an underlying bedrock for good mental wellbeing.
Starting to run gave me a chance to replace my scaffolding and I thoroughly loved it. I embraced running like a new born with a soother. I treated it like a job, but instead of showing up to the office, I turned up at the running track or simply just left the house and ran off towards the hills.
I have since completed 3 marathons, countless half marathons and am planning to tackle marathon number 4 towards the end of this year. I feel privileged, honored and humble to be able to run. In return it helps me stay well, mentally and physically, and provides focus. clarity and a sense of achievement along the way.
Circling back to the originally question – Are you a runner? I don’t see it as binary as Yes/No as the fact that I run a couple of times a week does not add up to the sum total of my identity. I am much more than that – a husband, dad, brother, son, uncle, nephew, colleague, friend, support. At the same time, I still find it highly amusing that people see me as a runner nowadays. It just reminds me how easy it actually is to change your life story and as a consequence, how others perceive you.