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From Mailboxes To Miles, My Journey To 26.2. Part 1

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Thursday, June 28, 2012


6th grade physical fitness test in gym class. My once a year dose of public humiliation whether I needed it or not. I had to make it 4 times around the cones  at opposite ends of the gym. My goal, the 50 yard dash. My heart was shaking, everyone is watching me, waiting for their turn to get this over with. Gym teacher shouted GO!.. My reluctant legs were on the move. I could feel the stares as my belly bounced and jiggled with each step. I could feel their taunts inside. With each lap, the anxiety grew, my eyes were growing wet with tears of shame. I knew what they were thinking. It isn't easy being the only boy in 6th grade that needs a bra. I could see kids whispering, easy to do when everything was not a blur of speed. Last lap, almost over. My legs were shaking, unstable, ready to give out. My knees buckled and I hit the floor. An inglorious face plant in front of the entire 6th grade student body.

Laughter, pain, embarrassment. My face was hot.   I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. I wanted to die rather than endure the cruelty that I knew was going to follow. I hate gym class. I hate sports. I hate being compared to others and seeing myself for what I am, weak, inferior, and incapable. 

 That day, I became a quitter. My parents tried in vain to get me into sports. Soccer, football, baseball. Most of the time I sat on the bench because I didn't meet weight requirements. I never got to play because the fat kid on the team is a liability and parents don't want their team to lose because the fat kid can't perform. It was so easy to quit. What reason do I even have to show up for practice? Why should I challenge myself? Food is my friend. No need to impress and it is all satisfaction. A ready made sanctuary for a pre-teen with self image problems.

Life marches on...

38 years old.

It was night.  Each house I passed, most lights were out except for a gentle glow of a computer or television in the living room window. Running is a fast way to burn a few calories..heaven knows I need to. Even after losing 50 pounds, I was still 345. Walking was no longer enough. My weight loss allowed me to move easier and walking was getting old. My face was burned hot and was flushed.  My legs were quivering and unstable. Everything ached.  The goal was set, my will, resolute. I will make it to the next mailbox.  I had already set a new record of 5 phone poles and now my world revolved with laser like focus on just making it to the next milestone. Bragging rights would soon be mine.

Mailbox came and went. Keep going Robert.

One solitary light pole about 50 yards away was my next target.  My spectators?,  A cloud of bugs swarming in a lazy, disinterested manner around the light. No cheering, shouts of encouragement, no throbbing finish-line music. Nonetheless, my finish line was coming. That pole, for an instant of time became my focus, my world, all that was important to me was tied up around that splinter filled goal.

I had to dig deep, I had to want this more than I wanted to quit. More than I wanted to return to a comfortable state of good enough.  There was something out there I was reaching for in my heart.  To find my inner champion. To finally believe that this time I wouldn't quit, that I have the courage to start and the will to finish.

Today, I would do it. I would run further than I had ever gone before. 

Finish line crossed.

Not a moment too soon, my legs were shaking so badly I almost gave out but I made it. My new distance personal best? I ran a little less than a quarter mile without stopping. My belly hurt from the bouncing just like gym class but this time things were different. This time,  a sense of accomplishment and not shame. I was totally alone in a sleepy neighborhood but the feelings were just the same as if I crossed the line in front of a thousand screaming spectators. I walked to catch my breath so I could call my friend and share the news. I was almost beside myself with excitement.

That night in 2008, a runner was born. Not because I won a race, I couldn't even fit into any of the gear that being a runner would require. Trying to do so would be like stuffing 10 pounds of jello into a 5 pound bag. I stood there in my sopping wet cotton shirt beaming with pride. You see, being a runner is a matter of heart. It isn't how you look, how fast you are, or how far you can go. It isn't about finishing first. It's a matter of you versus you. It's about a life of commitment, of dedication to personal excellence. There is a calling from within that beckons me to overcome discomfort, to see what I can do, how far can I go. It always reaches forth and strives for personal best. To be a runner  is to earn our own self respect. It's about finding the strength to see it through.
Courage is courage no matter the distance. It's about finding the courage to start and the will to finish.

For me to write about running is the articulation of passion. No activity has been so instrumental in bringing about lasting change.  To run is to put freedom into practice, each footfall is like hands applauding a job well done.
 I grew to hate gym class and sports because they highlighted my weaknesses. I grew to love running because it highlighted my strengths. Lets face it, its hard work getting started, but for every challenge met, there is a sense of affirmation that money cannot buy. The are many rewards that await those who will stick it out, work through the issues and see it through.

Some may start their running journey by desiring to do a marathon. Not me. It started by making it to the next phone pole, the next mailbox. I'm pretty sure that is the case for the 99% of the mortals like me who will read this.

This series of blogs that I am dedicating myself to write is my story and lessons learned. It is my hope that through this, someone else might find the courage to start and the will to finish. To know the joy that finishing what seems impossible will bring. Whether you find yourself struggling to believe that you can finish your first 5k or feel the inner calling to the marathon, I hope that somehow I can spark some hope to go just a little farther and in doing so, reach your goals.

Like the last series, when this is finished, it will be available in Ebook (PDF) format.

With love,

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • v CHUM48
    1398 days ago
    I wasn't overweight but I have never been coordinated and so gym glass was always torture for me. Very bad memories that continue to haunt me. I have started to run and you really have inspired me.
    1434 days ago
  • v 2WHEELER
    emoticon emoticon
    1441 days ago
    Lovely! Inspiring! Beautiful! What a beautiful person you are!

    Thank you Robert
    1467 days ago
  • v NEWKAREN43
    You know something...if the kids didn't tease you abut your weight, they would have found something else to tease you about...that said, my daughter has been through a terrible year of bullying (7th grade) and it had nothing to do with weight, well, unless you call curves a weight issue...but I have written beautifully what so, so many kids have felt in that general age group, a terrible, haunting, life-changing, shame...

    I get your weight loss. I understand your shame. I hope you don't mind that I use your beautiful words and description and sentiment to share with my beautiful daughter whose shame is just as real as yours, it's just different in "flavor".

    Blessings to you my SP friend, in your quest for health, fitness and weight control...and in feeding your passion to run! Karen
    1468 days ago
  • v YVETTE59
    I cried for you and with you when I read this. I cheered out loud and long and strong for you when I read this. emoticon
    1475 days ago
    So many memories of Classes of Eternal Physical Torment...

    But hey, I am starting to run, to reach into my almost forgotten memories of "once upon a time when I ran under the cover of darkness" just before bedtime and school the next morning.... Have to build on the habit and build new pleasant memories of success.

    Thanks for rhe reminder!

    1477 days ago
  • v MELLYBEANS0919
    1481 days ago
    Very inspirational you are a fantastic writer.
    1483 days ago
    emoticon I loved this blog, so inspirational. I have set a goal to run my first marathon in March 2013, this really is what I needed to hear today.
    1484 days ago
  • v PIXIEMOM13
    This is absolutely brilliant.

    1484 days ago
  • v JERICHO1991
    Another great tribute to running. Inspiring. Thank you.
    1484 days ago
  • v NANHBH
    "...being a runner is a matter of heart."


    You are an excellent writer. What a great story you have to tell! Congratulations on your accomplishment!
    1484 days ago
    Thank you for sharing
    1484 days ago
    Great job. I am very proud to read your blog about your accomplishments in running. Our private goals are the most important to reach. They are your inner secrets that you hold in until you can let it free. Congratulations
    1484 days ago
    Your description of the 6th grade you nearly brought tears to my eyes. I could just see you, or a kid just like you, in every gym class in America. So much heartbreak, so many tears of shame. I wish they could all turn it around the way you have. Maybe we need to start a movement like the "It Gets Better" movement, but for obese kids...
    1485 days ago
    Thanks so much for sharing!!!
    1485 days ago
    Thank you for the encouragement. Your story shows a strong soul. You have found what works for you.
    1485 days ago
  • v HVNSNT9
    Keep up the great work. I had an ankle injury and now that I am out of a cast and just starting to "move" I was thinking about going running. Your post has encouraged me to do this even if it is only around the block this evening :) Thanks for being an inspiration and sharing your story.
    1485 days ago
    This is an amazing blog. Thanks for sharing. I can really relate since I also just started running about 2 weeks ago. It makes me feel strong and alive and no one can take that feeling from me.
    1485 days ago
    Correction ... you did win a race! You won the race! You won from within because you proved something to yourself ... to you! You were, and are, victorious! Thanks for sharing!

    1485 days ago
  • v NAYNAY69
    I wish I could put into words my feeling of excitement for you and anxiousness to 'do' as you have done. The spark and motivation I feel when I read of your accomplishments keep me looking deep inside of myself to see what I can do. I have made a week of leg and knee exercises and elliptical walking and today have signed up for the SparkPeople's 5K Your Way Rookie Running Program. I don't know if I can do as wel as you or others and I may have to modify it some but I am sure going to see!

    Thank you!

    1485 days ago
    Thankyou for sharing your story.
    1485 days ago
    You never know what you're made of until put to the test. You've done a fantastic job. Each day gets better. emoticon
    1485 days ago
  • v PAMATX
    Fantastic story! I love the way you wrote it. You painted such a clear picture, I was right there with you and the bugs.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1486 days ago
  • v JENNY160
    Wow. I was right there with you in that gymnasium.
    1486 days ago
    thank you for sharing
    1486 days ago
    This will inspire so many. Keep running, and thank you for sharing!
    1486 days ago
    I too suffered the embarrassment of running or gym in junior high. Never was strong in athletic stuff. Thanks for sharing. You are an inspiration to me not to quit, Thank you! emoticon
    1486 days ago
    You made me cry.....what an inspiration. I'm proud of you, and hope to be proud of me like that sometime in the future.
    1486 days ago
    Thank you so much for this
    1486 days ago
    Great story. I read it to my wife, who is a writer, and she thought it was excellent. It has to inspire those who read it. THANK YOU!! Glenn
    1486 days ago
  • v YIWEN39
    Thanks for sharing your journey. I'm very happy for you that you found your inner runner. Keep going, you deserve it!
    1486 days ago
  • v CAN_DO_IT
    Your post seems like a sign from god to me. I have been contemplating to begin running for past couple of months. I have borrowed books from library and have been pumping myself to do it. But in some corner of my mind i have been hesitating. Aint i too big, what wld happen to my knees, i doubt a non runner can ever run and all. But i read your post and bam i know i can do mailbox at a time.
    Your post is the sign i was waiting for. Txs so much.
    1486 days ago
    This wonderful story is "Pure Excellence" ........ I applaud you ..... for you really are a Champion, not to mention, you write so beautifully! ....... You are an inspiration to all to pursue a dream and never give up ....... to trudge on thru the painful ridicule (and yes, it brought tears to my eyes as well as other readers) ..... It always saddens me that there are those who scoff, mock and are cruel ...... But you are the one standing while we are blessed reading ........ and so glad to see there will be more blogs as well. Bless you! ...... (Maybe you should write a book) emoticon
    1486 days ago
    I hated gym class! I hated exercise.

    Today I walked a 10K (my fitness trainer hasn't released me to run)

    I'm dreaming of at least a half marathon.

    Thank you for sharing your story
    1486 days ago
  • v NEWSTART127
    This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.
    1486 days ago
  • v JENN03275
    I was never athletic, fingers crossed I wouldn't be the last kid picked, afraid of looking stupid. I wish I would have known years ago that I would love running so much. Maybe I would have felt more athletic. However, 38 isn't too old to find something I love.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You will truly be an inspiration to many!!
    1486 days ago
  • v MISSLISA1973
    You ARE a champion. And my hero.
    1486 days ago
  • v -PAULA
    Thanks for sharing your amazing progress.
    1486 days ago
    I too dreaded gym all the way through high school I've always been overweight. Well I found SP and motivational blogs and yours is one of them! Thank you for sharing.
    1486 days ago
  • v MONTANA1231
    Very inspiring! As a non-runner who aspires to become a runner, I really understand what you are saying. I look forward to following your journey. And look forward to setting my own neighborhood "mailbox" goals.
    1486 days ago
    1486 days ago
    great story. I'm finding it hard to run in new places while I'm traveling. So I just walk. Maybe this is the inspiration to push further.
    1486 days ago
    This was so touching "sniff" Had me feeling sorry for that 6th grader that you were, and so happy for the man you have become!
    1486 days ago
  • v KAREN_NY
    So glad I read this. Not only because I'm so happy for you, but because I needed it today.

    I had looked forward to this run all week. Through all the deadlines and crap, I couldn't wait. It was going to be the longest run of the season, the one that said, "I'm in training." But my plans for a glorious 7 mile run around my favorite parks became 5 miles of heat & exhaustion -- I just couldn't bring it today. I'm feeling fat & sluggish & feeling like I quit before I had to because it just got hard. Some part of me knows I could have run faster and further, and I'm not quite forgiving myself yet.

    Reading your blog today -- and your tri plans, woohooo!! -- reminds me that tomorrow I can get back out there. Thanks,
    1487 days ago
  • v BUDRFLY31
    I am the mailbox queen as well you are the mailbox king. 2009 was my year. And I am a runner now. Each mailbox was a victory. A quarter of a mile, then a half, than a whole mile...4 years later, just last month, I ran a marathon. It's in my heart...♥, and yours too.
    1487 days ago
    I always wondered if I was the only one who ran at night. I always feel free and peaceful. For an hour or so the entire world belongs to me and I can feel that spark of confidence.
    1487 days ago
  • v MFLYNN8
    I still use that motivation in my own running, but I use it with songs. "I'm not walking until this song ends!" poles work too! You are amazing!
    1487 days ago
  • v GBAUM0432
    Thanks for sharing
    1487 days ago
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