Running is a Drug – “It’s Not a Diet, it’s a Lifestyle Change.”


Running is a drug that I am hopelessly addicted to. In fact, running is something that has completely changed my life. If you had told me five years ago that I would be running at all, let alone anywhere near 13.1 miles at an 8:50 per mile pace, I would have boisterously laughed in your face.  After I laughed in your face, I more than likely would have finished off that days pack of Marlboro lights and drowned my pathetic excuse for sorrows in a few craft beers, or on a rough night a good number of Pabst Blue Ribbons.  Don’t call it hipster beer, PBR is delicious and cheap. (Insert your mom joke here).  Then I would have bitterly rolled over the fact that someone as stupid as you could even think of something like that. I wasn’t the happiest person deep down inside, years of bad decisions and an inability to recognize who I really was had left me with a nihilistic and bitter view of the world.  It wasn’t a great place to be.  I mean I’m still an ass sometimes, but yes, running did change me for the better.

I decided that I was going to start running right after Stacy and I decided that we both wanted kids.  I was sitting in the garage on a Saturday morning with a cup of Folger’s Columbian in one hand and a Marlboro light in the other; this was how I started every morning, reflecting on all the drinks I drank last night and what stupid things I may have said that could possibly require some damage control.  While listening to the mocking birds  tease the neighborhood cats with the fact that they would never be caught and all their efforts to change that were futile,  a montage started playing in my head.  It featured a very attractive actor, tall, bearded, fat (in the sexy way though) very much similar to myself (okay it was me), man who was playing with a toddler and struggling to catch up as the child ran through a field.  The next scene featured me in my mid 40’s, struggling to get down the bleachers of a ball field to congratulate my kid on the teams first big win.  Yes, John Cougar Mellonhead was playing in the background.  And then at last at a wedding I was bound to a wheelchair due to poor health brought on by poor choices, too fat to stand on my own two feet and interact with others on an eye to eye level.  I didn’t like any of this.  It bothered me deeply that my life could be like this if I didn’t do something to change it. Writing this down it seems like such a silly daydream, something straight out of Tuesday afternoon daytime program.  I had seen those around me who had let food and lethargy take over their lives to a very serious point.  It is a very ugly thing.  The funny thing is that they always seem to be the most opinionated on the activities of others, although it’s only an failed attempt to cover up their unhappiness within their own life’s.  I did not want to be one of these people.

I started running because I thought it would be a great activity to pick up to help me quit smoking, and it also helped that my good friend David would always talk about how running allowed him to eat whatever he wanted and drop weight.  Now the eat all you want view is nowhere near the right reason to start running, but it got me into it.  I started out walking and jogging the Greenway by my house; I was barely able to jog for a straight minute.  I look back at this now and laugh due to what training and dedication allow me to do today.  After a while David talked me into training for my first 5K which was a silly distance to me at first. 3.1 mile? Why in the hell would anyone want to run something like that? I mean we have cars y’all.  I started using a Couch to 5k app on my phone which instructed me on how to properly train and not burn myself out.  It was hard at first but slowly progress came along.

Now making running a main part of your life is not an easy thing to do, there are many worries that come along with it.  For one I would always worry about what the other people would think of me as I passed them. Were they making fun of me in their head? “Look at this lard trying to get fit;” I know this may seem silly but I guarantee you that 99% of people who start running feel this way. The other 1% are cocky jerks who work in finance.  Oh the snot proudly resting on my mustache how it worried me so, although perhaps they were overshadowed man boobs I had acquired due to all that Mountain Dew and double Whoppers.   I had gotten to a point in life where I really realized how truly unhappy I was with the way that I looked and how I felt.  I had always been the fat kid, I had formed my personality around being the fat kid.  The person that I am today has been formed through the experiences of an obese kid who at one point in life turned off his emotions to the world and accepted that due to him being fat, he deserved to be bullied.  “Fat ass” is something that I was called a lot. On top of a plethora of other things, but that would always hurt the most.  You can toughen your skin, harden your heart, and become stoic to the rest of the world but no matter what, those two words will always hurt.  Running was my tool to take that away from the bastards and bitches who liked to use it against me.  Running is a tool that saved me and helped me to find a new kind of happiness.  Running taught me to feel good about myself and to feel pride in every step I took.

The training for my first 5k would continue and I would get up to a point where I could run continuously for two miles at a respectable 10 minute 30 second pace.  And then came the day of my first 5k, you want to talk about nervous? I kept it hidden from David that I almost threw up twice BEFORE the race due to nerves.  I think the fact that I had only run two miles was what scared me the most, and the idea of sudden death via heat stroke or some other random incident that kills fat runners, you know the kind you hear in the news all the time, was the only thing that was on my mind.  Well we started that race and David kept me motivated, continuously coxing me the whole time, and I only walked only once to take a breather for about 30 seconds due to side stitches setting in.  I finished that race with a time of 36:16 and damn was I proud.  I felt a feeling of success that could not compare to any other achievement up to that date.  I was hooked on a new drug.  My life drastically changed after this, and I had a wonderful support system in my wife Stacy who would always work with my new schedule and be my personal cheerleader for a big lifestyle change.

I continued to train, run regularly, but after a while I hit a lull. I started to lose faith in myself and would fall for easy excuses and self pity such as it being too hot or that I was never going to lose the weight I wanted to.  This is not typical of me as I am extremely hard headed and driven, but every now and then I let the negative thoughts in my head get the best of me.  I kept trying to go back to what a family friend told me at the beach one year “It’s not a diet, its a lifestyle change,”  but my excuse was that lifestyle changes are tough I ended taking a break from running for about two months.  A positive change would later take place thanks to a super enthusiastic little running coach..  I was near the end of my college journey at UAH in Huntsville, Alabama and that meant that I had some credit hours that I needed to fill up with classes that didn’t involve finance or the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations – the government contracting bible) and all its gloriousness.

My adviser Cheryl did what she did best and explained to me that the easiest way to burn through these credits was to take a Health and Physical Education course which would allow me all sorts of different opportunities from losing golf balls on the back nine to toning my inner ninja via three different martial arts course.  I took what I thought would be the easy route and enrolled in a class called Run/Jog/Walk where I would be introduced to running coach and spitfire Jane.  Jane was a short petite lady with curly blonde hair who always sported a pair of running sunglasses that came from the same product line favored by bad guys in 90’s action movies.  Her excitement level would always be turned to an 11 when it came to the beginning of class every day, she was elated to have the chance to guide people into the world of running.  She would be the first person to actually give me a well needed education in running, what the proper rules for road safety were, what you needed to do in order to avoid any catastrophic injury in the future, and most importantly how to train correctly.  Jane would set our daily course and come and run up along side of you at some point to check in on you and offer encouragement.  Who knew that with a little education and a whole lot of motivation I would be running distances of 4+ miles and have dropped 15 pounds in only three months.  She was the pusher and I was the addict who was hopelessly and happily hooked back on running.  One of the things I remember most from Jane’s class is her lectures on the topic of not being in the mood to run and how you “Just need to get out and say I’m going to just run one mile, and the rest will continue after that.”  I use this every time I am having a crappy day and the sight of my running shoes and the 5 minutes it takes me to get dressed and geared up disgusts me.  I owe that little lady a lot because she helped me to set a goal of achieving a 10k (6.2 miles) by May of 2014.  I learned I was much stronger than this and have now dropped over 40 pounds, completed two half-marathons, and have my first full on the books for December.  All it took was a little push from someone.

This has been a rather long post about something that is only slightly related to the baby, but at the same time it will have a huge impact on our babies life.  I want to show our child how important a healthy lifestyle is and I really hope that one day she will want to go on runs with her dad.  I also hope that maybe anyone reading this who wants to make a change in their life understands that it is totally possible.  You are the only person stopping you from doing it.

More posts to come, I promise the next one won’t take so long, the next one will be about our discovering the sex of the baby! Thanks for reading!



3 thoughts on “Running is a Drug – “It’s Not a Diet, it’s a Lifestyle Change.”

  1. Hey Matt, this a profoundly moving exposé of your ‘inner demons’. Bullying in any form can have such soul destroying consequences & lead to less desirable lifestyle choices later in life. Well you have kicked (& are still whipping) the arses (you say asses!!) of every one of those bullies. ALL POWER TO TOU. We are NOT defined by the choices of our youth thank goodness!!! “Messing up” is just a part of your story, not it’s entirety. When you were little, I loved who you were. We didn’t see a ‘Fat kid” just a happy little boy, with cute dimples who was fun to have around. You are going to be a much wiser Dad because of you past experiences. Keep up the great transition to a healthier you, ‘natural highs’ will ALWAYS be the better option. Love your words, love you !!

  2. Thank you for this motivational read. I started running when my doctor looked at me and said, “You don’t LOOK like you weight that much.” And I realized then just how much weight I had put on. I realized then that I didn’t want him to tell me year after year how unhealthy I was and I made a change. One year later, I’ve completed my first 10k, first half, and lost 20 lbs. I even went back for this year’s check-up and bragged to my doc! I told him how i had done it and shared my favorite running trail with him. Running is definitely my drug too! I have withdrawals if I have to go without!

  3. Great post, Matt, and thanks for the shout out! The way you saw yourself is so funny because I would have never pegged you as that guy you described! I am so so so thrilled running has made such a positive change in your life and I pray it continues to do so! (I have a real strong suspicion it will)! Happy running!

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