Yesterday, I woke up at 8 am on a cold early-January morning to get myself in gear, have some coffee, and get ready to chug my way along through 4.9 miles in the snowy, slushy, wet cold of Monument Beach, MA. Many people would think I’m a nut and tell me to go back to bed. Many people would wonder what in the hell would possess me to go running in the snow. Others would call me a sicko for saying that it was “ONLY” 5 miles. Bottom line…many people look at me and ask…

Why do it?

It’s a question I’ve been learning the answer to as I’ve gone along. The answer has changed over time. For this Transformation Tuesday…the first of 2014…I want to give you an idea of just how yesterday’s race went…why I do this…why I started doing this…and why I’ll keep doing it. Hopefully my transformation will inspire you to begin yours :).

Sunday was the 34th annual Cape Cod Road Runners’ Winter Fun Run. Thanks again to my friends at SportClips Falmouth for sponsoring me (check them out)! I have to say, despite the conditions, I DID have a good time.That’s a photo from last year’s race (above). I don’t have a TON of pictures since my phone was in my Tune Belt and my mom doesn’t have a digital camera…I guess I didn’t have the presence of mind to bring my digital camera along for her to use.

Anyway – I had fun. While getting ready and stretching and whatnot I violated one of the cardinal rules of running – nothing new on race day. What was new, you ask? THE SHOES! Yeah, seriously…I couldn’t have picked something more “don’t do that” to do. Why? It was gross out on the roads and I was nervous that I’d either take a digger (fall) or at the very least have to slow WAY down. So…I switched to my BRAND NEW New Balance 610 trail shoes. For the first couple of miles, I was a little wary…I was kind of kicking myself and hoping they didn’t aggravate my feet or leave me sore. Once I got past the two mile marker, however, I was instantly glad I wore them. All of a sudden the road got very hilly and had lots of snow and slush. Thanks to having some grip, I was able to maintain my pace and not eat pavement. Yay.

I ended up doing way better than I anticipated. I was CRUISING along.  Almost every time I was going to stop running and walk for a minute, I just kept going. I only slowed or stopped a handful of times, and honestly…I don’t know that I really needed to…I think that’s just a mental hurdle I need to get past. I think part of why I was able to go so strong was because I had fueled properly. I had a Health Warrior Chia Bar about 20 minutes before race start (in addition to a light race-day breakfast a few hours earlier) and let me just tell you…those little bars are awesome. There’s a review article coming, but the short version is they’re so crazy packed with nutrients and fuel, they’re the perfect way to kick-start your run. No, they are not paying me to say that.
At the end of it all, I came in 99th place, and finished, officially, in 39:45. That’s ridiculous. How did I do that? And…I got quite the surprise during the awards ceremony – I got 3rd place in the Open age division! Seriously? How did I place in my age group? Isn’t my age group the one that goes fast? It’s 19 – 29! How am I placing? Whatever, I’ll take it! I’ll only get a few of those, right? Might as well enjoy it!

So…all of this begs the question – why do it?

Like I said, the answer to this question has changed over time for me. In terms of fitness in general… my reason began as a desperate need to make a positive life change and get healthy. Now that I AM healthy and fit… my reason has become… that I enjoy fitness and want to maintain where I’m at.

But… running… I don’t even really remember why Megan and I did that first run. It might have been to see if we could do it at all. It might have been because we had come so far in our fitness, we wanted to see if our new abilities extended to running. It might have been to test ourselves. Or it might have just been because…well…why not? Whatever the reason…I’m damn glad we did it. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of fitness…and it allowed me to find an activity…a SPORT…that I truly enjoy.

Running is about more than just long (or short) distances and going fast. You have to learn your body, be in tune with it. You have to understand your body’s wants and needs and tend to them properly. You have no choice but to fuel your body appropriately and treat it right…otherwise it won’t perform properly and you won’t be having fun. Running teaches you how to take care of yourself and be truly healthy, inside and out.

Running is also…well…kind of peaceful. Y’know, once you get past the monotony, boredom, and jaw-rattling pounding across the pavement. The first mile or two sucks, but once you get in a rhythm…it really is nice. One thing I’ve come to appreciate with some of these races is the absolutely incredible scenery. For the majority of the Cape Cod Marathon Half…I was staring at beach and the ocean! Beautiful views, scenic vistas, and just nature. There’s something to be said for taking “me time”…and running certainly provides that.

On top of all of that…I do this so I can enjoy a better, longer, happier life. Health and fitness, for me, is about longevity and quality of life. I feel so much better now than I did when I was 300 lbs. Gee, that kinda makes sense, huh? I don’t get winded going up a flight of stairs. I have so much more ENERGY now. My thighs don’t rub together and chafe. I don’t feel embarrassed about my body. Clothing fits me properly. Imagine that. The immediate benefits are simply STUNNING.

The long-term benefits are great too. I have been told by a number of doctors that I saved my own life by losing 125 lbs. I have not escaped unscathed though – my knee cartilage is damaged from having carried so much extra weight for so long, and my feet are out of whack as well – plantar fasciitis, metatarsal periositis, and some other issues (to name a few). What if I hadn’t lost the weight? What if I reached 40 and still had that extra weight on me? For another 15 years? Would I need a knee replacement by 60? Would I be in a wheelchair? Would I get diabetes? Maybe. At least now I know I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the odds of that happening.

I’ll be around longer for Megan, my kids, my family, my friends. I’ll be able to enjoy my years rather than wasting away, becoming a bitter old man disgruntled with my lot in life. I’ll be happy, healthy, energetic, and fit. That is worth its weight in gold, but by the time you reach that age…it’s too late.

That’s why I do this. That’s why I get up at the crack of dawn, haul myself out of bed, and get ready for a workout. That’s why I go running in the snow, slush, and frigid weather. That’s why headlamps and reflective gear for runners exists. Because it’s fun. Because we enjoy it. Becaues it makes us happy.

That’s why I’m putting in the work now and making the change. Because now is the time! Because it makes me happy. Because the guy on the right looks way better than the guy on the left. (Check out the “My Transformation” page for the new update from the completion of Focus T25!)

What’s YOUR reason?