• Russell Hill

We are all Born to Run

If you run, you can be a runner. It doesn’t depend on pace, number of races, or what shoes you wear.  It is a mindset. Usually it evolves hand in hand with falling in love with running.

 A runner sees someone else trotting down the street and has a twinge of jealousy, and thinks “I wish I was running right now too.” A runner isn’t deterred from a training plan by a little rain, snow, cold, or heat. A runner experiences a runners high but can’t really describe it to someone that never has.  A runner usually has an origin story, like a superhero, that changed an internal switch inside them forever. Overcoming cancer, crossing that first marathon finish line, or using a race to raise funds for a charity. All triumphant life events.

I became a runner after a splendid flop. Imagine a spring divingboard from 10 feet above the water and me with a giant grin on my face from launch all the way down to a skin chilling fully body belly flop. As background I am admittingly an enthusiastic overachiever.   Combine a little inspiration with motivation and sprinkle in a challenge--where to do I sign up.  As a kid my dad encouraged me to practice dribbling a basketball with my eyes closed to improve my handle. He did not warn me to stay in one place during this exercise.  I spent the next week or two explaining to various friends and strangers how the tree ran into my face, not the other way around, when asked what happened to my face.

In 2013, I had my moment. For two straight years I juggled a highly sedentary lifestyle of medical residency balancing a 60-80 hour work week, studying, and parenting two small children. Instead of an encouraging bit of fatherly advice this time the inspiration came from a book.  That spring I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Pleasure reading didn’t fit in with my schedule at the time. The book unlocked part of my brain immediately, and I didn’t have to memorize a single word of it.

Emboldened by the world of endurance racing, barefoot running, and the concept that humans evolved to run I prepared to run around the block. I had run before obviously. I ran the 400 and 800 meters in junior high and one year in high school. I had completed a few 5k races-mostly for the t-shirt reward.  Two years earlier I had even completed my one and only sprint triathlon that included a 5k run after a short swim and bike. Yet I had never run more than 5 miles at a given time.

I am 100 percent certain that the very afternoon I finished the book I put on my baggy basketball shorts and excitedly walked out the door. No shirt, no shoes, and no stretching. Did I read up on the finer points of beginning a running workout, or even the basics of barefoot way jose.  I had all I needed, I was Born to Run after all. Its right there in the title of the book. I had all the preparation needed while still a fetus.

I ran two blocks around the neighborhood. It felt great! Until I stopped running.  Funny thing about our early homo sapien ancestors outrunning gazelle on the ancient african serengeti, slightly different surface, I imagine, than blazing hot cement.  I had managed to rub a little raw spot on the bottom of each of my toes and a bigger one across the ball of my foot. The next few days I gingerly and painfully hobbled around. 

Despite that I changed from someone who runs into a runner. I bought minimalist “barefoot” shoes and took off. Shortly thereafter I recorded a sub 6 minute mile for the first time in a decade.  I trained and ran a half marathon. In the last 6 years I’ve recorded over 5000 miles running including completing a 100 miles trail race. Now I honestly feel better mentally and physically if I have managed to get 20-30 miles each week.  

I’ve experienced some failures, setbacks, and minor injuries but some epic triumphs along the way as well. Running on the coast of Spain, to Angels Landing at dawn, through the Smoky mountains in the dark with just a headlamp,  and 2/3 rds around Mt Rainier (an incredible future story). My transformation to a runner created amazing adventures, life-changing experiences, and also a new perspective of myself. I have seen the same transformative powers over and over with thousands of other runners.

We are all Born to Run

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