Last time I checked in with you, I made a few confessions:
- I turned 55 this past summer.
- That same day I tipped the scale at a staggering 205 pounds – a full 40 pounds over my, um, “Coaching Weight.” And I stand only 5-foot-8. According to the Body Mass Index, I was technically obese.
According to my three year old son, Teddy, I was “Daddy Fatty Waddy.”
Something had to give – and I quickly concluded it was my gut.
So, I committed to eating better, and eating less. Since my M.O. on book deadlines was crushing a full package of Oreo Double Stufs in one sitting, if I could just cut that back to half a package, I would be making dramatic steps forward.
I also committed to a rigorous exercise program: training for a marathon. And not just any marathon, but the granddaddy of them all: Boston, which runs April 20.
With a lot of support from a grossly overqualified team of coaches, scientists, and other experts, it’s all worked pretty well – so far.
Seven months later, I’ve lost 28 pounds, with 12 more to go. I’m down to 177 for the first time in years. I now fit into clothes that are no longer in style — if they ever were.
On Sunday, I ran the first half of the Boston Marathon. So, all I need to do is double that, and voila, I’ll be a marathoner. Sounds simple, right?
Well, maybe not quite. Talking with Bill Rodgers, who won it four times, and Michigan’s own Greg Meyer, who won in 1983, the first “half” of the race is 20 miles – and that’s the easy part. The second is 6 miles, and there’s no preparing for that. Wish me luck.
As for my pace, I’d describe it as “technically forward.” When Teddy asked me to run with him, I was impressed by how fast he was, and told him so.
His reply: “You’re slow as a snail.”
My kid, everybody. My kid.
My 11-minute mile will fall far short of breaking a four-hour marathon, but it certainly beats my previous pace, which I set on the couch.
Like the old song says, “I’m not very fast, but I go pretty far.” There’s something to that. I’ve learned to run my own race, and embrace my inner tortoise.
I’ve tried a few different approaches to my diet, too, starting with veganism, but I’ve settled on a few basic principles. The first: When you are not hungry, do not eat. This sounds silly, but I broke that rule all the time.
I learned this from Teddy, who never eats when he’s not hungry. You just can’t make him do it – even when I offered him a Stroopwafel, his favorite, after dinner.
“Whoa!” he said, and then: “Maybe later.” He’s not being tough. He’s just not being stupid – like his dad. I’ve slowly learned it’s better to feel a little hungry once in a while than to feel bloated.
Second, I try to put my shoes on, every day. When I can’t run, I walk – something I’ve enjoyed far more than I expected.
Third: Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. Yes, even mine. And yes, I get the irony. They will offer it by the truckload, and it will spoil all the fun. My one exception: the experts I’ve recruited for this mission.
Finally, be patient. Trying to lose 40 pounds and run 26.2 miles, it’s easy to give up. So I keep in mind one of Bo Schembechler’s favorite sayings: “Every day, you get better, or you get worse.”
If you do something – anything! – to get better every day, good things start happening. Example: the “buttons of shame” on my dress shirts, which used to threaten to pop whenever I sat down, now hang loose, unstressed. Progress!
But really, this mission isn’t about losing pounds or gaining miles, but something more basic: to live better, and feel better, for as long as I can. And when I do that, life seems to slow down, and I enjoy it more.
There are still more miles ahead of me than behind me – and I’m still 55, with all that comes with that, including a risk of injury. But I do have one thing I didn’t have before: a little momentum.
Here’s hoping it can carry me across the finish line.
John U. Bacon is the author of six national bestsellers and most recently published Overtime: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football.