I’m sitting here on my ass, barely able to walk. So I’m going to take this time and be productive. To tell you the tale how I’m between numb and immeasurable amounts of pain. A story that started as something completely different and today, nine months later we have reached the apex. How I went from hating long distance running for 27 years to running a marathon with 3 months of training.
My new year’s resolution for 2019 is that I’m not going to drink alcohol, period. I hadn’t had anything to drink for the past 3 months anyways, so it seemed like a fairly simple goal. I wanted something easier, because up to this point, I haven’t been able to keep the promises I’ve made to myself. The best I’d get is 6 months and then I’d get lazy, complacent and eventually as Mr. Smith said, it’s inevitable.
With this goal in mind I was able to convince IVAN to join me. Personally I think he drinks too much when he starts and as he says, he can keep going as long as he wants. There have been plenty of examples from our days in Australia, where he’d get so shit mixed that I’d have the ungrateful task of retelling him everything he did and didn’t do. To the best of my knowledge at least.
A week later I got thinking, again. Even though it’s going to be a challenge for IVAN, it really isn’t for me. I don’t like alcohol. It tastes like ass and what it does to otherwise decent or weak-willed people… All you have to do is read the news about another drunk driver killing an innocent victim. Something that is normal in Estonia’s society. Like shootings in America.
So before everyone unloads their paychecks up to the skies in a blaze of glory, I conducted a plan of sorts, an initial idea to improve myself, physically and mentally. A way how to make promises to myself and actually keep them. Instead of making a “resolution” for an entire year and then breaking it once, twice or completely abandoning it. I came up with these fun little monthly challenges that I would embark on. Every month would be a different promise that I would stick to. It’s a lot easier, when the goal is 30 days away, instead of 365. You’re less likely to cheat and actually stick to your guns.
I don’t consider myself a weak-willed person, but this entire concept of a “New years resolution” seems redundant at best. What happens next year, will you revert back to your old ways? Stick to it? Isn’t the idea to better ourselves, kick an annoying habit or instill a good one? We all have moments of weaknesses, where we succumb to the influence of the outside or betray our own trust. Instead of breaking midway through, you’d get to decide at the end of the month if it’s something you still want or not.
My thought for this comes from the idea that 30 days should be enough to encode a positive habit into my body. If it’s something I enjoyed, I’ll most likely keep doing it. In my mind it should work the other way around as well. Example, you want to get rid of a bad habit, go 30 days without and the addiction’s gone, right? Technically yes, but.. this is where the paradox starts. If you couldn’t do it for 365, but you were able to do it for 30 days, what stops you from reverting back to exactly how things were before?
Regardless of these thoughts that were racing through my mind, I decided to double down and go through with both of my plans. I’ll do the strict entire year without any alcohol and I’ll challenge myself every month with something new. New habits I want to have, old ones that I want to get rid of and most of all. I want to prove to myself, that I am the master of my mind and body. The moment I put my all into it, I will succeed. Even in the face of adversity and let-downs I’ll keep my chin up. There’s always next month and by the end of the year, I’ll end up breaking even with months completed and failed. That’s the mentality I went in with.
My plan for January was fairly simple. I’ll go an entire month without smoking pot. Now some context here. Ain’t going to lie, I like green. I even finished the year with a short vacation to Amsterdam. Smoked a lot of legal pot, ate some shrooms and rode a bicycle around the beautiful city. With such an “excessive” vacation behind me, I felt it appropriate to start my year with a clean head. No distractions.
February had a similar idea. It had to do with my addictions and proving to myself, that I can do without them. They may help or even distract, but I will not be dependent on anything, but myself. My vice? I like energy drinks, especially Red Bull. That’s my only source of caffeine, because I don’t drink coffee. One might even go as far as to say that I dislike it with a passion. One or the other, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve just changed the substance, the problem is the same. Me going squeaky clean for a month cold turkey, is just what I need. I can live without caffeine and I’ll prove it. I need it.
In March I wouldn’t eat any snacks for an entire month, because of my eating habits. I won’t call them necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone either. I often eat a lot of processed food, pastries from the supermarket, snacks in the evenings and almost no veggies, fish or other healthy products. I planned on putting a home cooked meal challenge later down the line, but I’d start off easy. No chips, crisps, sweets, nuts, sticks, crackers or anything. No snacking.
The first three months have all been about abstinence. Forcing myself to adapt and overcome. The weather is getting warmer and it’s about time to start adding layers. The month of April is going to be spent walking. I’ll wake up earlier every morning, go for a 30 minute walk and then resume my day. It’s going to get my blood moving, fresh oxygen pumping in to my muscles and brain. It’s the perfect way to start a morning. I’d follow it up in May, by changing the word walking to running and keeping the 30 minute limit. It doesn’t matter how much or quickly you walk or run. It’s about doing that 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Collect your thoughts for the day, be ready.
That’s as far as I had it thought out. Five months of challenges, tiny changes in my everyday life. Which don’t even have to be permanent, but they could be. I’m only making small commitments. It’s not time or energy consuming, so I really don’t have any excuses. It’s about me and for me. So how did I do?
Not smoking pot is fairly simple, don’t buy any. That’s what it all boils down to. I had already informed all of my friends, so they wouldn’t offer me any. They’d tease me about it, but would never give me any. All I had to do was not find any. You can’t get it from a store yet, so don’t. It might be bad for the first week or so. Some interesting dreams and cold sweats during the nights. Some noticeable lack of positivity and happiness. I’m not feeding it to my body anymore, it has to start producing dopamine on its own. After the initial shock was over, I had no ill effects. Cold turkey isn’t the best choice for addictions, but I know it works for me. Usually. W 1-0 L
February rolled around, I already knew what to expect. By that time I was averaging two cans a day. First one in the morning, straight after waking up and the second one during the day or evening. Depending on school and work. I was reliant on the caffeine to keep me going. I felt like shit for a week. I’d get my body out of bed by 11:00, but my brain woke up around 16:00. I was low on energy, motivation, avoided socializing and people in general. It’s a little dark pit, where you feel like you’re stuck. You still want to be the same person, but you’re not. It had to get worse, before it got better and then it was gone. I’d love to have a taste because of the flavor, but I can’t. I’ve seen the spiral, I’ve gone all the way down and it doesn’t look pretty. I would’ve sworn that one time in Australia, after I had six cans, my piss was neon yellow. W 2-0 L
March was going to be easy. I’ve already kicked two addictions into the dick. What’s a bag of chips going to do? Jump into my lap and force himself onto me? Sorry, but this ain’t a Woody Allen movie. I ace the month with my eyes tied up and hands behind my back. I hadn’t eaten an unhealthy snack the entire month. For the longest of times, I thought that was enough for it to consider a success, but if you look up and read it again. I had cheated and I didn’t want to admit it, to myself. To me. I reasoned with myself, made excuses that I had healthy snacks. Carrots are healthy and good for you, and even nuts have a lot of good nutrients in them, but it doesn’t change the fact. My goal was to eliminate snacking, and stick to eating proper meals. I had failed. W 2-1 L
With the mojo of a big dick winner I walked into April. I’d get up, brush my face, lace up and our for a stroll. I left my phone home and took a watch for time keeping. Six in the morning or eleven in the afternoon, the first week was a big success. I enjoyed every step I took and the moments I had with my mind. I eventually ended up carrying a notebook with me to scribble down some “good ideas.” And then just like that I skipped a day. There was no reason, I just didn’t do it. I walked the next two mornings and then skipped a few more. By the end of the month, I had skipped almost half the days. The best part about all of this? I considered calling it a win. “I shouldn’t over do it. It’s about moderation. You made it this far champ.” W 2-2 L
Guess how many time I went for a run the next month. If you guessed zero, then congratulations. You know how it feels to betray yourself. I had stopped entirely and since I didn’t have my next month figured out, it rolled over into June and I was being a lazy fuck again. “I’m going to work, school, mechanics apprentice, I’m already doing all of these things.” I was, but then I wasn’t. It was just work, because as Alice said: “Schools out for Summer.” W 2-3 L
I had been talking about this “program” of mine since I started doing it. Everybody knew what I was doing on any given month and they encouraged me to keep going. I’d get called unorthodox or maybe even slightly crazy, but there was a method to my madness. It had purpose. In the beginning I did it with my girlfriend and she had her own little challenges, but as time went on she would lose interest in this “game” of mine. Around the middle of June, nobody was participating and it had died out or so I thought. I happened to meet two buddies of mine that I don’t see often. They had started their very first challenge. They’d do push-ups every day in June, pull-ups in July and sit-ups in August. The number would go up gradually, the stronger they got.
What got me then wasn’t what they were doing, but their passion. The way they talked about it. How each day is a challenge, but two weeks later they’re pumping like in the military. It reminded me why I started this. How I felt in the beginning when I was winning. How good it felt to end a month with a small victory. How much it helped me push myself the next month. To move forward, because it’s those little wins that matter. I’ve said this before, but we can’t always win big, because it takes a lot of time and effort. We need these little victories to tie us over, until we can get the big W. I had found new motivation and power, I was back in the game. So I did what any reasonable person with a bit of extra time on their hands would do. I signed myself up to the Tallinn Marathon.
The race would be on the 8th of September, 42 kilometres on concrete, through the streets of Tallinn. I had my first run on the 14th of June, I did 6 kilometres. The most I’ve ever actually run is 10 kilometres and that one time IVAN and I did Tough Mudder, and clocked in 18 kilometers. Besides that, nothing official. I’d usually half-run, half-walk when I had to run longer distances. It’s boring, repetitive, tiring, annoying, boring, painful, dull, hard, difficult. A lot of work.
I’d run every few days, increasing my distance traveled or the time spent running. I’d move it up to 10 km or 1 hour, add 2 km or 15 minutes weekly. When my feet started getting sore, I did research. Looked into proper form, technique, possible injuries, equipment I’d need, everything that had to do with getting into marathon shape. On average, I found that you should be able to do it with 9 months of training. Not even daily, but just regularly. I bought myself proper shoes for concrete, a water pouch and a phone holder. When I’d start getting out of breath, I concentrated on breathing techniques. Remembering something I heard a long time ago. When we’re running, we forget to breathe out properly, so we end up getting less oxygen than optimal. I’d constantly remind myself to breathe out fully, until it became natural.
None of that matters if I can’t deal with my biggest problem. The fact that I hate being bored. I can listen to music, but my mind would drift and eventually it’s just noise in the background. I could lock myself away in a fantasy land, but spending too many hours a day there isn’t healthy either. I needed something that would keep my mind entertained throughout the run, while distracting me from the monotony, the physical difficulties and whatever else I might face. Luckily, I found audiobooks.
Within these three months I ran for a total of 350 kilometers, while clocking in a little over 40 hours of run time. I was entertained by the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I learnt about the universe listening to Stephen Hawking’s “The Universe in a Nutshell.” I was motivated by Grant Cardone’s “Be Obsessed or Be Average.” I had gotten used to running and my gear. The longest run I had, was half a marathon, which I finished in 02:06:00. I was physically ready. The night before the race, I watched “Rocky” so I’d get mentally ready. You can never be too prepared. Use all the tools in your arsenal, be the best.
It’s 6 am, race day. The start is three hours and it’s time for the prep. I drink a Red Bull, slide a fresh Odens under my lip and try to take a shit. I do my daily writing, eat banana pancakes and cocoa curd for breakfast. I try to take dump, shower, shave and finally put my pants on. I tape my toes, nipples and apply gel to my knees and ankles. I choose my book for the race, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I do stretches, give up on trying to clean my colon and put the rest of my running gear on. As I move out, I head straight to the starting gates. In less than ten minutes, it’s showtime.
Final moments, last stretches, Adams is already telling me the tale of Arthur Dent and we’re off. Over two thousand people with one goal in mind, reach the finish line. I’m able to easily run my pace for the first 16 kilometers, until my knees start hurting a bit. I’m able to keep slugging, drinking sports-drinks, eating salted bread, bananas and oranges every 3-5 kilometers. Each and every one of these stations is something to look forward to. At the halfway mark I see my dad and sisters on the sidelines. They came to cheer me and my mom on, who is running half a marathon later the same day. It gives me a boost and I keep moving my feet, one in front of the other. I have run more than ever in my life, until I can’t. My knees are sore, my speed is dropping rapidly, and I end up walking when I reach the “pit-stops.”
I have more than fifteen to go and my body is already screaming at me, telling me to stop this nonsense and go home. I keep persisting, I jog for as long as I can, and then walk a few step. I keep doing it until the Ice Pack stop, where they spray my knees. Another boost to keep me going. The book is getting super interesting, distraction successful. I gain another few kilometers. Bit by bit, step by step, the destination is getting closer. Still ten more to go, but I’m moving forward. Don’t stop, every step matters. Five kilometers before the finish line and the book is over. I had reached the end of the book and I still had a bit to go. I turn to Spotify and turn on the “Gains brah” mix.
“I am not a bum. I am not a bum.” I keep quoting rocky in my head as I turn to music. One of my favorite hype songs comes on next and I feel it. I feel the power in my body, the pain slowly fading away and new energy in my step. I pick up the pace until I notice that I’m running at the same speed as I did in the beginning. I have broken through the wall. The dread wall every single marathon blog, article, news and fluff piece wrote about. I had punched my way through the pain, through the hurt, through the hard times. I kept gaining speed, more motivation. One hype song turns into the second one, a third one. “I am not a bum.” I see the 39 km sign, the 40km sign, the 41 km sign. This is it, the final stretch. My speed is a lot higher than normal, I’m not out of breath, I’m in good form and I’m in pain. In so much pain, but it gets pushed so far in the back that it doesn’t even matter anymore. I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Not before I’ve crossed that finish line. I see the flags, the people on all sides cheering and yelling. I see my friends who throw me a high-five as I cross the line. I did it. 42.2 kilometers in 05:25:38. I ran a marathon in three months. I won W 5-3 L
Now we’re here, a day later and life goes on. I still toke, but I mostly feel in control. I’ve had fewer energy drinks in these past eight months than I did in January alone. I’ve started cooking more and eating healthier, but I still often snack. I trained and ran a marathon, the greatest high I’ve experienced for a while, but it’s already fleeting. I want more. I want another challenge. This is not the finish line, it’s just another checkpoint. The year isn’t even over yet, there’s plenty more room to grow and fail. I’m not fooling myself anymore, at times I am going to fail. But I’m going to make sure I win a lot more.
This is the part where I’m supposed to encourage you to try. Try a bit harder, differently, something entirely new perhaps or try again. Keep trying and don’t stop. Put on a “2-hours epic music” and get to work. Do your shit today and not tomorrow. Get off your ass and motivate yourself, ain’t nobody else got time to do that. Easier said than done, right? You know yourself better, as I know myself best. What worked for others, didn’t work for me. I’m just trying to find, what does.
These past eight and a half months have been challenging. I’ve struggled and I’ve succeeded. The biggest change came with compromise. I will not drink this entire year, because I don’t want to. I might not even drink the next year or the year after that. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never drink again. My semen-father was/is an alcoholic, I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I don’t like the taste and I tend to stay away. Maybe that’s why I don’t like to be addicted to different substances. I was a month sober, but I still smoke pot. I try my best to be one of those “active stoners.” But that’s still an excuse, and I know it. Energy drinks aren’t out of my life, but now I’m in control. You only need one to take two steps back, so I’m being extra careful. Limiting myself as much as possible, do I really need one? Snacks are back on the menu, healthy and otherwise. I don’t walk or run every morning. It’s almost as this entire thing was pointless. Nothing was gained, nothing was lost. I only tested and contemplated, before going back.
Today it feels like the marathon was the only thing that mattered. Everything before that was foreplay. Me jerking my chain, and getting off on the accomplishments. Nothing actually changed. I lost so much weight running that I weighed less than IVAN. Back in Australia, I was at least 15 kilograms heavier than him. He’s building muscle, I lost fat. Eventually, I’ll gain most of that weight back when I start hitting the gym again. None of the changes I harped about in the beginning happened. None of the habits actually stuck around, at least not entirely. The moment my body stops being sore, I have forgotten the challenge. It’s almost as none of it ever mattered.
I’ve already started a new challenge for September, where I’m going to spend an entire month without playing any video games. Which is huge, considering on average I spend 2-3 hours every single day playing games. At home, on my phone, with my friends or alone. Even now the point of the challenge is getting muddled, why? Why am I still doing any of this? What’s the point?
I’m a lazy piece of shit. I take every opportunity to procrastinate and push my deadlines. I’ll work on the blog tomorrow. I’ll do the podcast thing next week. I’ll go for a run later in the evening. I’m going to.. All of these empty promises, day in and day out. I’m a lazy piece of shit, that aspires to be better, to do more. To achieve the goals and dreams I’ve set for myself. To see through with the things that matter to me. To be the best version of myself. I’m a lazy piece of shit, but I swear that I’m trying. I know that I’m trying. I just need to try harder. To try something different.