When I was about ten years old I started to run for training purposes (as opposed to fleeing from my own hopes and dreams as you may have read about in a previous post). I was not running for any organized sport. I did not have a coach. I ran in any kind of shoe you could think of (my mom especially loved it when I would go for a run Sunday afternoon without changing out of my church clothes). I didn’t know what I was doing I just knew one important thing: I wanted to be like Hulk Hogan.
For those of you who are not familiar with Hulk Hogan he was a beloved star of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation especially popular in the 1980’s and ’90’s. Me and all my male elementary school friends (and a few enemies too- but unfortunately not many of the ladies) would all watch what adults (and unhelpful older siblings) were fond of referring to as “fake wrestling.” We would watch a show on the weekend or on a Monday night and then immediately try out the “wrestling moves” we had seen on each other the first chance we got. We would spend long hours arguing about who was the greatest wrestler of all time and would wax eloquent and form arguments as if we were scholars debating important historical events. But what does this have to do with running you might be wondering.
Well, my favorite wrestler was Hulk Hogan. And since I was a “Little Hulkimaniac,” I basically took everything Mr. Hogan said to be my rule of life. He said he worked out every day so I would work out every day. He was strong so I would be strong- and I would never quit- because the Hulk never quit. Well, in one particular interview Mr. Hogan said that as part of his training he ran at least two miles every day. Guess what- after the interview was over I went and asked my mother how far two miles was (she told me how many times around the big block in our neighborhood it was). I retied my shoes (to make sure they would stay on) and I went out for my very first run.
I ran two miles. It hurt my lungs. It hurt my legs. It was mentally difficult to make myself continue through all the physical discomfort. I probably started way too fast. I did not know if I could do it. But I knew that if Hulk said I could train and become strong like him that I was going to train and become strong like him. His word was enough.
When I finished my first run I collapsed on the grass by the street. I was heaving and seeing spots. I stared up at the sky through the filter of the oak tree branches and I waited till the heaving subsided. Then I stood back up and got back down and proceeded to do as many push-ups as I could followed by moving back to the grass and doing as many sit-ups as I could. I found big rocks to pick up. I did bicep curls with full milk jugs. I did everything that came to mind to work towards becoming strong. Then I’d do it again the next day.
The more I ran, the easier it got (surprise). And I just kept doing it. I would go farther, I would go faster- but I began to really like how it made me feel- and eventually even enjoyed the act while I was doing it. Now I don’t think I ever had a 24” bicep (something the Hulk was known for) but I did get into running for its own sake. What started as a child looking up to a TV celebrity birthed a life-long love of running. I am really glad for all of it. And if you ask me if I would do it again my answer would of course be, “you better believe it, brother!”