Sunday, January 16, 2011

Running To Breathe

Breathing is what gives our bodies life.  It is what sustains us in the moment and makes everything else possible.  If life is a blessing our ability to breathe must be, what, a luxury?  I think so.  As an athlete it is easy to take breathing for granted since so many other factors often take precedent.  Namely, getting in our daily runs/volume, focusing on leg turnover and tempo runs, recovering from a injury, making time for stretching, proper nutrition, sleep, etc., etc.  Recently I decided to incorporate yoga into my regimen at least once a week, as a way to give back to my body for the training it allows me, and what is yoga if not the practice of breathing?  My brother-in-law, Colin, is an athletic guy though sometimes held back a bit, physically, due to asthma, an allergic condition affecting his respiration system sometimes resulting in restricted breath.
Sometime last year Colin decided to become a runner.  Not a jogger or someone who lollygags on a treadmill in between socializing at the gym, but a real runner.  And not so he could disappear off on to the trails, meet new friends or lose weight.  Colin’s goal was much simpler: so he could breathe.  Wow.  It is hard not to be humbled by that simple goal when I think about all of the frivolous reasons why I run.  I am definitely lucky as I have no problem breathing.  My VO2 max may not be up there with Lance Armstrong, in fact I have no idea what it is, but I usually have no problem sucking in all of the air my body needs when out on a run- even if that means sometimes throttling my stride to a paltry pace on the lowest of graded hills.  I guess this is all Colin wants- the opportunity for air when he wants it or needs it.  To reach this goal Colin has steadily built up his running base and economy over the past several months and has now set upon a great athletic goal for 2011: to compete in at least one half-marathon per month, all year, on road or trail.  That is pretty great.  He even maintains a blog at to chronicle his journey.
Since I have known Colin for several years I know he has what it takes to be a great runner:  (1) determination and (2) support from those who care about him most.  I like to think that in some small way I helped inspire Colin take on this great physical challenge- to breathe better- since he has seen my progress as a runner take hold over the past few years, though I doubt it.  I say this only because his is an inspiring story in the making.  His social and professional tentacles reach much further than mine and by him going after his own goals the way he is the many people around him will in turn likely become inspired as well, thus passing the torch.
Colin also leads a much more demanding life than do I.  Sure, we both have jobs with characterizing responsibilities but he also has three kids, coaches soccer and crushes several fantasy football leagues simultaneously.  People occasionally tell me, with regards to my running, “I don’t know how you do it” or ask me “how do you have the time”?  To wit I reply: don’t ask me, ask Colin.

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