I am going to be honest here. At one point in my life I hated to run. That all changed one day when I was 13 and I was transformed into a kid who hated running to a kid who was fully devoted to developing my running abilities, training through the snow, rain, and any other obstacles I faced. I trained like that for 20 years until my body could take it no longer. I was so run-down at the end of my 20 year career that I couldn’t go jog an easy 30 minutes without having to do a substantial amount of running. So last January I retired from professional running, but I found I was still craving physical challenge. So I got into weight training. Now, another confession: when I was running I hated doing weights and I only did the bare minimum I could get away with and never upper body weights as I was afraid to bulk up. However, I found that I loved the daily challenge of weight training. I could go hard everyday, which I couldn’t do in running, so I naturally loved it.
I couldn’t have been much weaker when I began weight training. I think my bench was around 130 lbs and my squat was even worse than that. It was a little embarrasing to be walking around the gym so skinny and weak. However, as most find when they first begin weight training, I found that my improvement was rapid and dramatic. I felt like I was literally watching my body change before me. It was also fun to be able to take a different approach to nutrition, so rather than stepping on the scale and being bummed out if I gained a pound, I would be bummed if I didn’t gain a pound. Now, 7 months later I have gotten my bench up to 215, my squat to 195, and my deadlift to 245lbs. I know these are not impressive numbers but I am excited by the improvement I’ve seen.
In the last few months I’ve also rekindled my love for running as I prepared for a recent relay race around Mount Blanc. It took a while for my body to adjust to running with extra muscle (I went from just under 140 lbs to 165 lbs), but now it feels good to run again. With all the weight training it has added a ton of power to my legs. Now, my favorite workouts to do in running are sprints, both on hills and flat. I used to hate sprinting, largely due to the fact that my legs were so muscularly weak. It feels amazing to walk around feeling so much stronger than I once was.
I continue to have lofty goals as I marry running with weight lifting. I want to get as big, strong, and fit as possible. I think it would be a good benchmark for me to be able to deadlift, squat, and bench 300lbs (I’m guessing I would be the only 2:04 marathoner to accomplish that feat) but I think it will take me some time to get there. When it comes to running I’ve found running to be a great way for me to lean out after going through a pretty big bulking phase, so the two actually work together really well. I’d much rather be outside running through beautiful single-track trails then walking on a stair climber.
In terms of competitions, it can be hard to find events that have both the endurance and strength world colliding. I’ve been captivated by the Mr. America event because it’s (like me) found how beautiful it is to marry endurance and strength. I am so inspired by all the competitors at Mr. America and will be following the results closely as I search for further motivation for me to reach my endurance and strength goals which is the key to reach my goals.