Back when I was in graduate school, I discovered Personal trainer in Chicago. By the time my wife and I moved back to North Carolina for my doctoral program (summer of 2000), I had put on weight and was feeling rather sluggish. We had lived in Dallas for two years while Erin was completing her Masters of Divinity at Perkins School of Theology, and between my full-time desk job (computer programmer for a financial services company) and the fact that it’s too damn hot to do much of anything outside for much of the year in Dallas, I was simply out of shape. I was also pushing 30 and finding that my body was going into, well, let’s call it a new phase of composition.

So after relocating to Durham, Erin and I took up running. We both had more free time, and we needed the exercise. Erin ran in high school and had run a half marathon when we were doing Masters of Theological Studies together our first go around at Duke; I had never been much of a runner. But once I got over the formidable hump of establishing enough of a base level of running fitness to run without thinking about running, I couldn’t get enough of it. I started to stretch out one of my runs each week into a long run. I discovered the glories of the miles and miles of trails in the Duke Forest. I probably should have been doing more reading and writing, but doing something healthy was all the justification I needed to kick the can of producing “original scholarship” just a wee bit further down the road.

I ran my first marathon in January of 2002 (Houston), and then eventually completed 5 additional marathons and a couple of triathlons. At my fittest, I won the novice category of the Pinehurst International-distance triathlon in October of 2004. Ah, the thrill of victory!

Charlie award

And the agony of defeat: I came up 48 seconds short of qualifying for the Boston marathon by running a 3:11:47 at the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon in March of the following year.

The last marathon I ran was the inaugural Eugene Marathon in 2007, less than a year after we moved across the country so that I could take my current job as an editor at Wipf and Stock. I ran the race for free by volunteering as a pacer for those seeking to run a 3:40; hilariously, all of my group members either blew up early or ran off ahead of me, though I finished almost exactly on pace, all by my lonesome, with a 3:40:01.

I’ve continued to run, on again off again, since the Eugene marathon, but working another full-time desk job, having another baby, and just settling into our new life as adults with careers and children . . . well, there has been less time to procrastinate and therefore, I suppose, less time for fitness! Consequently, I put weight back on, and while I have continued to run, I started to find it difficult to increase my mileage or to run aggressively without getting hurt. I DNF’d my first race ever with a re-injured hamstring at the Eugene half-marathon in 2011.

In January of this year, Erin and I decided to get back into shape. We started to follow the free eating and workout schedules provided by Drew Manning through his “Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit” web site. Manning is a personal trainer who was regularly hearing from clients that he didn’t really know what it was like to try to lose weight because he had always been in shape. He eventually took the pushback to heart and decided he’d find out what it’s like. So he stopped exercising and started eating lots and lots of unhealthy foods. He gained 76 pounds in 6 months, and then over the next 6 months he chronicled exactly how he lost all that weight and got back into shape—going from fit to fat to fit. Erin and I didn’t have 70+ pounds to lose, but we certainly felt fat enough to appreciate the free tips on getting fit!

And, strangely enough, it’s basically worked. I’ve lost over 30 pounds and am running stronger and longer than I have in years. Erin hasn’t lost quite as much, though she didn’t need to and she has, unlike me, actually hit the goal weight she established for herself when we started. It’s good to be back in shape. I’m even starting to think about making another run at qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I was 33 when I tried the first time. I’ll be 43 before I toe the line for a second try. With the extra 10 years comes an extra 15 minutes—the qualifying standard will be 3 hours and 25 minutes instead of 3:10. If any readers happen to be middle-aged distance runners, any wisdom you have to offer about running fast at 40+ years of age would be greatly appreciated!