I just ran 10km in 1 hour and 4 minutes. The last time I ran that far must have been in 1987, 20 years ago, when I was 18 years old. It has taken me long time to get from there to here.
Addiction runs in my family, mostly the violence, alcohol, drugs and smoking kind. Not long before I was a Christian, aged 16, I decided I needed to loose weight. This was mostly for the sole purpose of picking up girls.
Dieting severely, and exercising endlessly, fed the family addiction gene in me. I dropped 80 lbs in weight in 6 months, and ended up dating the girl of my desires. Exercise and dieting offered me control during one of the most awful times of my life.
My father disappeared (literally) from our lives, my mother had a breakdown, I had a younger brother, and 1 year old baby brother to care for. Exercise and diet, helped me have some sense of control of my life. Yet I got to the point where I was becoming bulimic.
About a year later, I had become a Christian, through a dramatic conversion experience. I had immediately lost the need to drink to get to sleep, which until then had been developing.
I remember weight training in my bedroom and fainting, coming too, lying on the floor. I remember thinking ‘maybe it was something I ate?’. Then at that moment, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had even eaten.
I prayed, and felt like god wanted me to deal with food, and start eating, and I did. No more avoiding eating, or throwing up after large meals. But the need to exercise was as deep rooted as ever.
This continued into my studies for my theology degree, and at one point I counted up the time I spent running, weight training, playing rugby, squash etc. Probably 15 to 20 hours a week on a regular basis.
But then I came across Vineyard Churches. I entered an environment where food was present at every meeting, and mostly calorie laden and with chocolate. I had also started to discover, mostly unconsciously that, I could feed my addiction genes with work, and church ministry.
So I exchanged my exercise addictions for overeating and becoming a workaholic. Between the ages of 18 and 28, my body weight literally doubled. As I write that, I wonder how that is possible, to put on over 140 pounds of weight in a 10 year period?! Admittedly, I was dangerously underweight at 18, but I ended up dangerously overweight.
During the past 10 years, as I have tried to deal with my work addictions with therapy, medication and lots of prayer, my life has slowly become more stable in many ways. I have exercised regularly, walking, weight training, eating better. Yet my weight has been far to high, and gone up and down, in a range of 14-20 lbs during that whole period.
So we come to the early part of 2007, another new year where I was determined to lose weight again, like I am every year. Going to the gym took so much time, with driving to the gym, training, changing and driving home. Also I was doing mostly heavy weights, which did nothing for my own weight levels!
I had an epiphany, or maybe just realized the obvious, that there was a time in my life, when I had been much lighter. It was when I went running. Running could take less time, than going to the gym, costs less, and do me good.
But where does a 280 pound plus man start his training? I bought a running book, full of before and after photos and stories of people who had taken up running. I needed this inspiration, vision, and motivation. So late March this year, I started interval training.
At first I jogged 60 seconds then walked 2 minutes, whilst I tried to not have a heart attack. Then I slowly increased each session, each week. I went through the pain of sore knees, hips, ankles, as my body protested and resisted. I stayed on schedule, even running whilst on holiday.
Then 6 months in, people I knew who saw me regularly, started noticing. They asked if I had lost weight. People I hadn't seen for 6 months were more shocked. They noticed, the 28 pounds I had gradually lost.
And that spurred me on to keep running. So here I am, near a nuclear power station on the south coast of England, having just run 10 kilometers, for the first time in 20 years. And I realized something else today.
It has taken me 20 years to come back round to the idea of running, of engaging in it regularly, mostly because of time, and life stage. But also because I have still been fearful of what it represented in the past. An addiction and control.
Time will tell if I transplant my addiction gene back into running, or if it is something I am enjoying, and embracing, after finding healing in other areas of my life. But today it certainly felt great to run that 10km, and feel good, and enjoy a connection to my body, with my spirituality, that I haven’t had for a very long time.