I’m a runner if I have yet to mention it in the last ten minutes. If you are a runner or know a runner, then you know how true that statement can be. Now, does running define me? No. Being a father, son, friend, and career Navy Vet with 34 years (and counting) does. It is just my main outlet for stress and keeping myself grounded.
I started in the Navy in January 1989, and over the last 34 years, I have always run because I had to. Bootcamp was running while being yelled at; later, at Little Creek, it was running on the beach and the surf, and of course, there was the twice-a-year mile-and-a-half run that I could rest for six months in between.
When I joined the SOF community, I realized I needed to run better. The team became stronger, so I had to as well. I couldn’t be the slowest, so I spent time putting in the miles and signing up for races to keep me motivated. By this time, I had transitioned to the Navy Reserve, and my “day job” was in law enforcement, so running was also a great way to stay in shape.
By 2015, I had retired from law enforcement and had the opportunity to mobilize to Afghanistan with Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan (SOJTF-A). I was mobilized for 14 months and then returned to the unit as a contractor for a combined 3 years in the country. During this time, I sustained some injuries that kept me from running.
Once I returned, I was “broken” physically and mentally. My knees were shot, my marriage was over, and my weight was hovering around 235 pounds. I decided I would either be heavy with bad knees or run with bad knees, so I did what every military guy does…. sign up for a half marathon in Key West without training.
Thirteen miles was enough to reflect on what I needed to do to get back in shape, not just physically. That race was two years ago, and now I am 180 pounds, running several times a week, and I have signed up for my first 50- and 100-mile races, which will happen early next year. I run a few road races yearly but keep those focused on VAN (Veterans Adventure Network) runs, law enforcement, and military-specific races. I have really found my place in the world of trail running. The community is closer and like that of the military. We all speak the same lingo and share a camaraderie like in the military. Running the trails around Florida gives me time to reflect on myself, and I really enjoy being outside. I love pushing myself to the limit of what my body can do and then letting the mental side take over, knowing I can keep going. Running has helped me get to where I wanted to be, and I give thanks for that.