These Two Rings - A Runner's Story

5:22 PM

For three years these two rings adorned my thumbs.  Through many late nights.  Tired afternoons.  Tormented spirit.  Weary soul.  Repeated times of doubt. 

Can I do this? 

Can I continue on?

These rings have been there.  With me.  Through it all.  Rarely off my thumbs for more than mere moments. 

Recently.  I retired them.   

They sit on the desk of the hotel room.  Abandoned.  Relics of a chapter of my life which is now past. 

Summer of 2013 I began my quest to complete a marathon.  Now in my 40's never a runner, I find myself in Arizona some 18 months after I began "running" to keep my health, blood pressure, and stress in check. 

But why now?  Was this some long term goal I set for myself when I started running a mere year earlier?  No.  I set out on this journey in an effort to keep a promise I had foolishly made to myself years ago in my youth before I knew what I was really saying. 

I could barely keep a 12:15 minute pace for longer than a few miles.  But I was trying.  And my lord, try running distances in the summer of Arizona.  I didn't know better and my ignorance, though could have killed me, would later prove to be a benefit to my long term growth in what would become my new temple - long distance running. 

It was during this time I read articles on how to increase distance without dying.  Where I began to be introduced and understand caloric intake, lactic thresholds, and conserving calories through efficiency. 

I used the RunKeeper's app with Hal Higdon's beginner's running plan to chart my course.  Invested in my first hydration packs.  And seriously began looking at how I was running in order to attempt to preserve my body for my later years, should I live to see them. 

It is then, I began to notice how tense I was during my hard efforts beyond 6 miles.  My nails would dig deep into the palms of my hands from clinched fists.  Not only were these calories wasted, but I was destroying myself physically and mentally; unconsciously. 

No matter how hard I tried, I would zone out.  My form would fall apart.  My fists would clinch up.  And I was a walking board as tense as a rigor mortis set corpse.  There must be a solution. 

One day I found myself playing with a bread tie, a remnant from lunch.  I ended up wrapping it around my pinky finger for some strange reason.  -I don't know. I was under a lot of work stress during the time -   However, I forgot it was there until I was running.  It was enough pressure to trigger my mind that something was there without interrupting thought and I noticed I could focus on this strange external pressure on my little finger while keeping my fist relaxed!  tah dah!

Yes, you assume correct.  I began running with two black bread ties around my pinky fingers.  But not just when I was running.  I kept them there, so as not to forget.  All during the day during work.  Yes, they ended up causing a lot of conversations.  And yes, they were flimsy.  But they worked.

This lasted about a month before I decided to get "fancy" with it.  I decided to replace them with cheap pinky rings.  Sure amazon would have something! 

First off, I'm a small guy.  Skinny.  Down right dainty according to "social norms".  So finding rings in a size that would fit was a challenge.  ended up sizing up and bending clasp type rings down to size.  This lasted a few months and saw me through my first marathon.

It was late January 2014 when I was watching television when I saw a guy with a thumb ring.  "light bulb moment!"

Amazon to the rescue again.  This time the solution was elegant and fitting.  One a wooden inlay, later to symbolize continued growth.  The other a dragon motif, later to symbolize relentless determination.  Ultimately my reminders to "relax", "focus", "breathe", "you got this".

They arrived January 30th.  And they saw me through my next five marathons, countless half marathons, first trail run, my first ultra and 2nd 50K, a DNF, and through the #JavelinaJundred 100K this past October.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention they were with me everyday of my first #run365 challenge. 

These two rings have been through a lot.  They are scratched, scuffed, dinged, gouged, and covered in relentless effort. 

Conversation starters for some and awkward looks for others.  These two rings started the look that is now part of my normal.  Without two thumb rings, I feel naked.  I feel as if something is missing.  Once they felt as heavy as chains and now they represent freedom from my doubts. 

These two rings are precious to me.  Too precious.  And that is why it was time to let them go.  To retire them.  But not to forget them.  For they are a part of me. 

For when you see images of me on the run and my hands are loose and it seems my body is at ease, you have to think of these two rings.  If you see me smiling after miles while drenched in the stinch of my sweat under a relentless sun out on my own for no purpose on the trails or in the streets...  These two rings. 

You may not have a ring or rings on your fingers, but we all have something that we hold dearly to that has altered our paths and has become part of our soul.  For me.  For my running life.  It was these two rings. 

I've come a long way.  So have you.  So when you see me and you see the two new hotness on the thumbs, smile.  These puppies are more than a fashion statement, they were born of these two rings.  There's a story; a Runner's story in tow.   

If this story has inspired you to keep moving forward knowing that a few short years ago, I could barely maintain a 12:30 mile pace, then think these two rings and keep moving forward on your journey.  

And when you think you can go no further.  Take a moment....  Relax.  Breathe.  You can do this.

Remember be good folks.  Do you.  PEACE! 

1 comment:

  1. Great story. I wondered about the rings. part of the Ed mystique.


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