Just keep running.

The following post was written for Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month. For those of you not familiar with PiBoIdMo, it's a month long event where you're encouraged to come up with a picture book idea for each day of November (30 in all). Every day during the month long event different authors, illustrators, and other publishing greats write posts to inspire and motivate you on your quest. You can read this years posts at taralazar.com. My post, Just Keep Running originally appeared on day 5. Without further ado, here it is:

Just Keep Running by James Burks

About two and a half months ago I decided I was going to start running. I had a few reasons for this decision; 

1. I was getting fat.

2. I didn’t feel great about the way I looked. 

3. I had seen one too many pictures of myself at various author events from weird angles with more than one chin. 

So I bought some cheap running shoes and decided to start running when my kids went back to school after summer break. Keep in mind that I’ve never been a runner. Not when I was a kid, not in high school, not ever. I’d see people running down the street and think that they were crazy. Running was never something that I wanted to do but I was determined to give it a try.  

My kids started school on August 14th and as planned I started running. I use the term “running” very loosely here as I was doing more walking than running. I would run as far as I could until my lungs were screaming and my legs were burning and then walk. Run. Walk. Run. Walk. Rinse and repeat. On and on until I had completed thirty minutes. (Around two miles.) At the end of my first run/walk I was pretty sure that I was going to die. My legs were sore and throbbing but I had taken the first step towards a leaner, happier me.

The next day I woke up with sore legs but I still went out running. Run. Walk. Run. Walk.   At this point I had no idea that I was supposed to take days off between runs (This was all new to me). I was determined to stick to my new goal regardless of the pain. So I hobbled along running and walking for two weeks straight with only the weekends off to rest. 

After two weeks of running I reached a point where my legs were super sore. I could barely sleep at night. I knew I needed to take some time off to let my muscles recover. The funny thing is that I didn’t want to take a break. Even with my legs screaming for relief I loved running. I loved being outside listening to the music on my iPod and I felt really great emotionally. I had a deep sense of accomplishment and I was starting to see some results when I got on the scale. But I knew if I wanted to keep running I’d have to take some time off and let my legs recover.

Lucky for my legs I had a six day book tour of San Francisco the following week. It would be the perfect time for a break.  

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When I returned from San Francisco I jumped right back into running. My legs felt better but it wasn’t long before they began to hurt again. After some online research and talking to friends who run I came to the conclusion that maybe it was my shoes. So I went to my local running store and twenty minutes later I left with the most expensive pair of shoes that I’d ever bought in my life. The salesman said that they would help absorb some of the impact and give my legs more support. The next day I took the shoes out for a test run and they worked. My legs weren’t near as sore as they had been previously. Success! 

At this point I’d been at it for about a month. My legs weren’t hurting quite as bad as before but they were still a little sore. I did a little more research and discovered that it’s a good idea to do some cross training between running workouts. So I dusted the cobwebs off my ten year old mountain bike and hit the bike trail. Riding my bike between running workouts made a huge deference. It gave my legs a day between runs to recover and I was still able to get in a good workout every day.

I really had no idea what I was doing when I started this whole running thing. I just figured it out as I went. The important thing for me was to just keep at it. To make myself get out of bed every day and either run or bike. It didn’t matter how fast I went, it only mattered that I was doing it everyday or almost every day. I would after all take the occasional day off to rest or to sleep in. I hadn’t completely lost my mind. 

The funny thing is that the more I worked out, the better I felt, and the better I felt the further I pushed myself to go. I went from running short spurts and walking, to running three to five miles at a time without stopping. I started biking 18 miles on my bike and I felt amazing. Now, every day I go out and I challenge myself to go a little further or a little faster. I go to bed at night looking forward to getting up the next morning and running or biking. It’s crazy. It’s been two and half months since I started and I feel happier and less stressed than ever before. Oh, and I’ve lost twelve pounds and counting. No more extra chins. 

Some of you reading this may be asking yourself at this point, “What does this have to do with writing picture books?” Good question. Here’s the thing, no matter what you want to do in life it all starts by taking a step. A single step. That step may be taking a class or starting to draw, or in my case starting to run. It can be anything. You just have to take the step. The more steps you take the easier it will get. Along the way you may step in a puddle or two, or get injured (rejected) and that’s okay. Just take some time off to clean yourself up and recoup. Then when you’re ready, take another step, and another. After a while your steps will get faster and a lot easier, and before you know it you’ll be running. You’ll be pushing yourself to go further and you will be feeling better. You’ll be happier. Who knows maybe some day you’ll even run a marathon or two. All you have to do is just keep running.

Update:

It's now been just over four months since I wrote this post. I've continued to run each and every week and I've lost a total of 25 pounds (I'm about 7 pounds away from reaching my goal). I usually run about 3 to 4 times a week. My longest run has been 13.1 miles in just under two hours. Although, tomorrow I'm going to try and see if I can run 15 miles. I've signed up for my first official half marathon race in February in Pasadena. After that I'm going to set my sights on a full marathon (26.2 miles). I just have to work my way up to the point where I can run 20 miles without stopping. They say adrenaline and inspiration will carry you through the last 6.2 miles during the actual marathon. I'll let you know if that's true.