For me, running was always the purest way to accomplish the goals of physical and mental well-being. I started running, my Sophomore year in college, as a means to deal with anxiety and depression. The first week was the worst. I was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker, and ten pounds overweight. At first, I'd walk-run the distance of a mile. I was gasping and gagging for air. After about a month of running every day, I kicked the smoking habit and was running about four-miles a night. I took a winding path through the woods, in back of my dormitory. I was running in the great Shawnee National Forest, at Southern Illinois University. It was beautiful. I saw wild deer, prairie flowers, and fish jumping out of the lake. The sunsets were remarkable. I started getting in touch with nature and myself. The running relaxed my mind and put me in a meditative state.
Soon, I realized that long distance running had a spiritual side to it. I was a student of Eastern Philosophies, and went to an Indian educator at the university to learn about Mahayana Buddhism, and after a while, he gave me a mantra to recite while I ran. His name was Douglas Allen. He was a marvelous man, who had lived in India for 5 or 6 years, and taught Indian Philosophy. I learned how to breathe from my diaphragm. This technique, we runners lovingly refer to as "belly-breathing". The stomach comes out, as the lungs take in air, and as the air is forced out, the stomach is pulled in. This is the proper way to breathe. All my life, I thought the opposite to be true, but after practicing this technique, it becomes second nature to the runner. I repeated my mantra in cadence with my foot strikes.
In one years time I went from an out-of-shape, 180 lbs., to a lean racing weight of 158 lbs. I was running 60 miles a week. I would take my long runs on Sundays...anywhere from 16 to 22 miles. I threw all my medication away. The Thorazine, the mood elevators, everything...I felt reborn. I wasn't a zombie anymore. My mind was clear. I had a calm inside my soul, which I never experienced before. I quit drinking, doing drugs, and started eating properly.
I experienced "the runners high", something we long distance runners all have in common. The high is caused by endorphins produced by the body of runners who choose to run for an hour or two. I ran five marathons in my life. The last was at the age of forty. The marathon is the true endurance test, for the long distance runner. If the 26.2 mile race can be completed in under four hours, a runner is considered to be a "true distance runner" by the running community. He or she, can claim to be a marathoner. My best time was 3:28 at the Milwaukee Marathon, way back in 1978. I was 28 years old.
Running was a great joy in my life. I can't run anymore, but due to advanced sports technology, I still get to experience the "runner's high" by doing extreme aerobic workouts on an elliptical machine. I still meditate while I burn off the calories. The body needs to sweat, and purge out the poisons. I am grateful to my higher power that I have no need of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.
My name is Rich Cronborg...I am 61 years old...I am a Marathoner. Once i paid my dues, and ran an honest race, I got to join this select club of athletes. It is one of the purest, most beautiful things, I have done in my life. All it costs is the price of a good pair of running shoes...and determination to fullfill a dream.