Running

Badassery: a guest post by Dennis Meeks

I’m thrilled to introduce Dennis Meeks to you all. Dennis is a very kind and supportive reader of Running on Sober, and when he mentioned in a comment that he was in the midst of running thirteen marathons in twelve months . . . and doing it to get and stay sober . . . and doing it in his early-60’s, well I practically begged him to share his story with us. And I couldn’t be happier that he said yes. Reading his story of endurance, triumph and lessons learned moved me to tears; then it moved me off of my ass and got me out the door for a run. I hope you’ll enjoy Dennis’s story as much as I did, runner or not. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you one helluva sober running badass, Mr. Dennis Meeks:

BADASSERY

When I tell non-runners that I run marathons (26.2 miles), the first question I get is “why?” And, it’s a very good question.

I have always been running from something, most of us have, I think. Now I am running toward something–sobriety–but to get there I have to run through a ton of bullshit to get to the other side. And I needed help to get there.

Photo via Pixabay, Public Domain.

Photo via Pixabay, Public Domain.

At the tender age of 63, after finally (hopefully) getting off the crazy-go-round of serial relapses that had been ongoing for three years, I decided I would run six marathons in six months. The first two or three went well, so I upped my goal to 12. But then I thought, what if I get injured and need some time off?, so I added one more, #13, just in case I had to skip one, so I could still finish 12 in 12 months.

Running–now I am speaking literally, “feet pounding the pavement” running–and getting sober are not that dissimilar. I’ve been running on and off for decades, but for the last several years, especially 2010 through 2013, my running was mostly off.

I started training again in July 2013 after quitting drink and drugs on June 29, 2013. Some may think it borders on masochism to train for one marathon, and just plain craziness to train and run one every month for a year. But, not so fast . . . I had been drinking myself senseless with alcohol for years, so why not run myself sober? I needed a goal to strengthen my sober resolve.

Running became my go-to therapy: running, hurting, growing and getting stronger with every training run with my self-confidence dimly reflected in the sweat of my contorted face at the finish line of every marathon. It’s difficult to drink (like I did) and exceed at anything other than resolute failure and regret. Running was helping me change all that.

So, my first marathon time this year was a 4:23, not bad for the aged among us. I was stoked. And six months later, I had a personal best at 4:22. And I kept going. Running. Not drinking. Repeat. I ran in the rain, sleet, and the heat of the Tennessee summer, when I came to understand the splendid relief that shade trees and sobriety offer. I ran when I didn’t want to run. I ran when my feet hurt, when my calves cramped, when all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. I ran when I didn’t like myself. And I have kept running now that I have discovered that, hey, I’m not so bad after all. I’m stronger, tougher, more disciplined than I thought. I have endured. By god, that’s what I do, I endure.

Marathons are hard. 13 marathons in 12 months is harder: I ran on beastly hills; I ran in the ugly parts of strange towns; I ran in the glorious Utah Canyon in Provo, Utah; I ran a marathon that was stopped because of an impending ice storm in Little Rock, Arkansas (I was at mile 18–I wasn’t going to stop because of some inclement weather–and I finished anyway with an official time); I ran in Tupelo, Mississippi on the last day of August where the heat is oppressive and the humidity worse (like running with a hot blanket wrapped around your head); I ran a midnight marathon in rain-soaked darkness that consisted of five 5-mile boring loops and then 1.2 miles to make it an official marathon distance of 26.2 miles; I ran the Flying Monkey Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee in November, in a forest of hardwoods the color of copper with swaths of still green foliage providing a peaceful patina over a course with 7,200 feet of total elevation change, up and down, up and down; and, finally, I ran in the desert at the Tucson (Arizona) Marathon — I could have been on the moon, the landscape so different, but breathtaking, from that which I am familiar; the only forests there consist of cacti and shrubs. I plodded, I lumbered, I shuffled, but I always finished. Every freaking one of them. I fucking endured.

Each and every medal, earned through endurance and badassery. (Walker courtesy of a bone spur earned from 13 marathons in 12 months. Speedy recovery, Dennis!) Photo courtesy of Adalyn Meeks.

Each and every medal earned through endurance and badassery. (Walker courtesy of a bone spur earned from 13 marathons in 12 months. Speedy recovery, Dennis!) ~RoS
Photo courtesy of Adalyn Meeks.

And I have been sober every day of this marathon year. Again, not that much difference between running marathons and staying sober. Both are stinking hard (marathons literally so), insanely challenging, and infinitely rewarding. However, although running is a gift, abstinence is essential. Moving forward, letting go, looking back without going back, friending sometimes without being befriended. Falling down, getting up, getting it wrong and making it right.

My first days sober were much more frightening (and more important) than my first trip to the marathon starting line. Running is exhausting and exhilarating, generally, while drinking is always, without exception, a dead-end for me. Smack, thud, every goddamned time.

Now I run “somewhere” because I am determined not to drink “anywhere” anymore. I run because the physicality of it makes me appreciate what I have and what I almost lost. Running and sobriety prepare me for what’s ahead. I had begun to wonder how many more times I would see the sun rise, the moon slide across the night sky, experience the explosive delight of a thunderstorm, hear my 14-year-old daughter’s infectious laugh, or feel my wife’s embrace. I started thinking about being 63 and I actually did some math . . . and it was sobering, no pun intended.

Now, I see more days ahead. More active, sober days. When the alarm screams in my ear in the morning, I awake reluctantly, but gratefully without a hangover or owing anyone an apology. Then I toe the starting line of a new sober day, game face on, experienced, excited and still a bit frightened of what may come.

But, hey, I’m a total badass . . . bring it on.

Dennis Meeks, badass, with one of his first medals from the Navy Nautical Miler. Photo courtesy of Adalyn Meeks.

Dennis Meeks, badass, with one of his first medals from The Navy Nautical Miler.
Photo courtesy of Adalyn Meeks.

Special thanks to LifeRing and the friends I have made there. Without their support my marathon year would never have happened. (Note from RoS: You may learn more about LifeRing Secular Recovery at LifeRing.org)

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Thanks for guest posting Dennis, not only are you a badass, you’re my hero. This one’s for you:

 

Thank you everyone for reading. Jennie, Michelle and I wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and peaceful new year. We’ll be back in January, but until then, please say hi to Dennis in the comments. What did you think of his story? Pretty awesome accomplishment, don’t you think? Would you ever consider running 12 marathons in 12 months? If not marathoning, what helps you stay sober and/or (semi-) sane? ~ Christy

My New Rules for Running (including “I will love my thunder thighs”)

A few thoughts on running, and a handful of “new rules” I hope to follow in my current training season:

  • I will stop calling myself slow. There are others slower than me. Sometimes they’re not in my race, but they’re out there, and they are running. A 12-minute mile is the same distance as a 6-minute mile or a 20-minute mile . . . one mile.
  • I will stop calling myself a fat runner. I have a different build. My thighs are full of thunder and power, and my butt provides good padding for when I fall on it. Also, ass fat makes good running fuel. Just as there are others slower than me, there are others larger than me too, out there running, often passing me with their own thunder thighs and ass fuel.

(Photo found in multiple locations on the internet.)

  • I will love my thunder thighs. I’ll remember the above photo and these two quotes from tumblr whenever I hear the term “thunder thighs:”
    • “Thunder thighs” is meant to be an insult, but to me it sounds pretty f’ing badass. Like I’m Thor or something, creating thunderstorms with my awesome curvaceous legs. ~ gabywankenobi, tumblr
    • I really like the term “thunder thighs” cause then my stretch marks are like lightning, yes I am a storm, I am a force to be reckoned with. . .  ~ radicalcliffe, tumblr
  • I will always remember why I started running in the first place — for my aunt. When I was a child, she would take me to volunteer at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, and I wanted to run it for her before she died. She died from ovarian cancer a couple of months before the race, but I went on to run it for her. In fact, I even ran it with her, carrying some of her remains with me. (She has run every race since then with me too.)

ptree

 

  • I will always remember running in Las Vegas with one of my best friends, A, the year I got sober. We ran back-to-back 10ks down the Vegas Strip — one direction one day, another direction the next. And we did it sober. (And we also saw Sade! And we jumped off the Stratosphere!) And we had So Much Fun.

Our shirts say, “My Sport Is Your Sport’s Punishment”

 

  • If When I finish a race (or a run, a jog, a walk, a “wog,” or an anything), I won’t beat myself up over my finish time. I will be proud that I finished. Finishing is winning.
  • Before a race I will remember the following:
    • I will high-five every child, no matter what. (Well, assuming they want to high-five. It would be a little awkward if they didn’t.) And I will thank water volunteers, no matter what. And I will try not to spill water on them.
    • I will not eat steak quesadillas before a race, no matter what. Nor will I take diuretics just because I feel bloated. I especially won’t take them before racing on a hot, humid summer day. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
    • I will bring safety pins. And chewing gum.
    • I will never forget Boston. I may never run Boston, but I can always run for it.
  • If running stops being consistently fun, I will quit . . .
  • So that I can restart and fall in love with running all over again.
  • And I will never ever hesitate to stop during a run and take in the view.

veg px

run collage
How are you? How’s your running going? Did my friends in the States have a happy Thanksgiving? Should I add anything to my list? What songs or artists are you currently digging? My friend A (the one I went to Vegas with) finally got me into Hozier … what took me so long? LOVE!

16 Miles With Pi, a Monkey, and EJ’s Kidney Worthy Playlist

That has got to be one of the strangest titles ever. Welcome to my brain on the residual effects of Ambien. I hate that stuff, I really do. I hate not sleeping even more though. So I get a few nights of sleep, and you get a few weird titles and comments from Christy. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Well not for everyone. Stupid Georgia. Living with a Dallas Cowboys football fan, you’d think I’d be used to heartbreaking fourth-quarter losses. But no. Watching my Georgia Bulldogs play is like being stuck on the world’s largest rollercoaster, one with lots of upside down loops that make your stomach lurch and invariably make you want to toss your cookies. (Which is a waste of good cookies.) Georgia lost its football season-opener to Clemson on Saturday night, so not only did I stay up too late watching the game, I couldn’t sleep afterward because I was so depressed.

I ended up sleeping late on Sunday morning, which normally is okay, but I really wanted to run outside. What do you do when it’s already 100 degrees at 9 am though? Yeah, I made a date with my treadmill for later. I may be weird, but I’m not stupid. (um…)

So I spent Sunday morning being lazy, drinking extra coffee, reading a blog post or two. I stopped by Paul’s blog and left a short comment on his Spiral Bound post, before he asked me ever so politely, “I thought you weren’t going to be on the computer this weekend?” Oops, busted. So I took that as my sign to exit stage left and get ready for my run. (I later blamed it on my doppelgänger.) Friends don’t let friends put off their long runs, thanks Paul!

Sixteen miles was on the schedule for Sunday–my longest run of the season so far. I actually settled in to it pretty early; I started slower than usual, cued up some good tunes, and channel-surfed until I found the visually stunning movie Life of Pi to look at. I rarely actually watch movies while I run–I’d rather listen to music–but I do enjoy looking at them. Life of Pi, a brilliant book, was one of the more enjoyable movies I’ve looked at during a run. I highly recommend it, though, yes, the book was better.

Speaking of books, I had plenty of time to think about what to read next. I just finished up the Divergent series (think dystopian, Hunger Games, sort of future world) and was considering either The Returned (poet-author returns loved ones from the dead) or The Shining Girls (time-traveling serial killer, touted by some as the next Gone Girl). I’ve decided on The Returned, though I was so blessedly tired Sunday night, I didn’t get further than the first chapter.

Most of the run eased pleasantly along, as pleasantly as long runs can. I finished up the movie and then, needing some new tunes, I headed over to EJ’s blog (“the Seinfeld of blogs“). EJ is a new blogging friend, and he has seriously awesome taste in music. He had posted an incredible set of artists all appearing at Bluesfest 2014. In fact, his set list was so incredible, I asked him if I could steal it for this week’s running playlist. And because EJ is awesome like that, he said, “Absolutely! I love the idea!”

thighs cheering

My thighs and I applaud you, EJ. Thank you for the awesome playlist!

Head over to “Kramer’s” blog post “Bluesfest 2014” to see embedded videos from artists such as Iron & Wine, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Morcheeba and Dave Matthews Band. Be sure to check out both Allen Stone and Valerie June, as their voices blew me away. Oh, and he included my guitar crush Gary Clark Jr.! See what I mean about awesome taste? You’ll understand about the kidney reference after you see his post.

After listening to EJ’s set, I still had two miles to go, so I turned to a few tried and true mash-ups from BootieMashup, including mixes with Run-DMC, Justin Timberlake, and Death Cab for Cutie. There’s also a badass mix with Lady Sovereign that I may turn into my NSFW last-mile theme song (“if you love me then, thank you, if you hate me then…”).

The day after my run finds me with sore legs and chafed arms. Don’t ask me how I managed to chafe under my arms, that was a new one for me, but I have one word: OUCH!

grumpy cat sore workout

The always motivational Grumpy Cat.

Still though, I’m oddly excited about next weekend’s seventeen miles. Maybe I’ll wake up early enough to go visit my cheerleading prairie dog friends at the park.

Speaking of prairie dogs… I got THE CUTEST video of my white dog barking at prairie dogs on the television. I also have some pictures and video of Baby Donkey. I plan to share them on Thursday. It should be a fun family-friendly post, no mention of asses, so feel free to watch with your kids.  As far as Amazing Gracie … well let’s just say it will be pretty amazing if she turns out not being a he. You’ll have to let me know what you think after you see the video.

Oh, and here’s a monkey picture. Just because.

Monkey_riding_pig

from pmlol.com

And this, my new friends, is a more typical post for me. If you found me via Grace, welcome. I hope you like monkeys and music. There’s a lot of that around here. Every once in a while, grace intervenes.

So… what are you reading right now? Have you been exercising? Are you excited about the return of football? Who’s your team? Are you a Seinfeld fan? Do you like monkeys? Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?

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Music:

Bluesfest 2014 by That EJ (click title for blog post and videos)

DJ M.I.F. – Tricky Sandman (Run-DMC vs. Metallica)

Party Ben – Hung Up On Soul (Death Cab For Cutie vs. Madonna)

Sexy Peek-A-Boo (Justin Timberlake vs. Siouxsie & the Banshees)

DJ Jay-R – Sweet Sovereign (Lady Sovereign vs. Eurythmics vs. Shiny Grey) NSFW

(I can’t find a full video for the above song, but if you click the title, you can listen the .mp3 file.)

All four mash-up songs, and more, are available for free download via bootiemashup.com.

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Playlist of selected songs: HERE

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