Blue Skies and Sunshine: Finding My Path as a Runner

Mama Odie spoke to meOn a recent run, a song moved me like never before. The upbeat, gospel tones of Mama Odie from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog sang out:

You got to dig a little deeper,
find out who you are.
You got to dig a little deeper,
it really ain’t that far.

When you find out who you are,
you find out what you need.
Blue skies and sunshine,
guaranteed.

As a runner, I needed to listen to Mama Odie, figure out who I am and what I need. How far do I want to take this running hobby of mine? What are my goals and what do I need in order to achieve them?

The challenge is that with every race, I was becoming a different runner and by extension a different person with ever-changing needs. When I first began running, my goal was just to finish. I could barely make it around a track without coughing up a lung. “Run to complete, and not to compete,”  is what an accomplished runner told me.  Since then I have completed every race distance up to marathon. It was time to evolve.

Do I want to just work for one realistic long-term goal then retire, or do I want to take it further and eventually one day be on par with my friends? A good race for me would be classified as a terrible race for them. My half marathon PR is 2:47. My goal is to break 2:30 and then reevaluate.

Mama Odie would be proud because I figured out who I am as a runner: I am a pessimistic optimist.

Yeah, I know the two contradict each other, but hear me out.  For me, nothing in life came easy. I was the bullied kid: the late bloomer with the learning disability. I had teachers tell me I would never amount to anything. To say I was an angry child suffering from low self-esteem would be an understatement. I had more issues than National Geographic.  Life experience made me that way.

Yay optimism!

I will always have to contend with a pessimistic nature, but one loses out when one only sees the negative.  I had a lot more positive experiences to offset the negative ones. Whenever the pessimistic feeling rears its ugly head I stop, take a deep breath, and try to identify at least two positives in the situation. Nine times out of ten I feel better instantly. By doing this I have trained myself to become an optimist.

Mr. Pessimist started whispering in my ear the minute I set my goal. Now I need to become Mr. Optimist and prove the other guy wrong.

Since I know who I am, according to Mama Odie, I’ll find out what I need. I found this to be true with a little soul searching.

I need friends along the way.

I would have never made it across the finish line of my first marathon had it not been for these guys.
I would have never made it across the finish line of my first marathon had it not been for these guys.

I seek out people who understand running. Fortunately I have found this with my friends here on Team Shenanigans and my other running team, The Mickey Milers. The people here have become like family in so many ways. They encourage me to keep going, listen when I have my moments of doubt, and tell me I’m full of it when I complain (see #10).

I need accountability.

I am being e-coached by Olympic Athlete Jeff Galloway. He put together a six-month personal training plan for me. Each week I e-mail him to report my progress. He adjusts my training plan based on my reports.

I need Weight Watchers.

This is the only weight management plan that has been effective for me. I need to keep a healthy weight to reach my goal.

I'm not going back to the guy I was before. Running helps ensure that.
I’m not going back to the guy I was before. Running helps ensure that.

I need to say “screw it,” and enjoy the process.

Some days it’s hard to get out the door, but the feeling I get after a workout makes it all worth it. At times running is a revolution filled with anger and frustration. Other times it’s a renaissance filled with renewal and pure joy. At the age of 35, a competitive edge has been sparked in me that I never had before, because I wasn’t an athlete growing up. This sport has changed me for the better. I owe it to myself to give it my all.

Good times ahead

Armed with this better understanding of myself, I can work toward my running goals to compete and not just complete. I know who I am. I figured out what I need. It’s time to make my own blue skies and sunshine.

Blue skies and sunshine.

There might be bumps along the road, but I will finish this journey to a PR and then start new ones… guaranteed!

Dave Koch

About Author:

Running sort of snuck up on Dave. He found his love for it after being asked to take on the role of an assistant track coach at the high school where he currently teaches. Before long, he found himself inspired by the runners he was surrounded with. Dave brings a light side to the far end of the race pack. He especially enjoys running in Disney World. Having never imagined himself to be a runner, Dave has embraced the idealism of Walt Disney believing that with hard work one can achieve greatness. He's always up for shenanigans along the way.

One thought on “Blue Skies and Sunshine: Finding My Path as a Runner

  1. Dave, thanks for sharing. It’s important that we all learn who we are and what works for us but to also be willing to adjust our goals as we go through this journey. I have no doubts that you will accompish whatever you set out for yourself! You’ve so got this!!

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