post by Steve Barker
One day I’ll be fat. My family history says so. When my father was my age he was just as skinny as I am and a regular runner. Around the age of 40 he added a few extra pounds and has been struggling with his weight ever since. That terrifies me.
I love running for the high, the freedom, the clarity, but something I rarely share
with people is I also love running because it makes me not fat. Running a 5K with a 40 lb. weight vest gave me a little taste of what being heavy would feel like.
Forty-five minutes before the run started Brian and his wife picked me up. Since
the easiest way to carry the vest is to wear it, I put it on then. Although a little
uncomfortable, the car ride was easy. Brian was bumping DMX while Jaime drove.
When we arrived at the starting line, I stood around in the vest waiting for the run to start. This is when I first realized what I was getting myself into. Just standing was hard. I second guessed myself.
I hadn’t trained in the vest. Originally I thought that was the plan when I agreed
to the challenge, but Brian was in charge of ordering the vest from Amazon and
got sidetracked by a pregnant wife and full-time job (priorities, right?). I was kind of hoping he’d forget. Then two days before the race he brought it over to my apartment. I wore it around and it made simple tasks like vacuuming and taking out the trash exhausting. I was ready to give up before the run even started.
Usually before a 5K I’m excited. Three point two miles is junior varsity type stuff for me. I don’t even consider it a run, for me a 5K is a race. It’s good that it usually raises money for some disease, but I’m there to compete. I came in third two years in a row for men between the ages of 25-30 in the Nike 5K for Kids. This was a different story. My only competition was going to be the 40 lbs. I was dragging along with me. I was just hoping to run the whole thing without walking.
As I tried to reassure myself that the weight was no big deal we all got in line for the run. Brian and I both started our iPods and moved with the herd until crossing the starting line. We weaved ourselves between the walkers, trying to carve out some space. This is when I realized I signed up for a lot more than I thought. Not only was the vest heavy and awkward–it made me 20 percent wider than normal. Just passing people took an extra calculation. Eventually Brian and I got some room and fell into a pace. I quickly realized that Brian didn’t need any of my help or encouragement.
Since this was Brian’s first 5K I thought I was going to have to encourage him, but that was not necessary. He looked quite casual, and as I huffed and puffed Brian broke away at the halfway mark.
Even with the weight of the vest I was able to manage a steady pace. I was passing more people than were passing me. I wasn’t going to let the vest beat me. But usually when I hit the 2.5-mile mark I increase my pace. I always chamber enough energy so I can really kick it up towards the end. I wasn’t able to do that this time. Every step took everything I had. I also knew there was about a quarter mile of uphill at the end that I was dreading.
When I arrived at the bottom of the hill I looked up and saw half the people walking. I was determined not to be one of those people. At that moment Girltalk’s mash-up of Metallica’s “…And Justice for All” and Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” came on my iPod. I lowered my head and carried my weight up the hill, passing another walker with every stretch of my legs. At the top I could see the end and made my best attempt to sprint to the finish line. I crossed it at 32 minutes and 27 seconds.
I kept on the vest as I searched the crowd for Brian and his wife Jaime for a ride
home. Once we finally got to her car I took off the vest. All of a sudden I was 40 lbs. lighter. I stood up straight for the first time since putting the vest on and the strain on my body was lifted. Sitting down in the back seat felt like the greatest feeling in the world. I wasn’t fat any more.
I spent only a short amount of time with the 40 extra pounds, but it was enough
to know that I do not ever want to be fat. Life is hard with extra weight. Having
seen my father struggle with his weight for the last 15 years of his life I know that
I will have to continue running 3-5 times a week to maintain my current weight. I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I love it too much. In fact, I’ve been putting off running an organized half marathon for close to five years now, but I will be running the Whidbey Island half marathon in April. Seeing Brian conquer the 5K has inspired me to sign up. If a 5K is Junior Varsity, a half marathon will be College Division One. I’ll have to spend the two months prior running 4-5 times a week, between 7-12 miles at a time, as opposed to the 3-4 times a week between 5-10 miles I’m doing right now. It will be tough, but at least I’ll run it at my own weight.
Learn more about Steve and listen to his pre- and post-5K interview with Brian at ordinarymadness.org.