As mentioned before, I started running at the age of 20. I was living in the Dominican Republic at the time as a missionary and a fellow missionary introduced me to running. I took to it quickly, being skinny and fairly light on my feet. Interestingly, it took a social situation, running with a good friend, such as this missionary, to lead me to the conclusion that running could be an enjoyable experience. Up until that point, running seemed like something that was only to be done when thoroughly coerced, as was the case in gym class or running from John Law. Each morning we would get up early and run several miles before starting our day. I did so in "short" shorts and was mocked mercilessly by locals. I found it humorous, and to this day feel a necessity to reduce the seriousness of my runs in some way.
Upon returning to The United States and college, running continued to start or end many of my days, usually running by myself at this point. I religiously ran the same course on Y-mountain in Provo, UT, which was almost exactly the length of a 5K. I still love that trail and wistfully remember running in the dark during snowstorms, scaring up deer, and in turn scaring the heck out of myself. I ran it as hard as I could every time I went, believing that each time I went out I needed to make it hurt. These runs built my speed and hill abilities to a point I haven't yet returned to.
After running this course for some time, I decided to try my hand at a local 5K, The Rex Lee Run in 2005 (I'll post a more detailed race report later). I did fairly well coming in under 21 minutes and felt inspired to take on longer races. I ran a 10K shortly thereafter at almost the exact same pace, a half-marathon later that summer, and a marathon relay with friends that fall.
A lack of long-distance training left me woefully unprepared for the half-marathon and nearly limping across the finish line. At that point I began to have knee pain and almost instantly lost interest in running.
In fact, I didn't run much at all over the next 2 years. Between getting out of shape and dealing with discouraging knee pain, I didn't feel motivated and I didn't feel hopeful that I could ever run and like it again. At times I would run for short spurts, but confronted the same pain again and again. I prepared for The Rex Lee Run 2007, but got violently ill right before the race. Defeated, I considered swimming, biking, and other knee-friendly substitutes, none of which ever came to fruition.
Determined to feel like I had felt before, I forced myself to run through the pain and prepared to run in The Rex Lee Run 2008. I ran the race completely unprepared and while underwhelmed with my performance, I felt that this was a small turning point for me.
This post is now too dang long. I'll leave the story there for now and bring it to the current time in another post.