Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Good Chris and Other Chris - There Can Be Only One

It’s been an interesting few weeks of running, punctuated by a terrible training run this past Sunday. I have a marathon coming up and despite having trained for the last five months I feel relatively unprepared for the endeavor.  Upon coming home, somewhat frustrated, one of the little angels asked me a simple question, "Why do you like running if it's so hard?"

To understand why I am writing this we should probably go back a couple of years. I started running in January of 2013. I didn’t start running because I wanted to; it was more of a stroke of self-preservation. My wife and I had recently had the third of our three girls, my father had fallen ill and I was in a dead end job. The combination of these factors had produced a stagnant fellow with gravy in his veins. Side note, when you are struggling financially, there is no worse shopping trip you can make than buying bigger pants to accommodate your ever expanding posterior. I had blossomed to a sweaty 250 pounds and felt something had to give.

Unfortunately, what ‘gave’ was my father’s health. In early January, my dad called to let me know that his cancer had spread and taken a firm hold in several areas of his body. His prognosis had gone from positive, to tentative to grave in just a few short months. His once constant optimism had become more transparent and for the first time in the few years he was battling cancer, he was beginning to look sick. I decided that I would start to run to lift my father’s spirits. The old man was an avid runner and had run the New York, the Boston and many other marathons. It’s a bond he and my sister shared. I thought he would like to see me run a little and maybe shed a few pounds.

Starting to run when your body has been fairly dormant is zero fun. I doubted my decision early in virtually every run; the conversation went something like this…

Good Chris: “You’ve got this, buddy. Just keep pushing! It’ll get easier!”

Other Chris: “Don’t listen to that guy. Let’s get outta here. I think there’s a bar in this gym.”

Admittedly, ‘Other Chris’ won more often than I’d like to admit. He’s quite the salesman. Being a father of three young girls, trudging through work hours of a job with little satisfaction and my father’s failing health made walking away pretty easy. I’d like to say that there was an encouraging phone call from my dad that turned the whole thing around. The phone call we received was much worse. By March, we were burying my father.

My sister is an avid runner and she talked me into what I thought was a crazy idea. She talked me into running a half marathon in my Dad’s honor. The race in question was a couple of months out and she had already signed up. In what I consider to be a moment of weakness my sister pounced on, I brazenly agreed. Clearly it was the movie ending I was looking for. I trained for a few weeks and felt like I was perfectly capable of running…a 5K. As it happens too often in my life, my need to fit in outweighed what the smart decision should be and I took to the starting line at the Colfax half marathon. Fast forward past the first ten miles where I was passed by a ten year old, a teenage girl running in bike shoes that punctuated each step with a ‘clicky-clicky’ sound and a septuagenarian pushing an air tank in a baby stroller (all of which are true but perhaps not in that order). It was the last three miles where death would have been welcomed. My lungs burned and I felt like my legs weren’t working. I crossed the finish line in around two and a half hours. I was embarrassed as my wife and sister had time for a beer and a snack waiting for me to finish.

Chris from 2012 would have left it at that. Something I didn’t do well is something that should be left behind. But 2013 Chris was a little different. 2013 Chris decided to get better, to try harder and to learn from defeats instead of running from them. August of 2013 I ran a race called the Wild West Relay. It is a 200 mile relay race from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Again, it wasn’t perfect, far from it. One of my teammates offered that he thought I may have preferred that he run me over with the van rather than finish my last leg. But I finished. It was a race that I looked at as impossible and now I had a medal.

The running stuck. Over the next couple of years I would drop fifty pounds and shave a couple of minutes a mile off my pace. Last May I ran my first full marathon. It was slower than I wanted but instead of walking away I took it as a reason to train harder. “Other Chris” almost never rears his ugly head. Frankly, I don’t know who the guy in the mirror is some days.

So that brings me to my training run. It was supposed to be a twenty two mile run but it was abbreviated to a slow eleven. Something in my back was bothering me and it made it hard to breathe. I stopped running, not because “Other Chris” told me to, but because my body did. It was the right thing to do. Don’t get hurt and postpone the training run by a few days. It’s optimistic. Sure, I still worry about the marathon, but not in that “I hope they aren’t taking me away in an ambulance” kind of way. It’s more of the desire to run it in a time that I can enjoy and without aggravating any injuries.

So the base question is “Why do you run if it's so hard?” The answer is too long to list. There are the easy things, it gave me back a wardrobe that I had considered dead and made it possible to ride bikes/swim/run/coach my little girls without wondering if I can handle it. Running has given my things to do and people to do it with. I will be running my third Wild West Relay this year. I have made friends and come to a better appreciation of my wife, sister and others. It has been an example to my children of what a healthy lifestyle looks like. It helped me cope with my dad’s passing and gave me something to help my sister and I bond during a rough time. But the biggest thing is the guy in the mirror. I didn’t always like him. He was someone who gave up rather than swim upstream. I hadn’t seen that guy in a while. The guy in the mirror now smiles easier and sleeps better. “Other Chris” has officially kicked rocks and “Good Chris” seems here to stay, all thanks to running. That's the lesson girls.  It's hard, but completely worth it, almost always.  Most things worthwhile in life are hard, and completely worth it, almost always.


  1. If your end goal was to make me feel like a lazy POS, then consider this mission accomplished!

  2. Reading this made me question why I've been referred to as "other Chris" and "old pizza Chris"