My race

My race

A Story by Alex Villasana
"

The reasons I became a runner.

"

Death could be a very strong motivation to make changes in life. Not for me. At least, not to change my attitude toward food and physical activity. I love to eat and, due to my busy schedule, exercise was not very high in my priority list. That combination in itself can be deadly. If you add to the situation a family history of high blood pressure and diabetes, then you start to get the picture of my overall health condition, at the end of 2002. Then I was 360 lbs. As of October, 2010, I am 215.


My love for food had nothing to do with depression, loneliness, or the need of comfort. To eat, for me, means to celebrate special events with family and friends; the problem was that I have always been very good at transforming any event into a special one. And it is not as if I have anything in particular against physical activity: I enjoy the outdoors, and back in Mexico I played football from middle school to college (cultural note: college football in Mexico is not as big of a deal as in the US). I just never really saw the need to invest resources in keeping my body fit.


I used to say, If I am going to die, I hope it happens after a good meal. All this change in the spring of 2003.


Here is the part of my story where I would like to say that I experienced a supernatural, life-changing event, which provided me with an opportunity to contemplate my life, and moved me to make the right changes. Nope. It did not happen like that. It was simply a sermon and a book. The sermon was preached by the pastor of a small church in Houston, TX. The book was written by another pastor, on his sick bed in England, in the seventeenth century.


The sermon preached at Oaklawn Presbyterian Church, that Sunday in Spring was not a particular good one. I am sure that almost everyone forgot about it rather soon. Everyone but me. The text clearly spoke about responsibility and call, and the help that is available to fulfill both. Many have asked me how is that I paid so much attention to that sermon; I guess the fact that I was the pastor preaching helped me a little to remember the message. I doubt this story would be the same otherwise.

In 1656 Richard Baxter was at home, sick. But this English pastor was not able to rest, because he had a responsibility to fulfill: he was scheduled to share a short message of encouragement to other local pastors, in their monthly gathering. Unable to present his message in person, brother Baxter did the very next best thing: he wrote it. That short message of encouragement became The Reformed Pastor. In his book, brother Baxter makes a direct point: pastors most be reformed (another way to say transformed) by the very message they are preaching. The pastor, according to Baxter, must be a good example for his congregation in all aspects of life. Baxter challenges those in ministry to be sure that what they love, and their priorities are in sync with what they preach.


That did it for me. It was not about the fear of death, or my own comfort. It was about expressing love for those around me.


Soon after my personal encounter with these ancient texts, I changed my diet and increased my level of physical activity. Food was still part of my way to celebrate life, family, and friends. But its nutritional value became part of that celebration. Time to exercise went higher in my priority list, as it also doubled as my time to pray and meditate.


After dropping close to 100 pounds and moving to Georgia, I took on running. And I am using 'running' here in a very generous way. Over several weeks moving my body, from point A to point B, using nothing but my legs, was taking a decreasing X amount of time. Observing my body changing, and that X decreasing was a very intoxicating experience. My brain started to be convinced that I was able to do more, that I had to do more. I began to read as many publications about running as I could. I bough my first pair of real running shoes. And I began to compete in road races.


At the beginning, it was 5K races. Then came 10K races. And on a good Saturday morning run I thought about a half marathon. All 13.1 miles of it. Knowing that I was a very slow runner, I wanted to avoid the embarrassment of competing in a “real race”, so I plotted a route of the required distance and started training for it. The day came for me to run my race, from a Norcross public library, to the parking lot of my church in Duluth. Off I went. Almost at the end of those miles, another idea came to my mind: running a full marathon. Being the kind of person that I am, I like to measure the result of any of my endeavors in a tangible way. So, with my own half marathon almost over, I decided that if I was able to finish it in less than two and a half hours, then I would train for a marathon. I did it in 2:39:42; it was close enough.


On November, 2007, I registered for the Nashville Country Music Marathon, which takes place on the last Saturday in April. I like the idea of running on a Saturday morning, giving me some time to rest, and then be able to go to worship, on Sunday morning. I had a friend who had a friend in Nashville, so accommodations for me and my family were set. I also picked a church to go that weekend. And then, training started. For twenty weeks I followed my training program to the letter, with some weeks being particularly more challenging than others. My greatest obstacle was any run longer than 17 miles, due to painful cramps I'd suffer every time I try that kind of run. I actually had to try twice to run more than 19 miles, because the first time I was not able to finish the distance. I was not tired, and my brain kept telling my legs to move, but they did not want to, they could not do it, because the cramps were that severe.

I went back to as many reading sources as I could find, and discovered that my problem was the lost of sodium, through sweat. My rescue came in the form of salty pretzels. With their help, I was able to break the 19 miles barrier, and for the first time in my entire life, I was able to run 22 miles.


Everything was going as planned, until the day my boss told me I had to participate in a missions conference, down in Boca Raton... the same weekend I was supposed to run in Nashville. I worked hard trying to find a way to accommodate both responsibilities, but I was not able to. My only option was to plot my own route, just as I did with my half marathon, and run a week after the conference in Florida.


It was a rainy and windy Saturday morning, which is not the optimal weather to run. But I have trained for twenty weeks. I have done everything I had to. I have come a very long way to face this challenge, and I was not about to let the weather stop me. At 7:00 AM, carrying some supplies with me, I started to run. I left instructions with my family, to meet me half way (a parking lot of a supermarket, in Suwanee) and bring me more supplies, including pretzels.


After five hours and forty-two minutes of running, I reached my finish line: a road intersection close to the city of Buford, GA. Once there, I took off my shoes and socks, and sat on the grass. While waiting for my family to pick me up, I thought about my journey, deeply. I was not the same person any more. No one driving by could have noticed it, but a great deal of transformation was occurring right there, the early afternoon of that Saturday in April. A sermon and a book game the right motivation, the right stimulus to embark into this amazing journey. And I had finished it. At the end of my own contemplation, my brain came with a kind of question it was getting used to ask: So, what should I do next?


Death could be a very strong motivation to make changes in life. Not for me. But love, love for those who look up to you, love for your family and church, that would do it for me. And a book and a sermon reminded me of that.


© 2010 Alex Villasana


Author's Note

Alex Villasana
My first formal attempt to write nonfiction. This was an assignment for an online workshop I took, two weeks ago.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

Alex, nice job on this writing. We're very proud of your accomplishments, but mostly we're proud because of the person you are. Keep celebrating life my friend. Maybe one of these days I can join you on a marathon run. I have at least 3 more planned -- 4 would be okay, too! Thanks for letting TLB and me be a part of your life.
- Andrew

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

It's written with a gentle & humble approach but I actually found it quietly inspiring - understated but uplifting. No need for huge upheavals or tragedy, just a positive change based on positive feelings from what sounds like a positive guy! Obstacles overcome, determination seen through... I like it.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Alex, nice job on this writing. We're very proud of your accomplishments, but mostly we're proud because of the person you are. Keep celebrating life my friend. Maybe one of these days I can join you on a marathon run. I have at least 3 more planned -- 4 would be okay, too! Thanks for letting TLB and me be a part of your life.
- Andrew

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

244 Views
2 Reviews
Rating
Added on November 19, 2010
Last Updated on November 22, 2010

Author

Alex Villasana
Alex Villasana

Norcross, GA



About
A Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, quien desea aprender a comunicarse mejor por escrito. more..