Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Running is my life ... Lessons about motivation

I spoke to a group of runners this week. A big thrill!

Each Wednesday, Dr. Sarah Adams of Beach Chiropractic in Wasaga Beach holds running clinics Great idea. She asked me to tell my running story to a group of newbie runners. I said yes of course ... I got to run and talk!

I share the text of my talk below because it answers the questions I get asked most frequently: what are my running goals and how do I stay motivated. Here you go:

I pretty much talk about running all the time. I relate most of my life experiences to running. Drives my wife, Sally crazy. But for the past 27 years or so, running has been the one constant through all the ups and downs I have experienced including career. I can truthfully say that without running, I wouldn't be here today. I am running this year to raise $10,000 for the Canadian Diabetes Association, the disease that triggered my Father's death in 2008. Please donate generously:

But let me back up.

My name is Chris Morales. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to Canada in 1972. Between us, Sally and I have 4 boys aged 22 to 26. We moved to Wasaga Beach about 5 years ago with the intention to semi-retire. It hasn't worked out that way: Sally says I have to keep working so that I don't drive her crazy.

Running has done three things for me: it has improved my health, it has kept me sane and it has led to my 'encore career'. I'll talk about all three tonight. First of all, health.

As I mentioned, I started running about 27 years ago. It took a couple of years for it to stick though. Let me paint the picture more graphically for you: 240 lbs with a size 44 waist if I held my breath in. Completely sedentary lifestyle learned from college/university: chips, pop, beer, TV. The couch was my friend.

Then a number of things happened to get me off the couch. First, my doctor noted at an annual physical that my blood pressure was higher than normal. Based on my family history of hypertension, diabetes and strokes, he suggested that unless I did something about it, I was well on my way toward that.

Second, my twin sons were born. I knew I wanted to stay active in their lives. But that still was not enough to get me up off the couch.

It took a wedding.

I went to the wedding of a friend from college. He was a big guy, weighed over 300 lbs. I hadn't seen him for a year or so and was shocked to see him at less than 200 lbs. He weighed less than me! If he could do it, so could I!

That did it. That was the motivation I needed to start running to achieve the goal of loosing weight.

The very next week I got out an old pair of running shoes. Dug up a pair of cotton sweat pants and hoodie and under cover of night, went out for my first run. At the time we lived at the top of a small hill. The downward run was appealing. I did not think about the return.
I made it exactly 100 feet down the hill before I collapsed. Lungs heaving completely out of breath. Thankfully it was at night.

I continued on like that for about ½ a mile. Stopping every 100 feet to catch my breath. The run back home up the final 100 foot uphill grade was hell.

But I kept at it. Wanted to loose the weight very badly. A couple of weeks of running 3 times a week followed by a couple of weeks off. Then back on. Still eating the salty snacks, pop, beer. Slightly longer distances sometimes. Not much in the way of results for the first few months.

Then around the 4 month mark I noticed that I didn't have to suck in my waist as much to get into the size 44's. Must be the exercise. It was enough to keep me going.

Around the same time I started a new job in Toronto. My client was a dedicated runner. He encouraged me to enter a 10 k race that his company was sponsoring. After lots of hemming and hawing, I did.

Hell on earth for that first one. Shorts too short and tight; cotton t shirt enhancing my 'love handles'. No idea about hydration or pacing. I did very little training. I mean, how bad could it be to finish 10 flat kilometres? Very bad as it turned out.

I was OK through the first 5 k but struggled like crazy for the rest of the race. At 50 minutes with 1 kilometre to go, I somehow found the strength to make it to the finish line just under an hour.

I learned something that day: I loved competing with myself. And I was never going to be that unprepared again. The next year I again entered the event and finished in a respectable 48 minutes.

For the next few years I enjoyed the competition against the clock. I ran countless 10 k and 15 k events. Even tried my hand at a ½ marathon and finished in good shape and in a decent time. I had my personal best in a 10 k as well: 42 minutes. Never repeated since and not that concerned about it. I finally enjoyed running. And the health benefits were fantastic: down to 175 lbs with a size 32 waist. Low blood pressure. I felt great.

Lots of injuries along the way though: shin splints, sprained ankles, and knee pain. Youth is indeed wasted on the young: I didn't stretch, rarely changed my running shoes … basically did everything wrong. I wish now I had joined a running club or asked for advice.

Disaster finally struck in the Toronto Marathon. Again, a little cocky and ill prepared for the event. I unwisely went out too fast with the goal of finishing in a little over 3 hours. Oops...

The rain started at 5 k. The wind at 10 k. The knee pain at 15 k. I made it to 23 k before I dropped out. The worst feeling of my life.

Unfinished business.

I lost the urge to compete in running events after that. Kept running though because of the second benefit of running: mental sanity. At around that time, I lost my job and went through a divorce. I kept running and it kept me sane. Just the exhilaration of being outside with no one to bother me was enough to pull me through.

But I needed competition; needed new goals and motivation. But because of the unfinished marathon and after running in so many 10 k races, I needed something new. Triathlons beckoned.

You think after my previous experiences I would have been better prepared. True to form however, my first one went from bad to worse. It was in Barrie in the early spring. I had a 25 year old bike and no wet suit. It was early spring with air temperature in the low teens and water temperature around the same. And it was a wet start. For those of you who have never done one, that means you wade out into the water 5 minutes or so before the starting gun and tread water until the start. For a guy who grew up in Jamaica, wearing only bike shorts, that was NOT fun.

Turns out that even though I had not prepared at all for this I was a strong swimmer. I got out of the water in respectable time and headed out for the bike portion. Cold and wet. Learned all about wind chill that morning.

And to top it off, as I came back into the transition zone on my bike, I fell off in front of all the spectators as I started to get off. I got up, though and finished the run.

But I had been bitten by the bug.

I spent the winter training. Swimming and running. And in the spring of the following year, a nasty little exercise called 'the Brick'. 30 km bike ride at full speed followed immediately by a 5 – 8 km run at race pace.

But it worked. With a new triathlon bike, racing suit that Sally bought I competed in the Subaru triathlon series for a couple of years. My goal was to finish in the top half of every race and in the top half of my age category. And I did it. Motivated to beat some of the professionals.

After those years I learned to run better and take care of myself to reduce injuries. After all, I wasn't getting any younger. I learned to eat better and began cutting down on the salty snacks and sugar pop.

And I kept running.

Then last year, mid-2008 disaster struck again. Triple hit: lost my job, Dad passed away after his long battle with multiple diseases brought on by diabetes, and the economy went into the tank. I knew if I kept running I would get through it, but it was tough.

The light appeared when I remembered my 'unfinished business'. Ahhh... I was going to finish my first marathon!

That was the goal. The motivation? Raise $10,000 for the Canadian Diabetes Association. And because of my Jamaican heritage, I chose the Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica on December 5, 2009...hey, might as well run where it's warm.

I receive a ton of support from the Wasaga Beach Road Runners: Mike, Eric, Jim and the entire gang have been absolutely fantastic. We run together on Sunday mornings and I get a lot of great advice and encouragement. (Thanks Mike for including the link to my CDA fund raising).

So far I have talked about the health and mental benefits of running. The third one for me is being able to take this into.

The eureka moment came while I was running of course. Duh!

Running: set goals and objectives, train, deal with challenges and set backs. Same as in business. I married the two to satisfy a need in the marketplace of small/mid-size business owners who are want to optimize their business to achieve personal goals and objectives. On line I can be found at

Running now really is my life.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, the blue text on black background is impossible to read.


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