During this time, I went down the road less traveled and yes, it made all the difference.
Yeah, this one is a bit longer than the others, but a LOT happened.
This post will be about:
2011 to 2015 – Life After Teaching
A huge part of my recovery from knee surgery back in May 2011, was that I tendered my resignation as a Special Education teacher that June to focus on getting my health back.
You see, when I had my knee operated on, I was over 200 pounds at 5’7″ (lots of flubber), stressed out to the max all the time, frustrated because I didn’t seem to be helping the students or not doing enough to teach them to help themselves. Nothing seemed to be working and it was making me grow old before my time.
I felt 80 going on 55.
I needed time away from teaching, work and so much of the daily grind that is a part and parcel of the workplace — to regain who I was physically and mentally.
To be honest I didn’t really have a choice…the writing was on the wall and I didn’t want to end up 100 pounds overweight, on a cupful of prescription pills daily, stressed out and suddenly having a heart attack at school or finally retiring down the road to just waiting on the couch to die.
Mary saw the same things, as she said at the time, I had a gray pallor about me, that was getting worse each year as I added inches to my girth. Especially that last year when I couldn’t exercise and larded up really badly.
Looking back I really believe that would have been my future if I had remained a teacher. I could see it happening every day around me with some of the other teachers who were also my age.
I chose a different future.
With Mary’s support, I walked away from teaching. Teaching was something that I was very good at and I would like to believe that I was respected and did a pretty good job. It was a profession that I could have stayed in if I had chosen to.
Instead, I turned my back on it all and walked away into the great unknown.
Scary as hell.
Getting my health back
Yeah, I had time to stop and really look at who I had become and more importantly the person I wanted to be going forward. When I looked back, I saw many things that I did not like and needed to change – things that were going to take time, but the first thing was to get healthy again.
The first step in the journey back was regaining my health.
After I left teaching in June 2011, my life changed considerably, I was no longer tied to the clock, had zero responsibilities to an employer, had time to look at myself, work on getting rid of the excess flubber that had accumulated over the years and see what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Health is not only physical health, but it is also your mental health – sometimes we forget that and focus too much on the external.
I needed to work on both.
The physical part was the easiest part, my knee was getting better – painful but healing, I could exercise and was beginning to run again. I ran when I could, split wood, did stuff around the house, walked – holy crap did Bennie and I walk and walk and walk.
It also meant that I had to watch what I shoved down the pie-hole. Not as much of the junk food, soda, and other crap, I started to eat pretty much 80/20 and by the end of 2011, thirty pounds or so were history.
Mentally, it was hard at first – really hard.
Letting go of being a teacher, something that I had worked so hard to become, was more difficult than I imagined and I struggled with my decision to leave almost daily for most of the summer.
I had become so much Harold the teacher, that it had become who I was and I had lost a lot of Harold the person. I was attempting to be too many things to too many people and ended up not being able to be true to myself. That first 2-3 months I did a lot of questioning, exploring, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I was.
When it finally came time for school to re-open and after all the soul searching I had done that summer, I realized the truth. I didn’t miss going back to school at all.
That is when I knew that I had made the correct choice.
It was also then that I started to see things more positively and stopped questioning the road I had chosen.
Until then I hadn’t realized how negative I had become as a special education teacher and how negative the teaching profession can be. Special Education professionals have a thankless job that no matter how hard you try to do a good job, the odds are already stacked against you making a positive difference.
From my point of view it a damn near impossible job to balance the needs of the student, family, school, government, scatter-brained regulations that were put in place to placate the Cover Your Arse (CYA) mentality that permeates schools, special education laws, case managers, advocates, politicians, other teachers, other students and yes, your own needs. Most of the time you can’t balance anything and get thrown under the bus by one of the above.
I really respect those that remain in the Special Education field, but after 10 years of ramming my head into cement walls – I needed to let it go.
Blogging and Running
When I actually started to run seriously again in October 2011, I was ready to write about it and boy did I ever.
During that time I wrote mostly about my daily runs and struggles to keep running, but also about things I had learned about being a runner over the past 40 years.
Getting back in shape the shape I wanted to be in was, to be honest, was a slow, tedious and at times excruciating progress, but I could see the progress I was making. During that time I know that part of the motivation I had was when I would look back at my blog, seeing how far I had come, encouraged me to keep moving forward, and to continue writing about it.
One of the success cycles that we usually don’t find very often.
Wanting to Run a Marathon
Starting in October 2011 I started to run more and more. Finally, I ran in my first race in six years overcoming both inertia and my race anxiety issues. The Central Maine Striders January Thaw 4.5 Mile Race over in Belgrade. There I met a couple of other runbloggers that I had been talking with on Twitter, David of Maine Running Photos, and members of Central Maine Striders running club.
It got me to thinking about a promise that I had made to myself and my grandfather back in the late ’60s.
However, I needed to keep getting in better shape than I had been before I could even consider it. It did make me think about something, pretty seriously.
In April 2012 – you know that feeling of “I got this” after watching the Boston Marathon, I got excited about doing a marathon. However, I also knew that there was no way that I would be ready to run one in 2012, the knee was coming along nicely, but not that nice. So I got this hair-brained idea to do the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon.
I had finished it once upon a time, it is a good course to use for a BQ and it would mean a trip back to someplace I haven’t been to in many, many years. Plus I would get to share my adventures and misadventures on my blog with a burgeoning number of readers.
The storyline was that I had finished the 1983 MCM and hadn’t run in another one in the 30 years in between. A pretty cool storyline and one that seemed to resonate with some of my readers and others.
The other part was if I ran well running the MCM in 2013, it would also give me a chance to qualify for that Boston Marathon dream of mine – I just needed to run a 3:40 marathon to qualify – yeah just a 3:40 marathon for a guy closer to 60 than 50.
2012 to 2014 – Pro Runblogger
Yes, believe it or not for a while I was a professional run blogger and writer wannabe. I got all caught up in the “you too can make money with your blog” attitude that was pervasive at that time. I was very active on Twitter, Facebook, and even Google+. At the same time somehow I got in on the ground floor of a social media marketing group and was doing some projects with them that was pretty interesting.
Then someone at a fairly large corporation, read my little blog, and saw the potential for a story that could attract readers to their site.
However, it was such a great storyline that out of the blue I got an email and then a job offer to write about Health and my journey to the MCM for Anthem’s Real Health Blog. It actually was a pretty exciting time for me and I thought it might lead to a different career path.
I was also going to be paid to do it – way cool.
So I ventured into the deep end of the world of professional runblogging and kept writing on my little blog (A Veteran Runnah) about how I was doing chasing that marathon dream.
I ran in several races that year (did pretty well in a few), continued to lose a lot of weight, even got to run in Central Park, when I went down to NYC to get introduced to Anthem’s vision of what my writing and the other bloggers who were selected would be.
Also, I had a few other opportunities with the “Brands” in running to represent or review their products (that getting free stuff that you have to pay taxes on), but the biggest highlight was being chosen as a featured blogger at the inaugural Runner’s World Festival.
It was a fantastic experience, I met a lot of people in and out of the industry, finished second in the 5K in my Age Group, set a PR in the half marathon, and learned a lot.
Unfortunately, in my naïveté about the business side of blogging, I didn’t read some of the offers/signs correctly and missed out on several great opportunities to move further forward in the RunBlogger niche.
I never was too good at grabbing opportunities when they smack me upside of the head.
Missing those opportunities was probably for the best when I look back. It would have gotten me in way in over my head and changed the person that I have become.
Going to the Runner’s World Festival also exposed me to the darker sides of writing and running as a blogger, the “who are you attitude?” from some of the professional writers/editors and program people, made me wonder if they were right. Bloggers do have to jump over a huge bar to be taken seriously and to be honest I just kind of cruised along the edges and never crossed to being a totally dedicated writer.
Which looking back, I kind of wonder why not.
Maybe I was too afraid that I might have been successful. Yeah, there is more truth to that statement than I want to admit – all too many times in my life.
2013 – Injuries and Marathon Reality
The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 made me sad, mad, and even more determined to run Marine Corps that fall. My wife was frightened about me going to something as large as MCM and asked me if running MCM was worth dying for. Without too much hesitation I said something along the lines of “I have to run it, I can’t let the bastards win”.
It was a sad time, but also a time where the running community and others came together in ways we haven’t in many, many years.
My training was going great until I did something stupid in training, run over 30 miles in 3 days in new shoes (pretty minimal ones), and injured my right hip. Nothing serious, but it did put a bit of dent in my training during May. However, I didn’t think it was all that big of a deal since I wasn’t starting my Marathon training schedule until mid-June.
Then when I was just about healed. I got caught up in running a fast 5K at the end of May. It was the Annual Miles for Mills 5K and it was to support the Mills Foundation. He is a veteran who has lost both arms and legs but still is a positive force in the community.
Seeing what he was doing with his life motivated me to get out of my racing flats and go for it. I was running way above my fitness level and hit a corner wrong and forced myself to finish despite the pain.
I was not ready or in shape to run that fast and I partially tore my left Achilles Tendon and did something to my right ankle area.
These injuries while not serious in the overall scheme of things were severe enough to put my left foot in a boot for 3 weeks and eventually made me decide to face reality. Another marathon training plan down the hatch due to injury. Which meant no Marine Corps Marathon in 2013.
As a result, my pro runblogger career hurtled downhill from there.
The great story was gone and I was not a good enough writer or VLOGGER to survive another year, without the great story. If I had gone on to run MCM and qualified for Boston, things might have been different, but there was nothing left to write about that would generate the interest that a large Corporation would want.
My contract wasn’t renewed and when I look back, it was actually a relief, more than something that I was upset about.
Once that happened I really had no reason to maintain the facade of being a professional RunBlogger anymore. I really was not happy being a “professional” blogger and didn’t feel comfortable with the business side of things – it wasn’t what I thought it would be. So I walked away from pro runblogging later that summer and turned the corner to get back to my roots.
Although, I did keep my toes dangling in the water for a while, just in case someone thought I was just what they were looking for to add to their writing staff. No one bit and I kept getting further and further away from the RunBlogging and got back to just blogging for me.
During my injury, I had been helping out as a volunteer at the newly established Quarry Road Trail Series. I got to meet a lot of the local runners and had a lot of fun taking photos, making new friends and beginning to run (slowly) again.
Giving back and helping out with re-establishing the Central Maine Striders online presence was fun and gave me an outlet where I was meeting people and doing something within the running community.
Although I ran a couple of decent races that fall, I didn’t have confidence in being able to run faster, because I was still afraid that I reinjure that leg. Yes, the Achilles had healed quite nicely, but now the old noggin had become very meache about any little squeak or pull in that Achilles. It held me back mentally for almost a year.
2014 More Injuries
Injuries come to me like bears to honey and don’t want to go away very quickly the older I get.
Finally, in 2014 I accepted that I was retired and worked more at getting myself back to being the runner that I always thought that I could be, but only as a 5-10K runner. The spring started out pretty good, but then I screwed up my left hamstring at the end of April and it bothered me almost the entire summer and every so often it still barks at me.
That fall I started to run a bit faster and even won my first long-distance race ever – at the Thomas College 5K – as they say, you can only race against the runners that show up, but a win is a win and I gotta say it is one of my bigger thrills in running, even though it was just a small local race.
I am not a big fan of running in races with lots of people or having to travel great distances to get in a run. No, I would rather run in a nice local race, have fun, know some/most of the people involved, and be relaxed about my running. It keeps my age-old battle with race anxiety at lower levels and allows me to enjoy running more.
Running With Bennie
It was also when I started to run with my second favorite running partner – Bennie. We had had him for almost four years and he is a spastic Jack Russell Terrier who has terrible leash manners. However, I used my old archery padded belt, so I could run hands-free, and eventually, he learned to sort of behaving while running.
Although I have scars from going arse over teakettle when something other than running in a straight line strikes his fancy and he darts across in front of me.
He had been very good for me and I ran more consistently than I have in a long because he was always ready to get out there and run.
Although he is getting older and might be a little older than the vet thinks and all the tick bites he has had over the years are starting to catch up with him. Also, my body is now getting to the point where it doesn’t do as well with the constant tugging, pulling, sub 6:00 minute paced intervals, and eating dirt from time-to-time and this year I decided that it was in my best interests to stop running with Bennie.
He doesn’t understand sometimes, but it is the way it has to be if I want to keep running and not be injured as much. Once in a while, we do pull a little jaunt, but not very often.
Which is making me so sad.
2015 – Focusing On Strengths and Letting Go
Then during the 2015 Boston Marathon, I got the marathon fever again and shouted to the world that I was going to work to qualify for Boston for 2017. Yeah right, reality gobsmacked me hard upside the head and by the end of June 2015, I realized that ain’t no way in hell I am going to finish marathon training at a BQ pace and still be in one piece for October.
I finally realized, that I am a 5K or shorter specialist, who might dabble with a 10K or run, not race a half marathon, but that the full marathon at a BQ pace is something my body is not able to hold together to do. I have accepted that my chances of running a Boston qualifying time and then running Boston are pretty much over.
Oh, I know that the dream is still there, but that is all that it is – a dream.
So I have stayed with 5K races and while I haven’t gotten close to that other goal of mine that sub 20:00 minute 5K, I am still able to get around 22:00 pretty regularly and even breakthrough into the 21:00’s every once in a while.
I was selected to be a member of the Pearl Izumi Run Champions Team for 2016 and while I was proud to be a part of it. Unfortunately, it turned out that I resigned from it in May. I just could not run exclusively in PI’s the way I needed to. If a certain brand’s style/model does not work as well as a different brand does – well whatever I use in today’s world has to work for me.
Yeah, honest and blunt, not always what people want to hear, but I am happy with it and that is all that counts.
The reality is that
Once I left teaching, after I had time to reflect on the pros and cons objectively, I will never go back to being one. The work while it can be rewarding has so many pitfalls and pratfalls that looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I do not know how I survived, must less have periods of success as a teacher.
It was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade my time as one, but I will never go back and purposely have let my teaching certification expire.
However, I don’t know where I would have been without running since 2011. It was and is a big part of who I am and who I will be. Running has shown me how to become a better person in spite or despite the many injuries and setbacks I have had as a runner over that time.
During this time, I tried the profession blogging route, made a little money, tried lots of different running shoes/gear, met a lot of great people and some not so great ones, learned a lot about social media marketing and figured out that I am not a great entrepreneur.
I don’t have the people skills or drive to put making lots of money high on my list of priorities. I like a comfortable life but have learned that I prefer a lower stress lifestyle and one that doesn’t involve a lot of travel – I am a serious homebody who enjoys his routines.
There are you proud of me? I didn’t talk about running shoes at all during this post – at least not too much. Maybe I am finally getting over being a running shoe whore and learning to use what actually works for me instead of having to always have the newest and greatest shoes to see if they are worth the hype. 🙂
Even if I did go through more than 20 pairs a year from 2012 to 2015.
Thank you for reading the series and I hope you understand a little more about the old fart who keeps writing about his boring running or what he thinks is the next great running shoe.
Yeah, I took the path less traveled and it did make all the difference.