Eleven months ago I finished my last long run two weeks before competing, wink-wink, in the annual Spinx Fest half marathon. The following week I was a hundred yards from finishing my last easy run before the weekend event when a miss step ended that dream…and others. Later in that week my doctor said in his best doctor voice, “You’ve got a torn meniscus but Early Osteoarthritis trumps that. You are looking at a knee replacement down the road.” He continued to talk but for some reason I quit listening and fell into a dark place after the mention of a knee replacement.

I am not a competitive runner, not even in my age group unless I am the only one in it, but I like to compete…even if it is just competing against myself. It may be my teaching background, but it seems that when I have a plan and a goal, I forget how much I hate the actual act of running. I also like the cheering at the end of the race after following an attractive woman looking fit in her spandex who is running at a rate of speed, I can keep up with…but at a distance. Is that chauvinist or just being male?

I have missed all my races and the beer afterwards for the past eleven months as my weekly mileage has yo-yoed all over the place and my fear of being seen running in public has soared. Today it reached an all-time low. Three runs this week for a whopping six miles. There are another twenty-four from walking but it just ain’t the same. There is something that unscrambles my mind when I run while walking sometimes causes a reaction resembling the view from a broken kaleidoscope.

I began to walk and run in my late thirties after looking in the mirror. I was active, a coach, but I couldn’t deny that my pants had gotten wider and the long hours on the field had gotten harder, so I began to take my health seriously…until torn cartilage and a toe destroyed by psoriatic arthritis sidelined me. After four operations it became easy not to get up and workout and for a year or so I gave in to the temptation of my recliner, tasty steaks, bourbon, and cigars.

On April 7, 2006, I stood in front of a mirror while standing on my scales and had to admit that two hundred and thirty-two pounds did not look too good on my five-foot nine frame. I vowed to fix it but once again providence would intercede. On April 9, 2006, while celebrating my birthday, an elephant decided to sit on my chest signaling the best thing to happen to me since my wedding, a heart attack.

The best thing? Yes, the best thing because I survived it along with the four stints that were “surfed” into my heart. It signaled a need for a lifestyle change that I fear is in jeopardy if I can’t run. Between a clean diet, therapy and restarting my running I lost sixty-two pounds, much too quickly and ten pounds too much, before finally settling in at a comfortable one seventy-five and competed in my first 5k six months after my heart attack.

I was the “belle of the ball” as far as my cardiologist was concerned but there is a dark side. I still see a fat guy when I look in a mirror and fear I am one step from the slippery slope I was previously on. I am afraid that if I can’t outrun myself, everything I have worked for will crumble. There are other forms of exercise, but I fear they cannot provide the same peace of mind that I receive from my running. I’ve already seen an increase in the scales, beer consumption and even my cigars. Hopefully acknowledging it will help me battle my demons, but I am not sure I can out walk or out bike them. Sometimes a “mind is a terrible thing.”

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