A Life of Change as a New Runner ~Keith Hanson

Dec 11, 2014

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Alright, well maybe I was a little overweight. Fat, maybe? Chubby, okay? Yeah, we’ll go with Chubby. So I was a chubby, Taco Bell-eating (mmm taco bell), non-runner who regularly and disdainfully reacted to a story or suggestion about a 5K, 10K or whatever- distance race with “What? Why would you do that? What were you running from? I don’t get it,” (damn this first paragraph! Now I can’t stop thinking about Taco Bell!). And then, in May of 2012, I began running. I run a lot these days, but still eat the occasional hand-crafted delicacies that Taco Bell has to offer (they recently brought back the cheesy bean and rice burrito… there is a god!). Now I am the one who gets the weird looks and the always hilarious “Why would you run if it’s not from the cops? You’re crazy. Oh, I like to run, if it’s to the fridge or the kitchen,” or the super common “I’ll run anywhere if it’s for beer (okay, I happen to agree with that one).” Yeah, you’ve all heard the intelligent variety of these comments. They are sooooooo funny.

I’m a dedicated runner now. I’ve ran roads, trails and beaches in Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, and the Philippines. Unfortunately, before I began running, I missed incredible opportunities to run in Australia, New Zealand, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Sure, I have a routine and regular routes like most runners do (most of my routes pass by at least 2 public restrooms, which is a total necessity), but I’ve been insanely lucky to have run in such a diversity of beautiful places and experience a wide variety of the natural, outdoor playground. The plan is to continue exploring the beaches, roads and trials of the world, taking the paths less traveled, and opting for the hard way over the easy way. Of course, I will also explore the food and drink, and try to get some culture wherever I go. And the people, it’s all about the people. It always is. The idea is to recount these adventures for you, the reader. So here it goes:

This is my first blog post in a series of posts that I hope to be about a number of things that interest me (and you, the reader). In a word, the blog posts will be about life, but all blogs are about life, right? To me, and in this context, that means running, endurance, fun, family, science, friends, the ocean, surfing, food, health, biology, sports, challenges, triumphs, and a whole host of other things. In no way will I pretend to be an expert in anything that I’m not an expert in. Additionally, in no way will this blog be serious. The stories will be ridiculous and will jump around so much that the chronology will be infinitely hard to grasp (though I will do my best to give you associated dates or general times that events and stories occurred). With any luck at all, someone will get some enjoyment and/or information out of these posts and maybe my stories and experiences can actually help someone. Alas, if nothing else, these posts can just be fodder for anonymous commenters to trash someone they don’t know, and will never meet! Only time will tell.

[Disclaimer: I will use a bunch of parentheses, brackets and other techniques as side notes and small tangential stories within the body of paragraphs. It’s how I think and how my brain works.]

I recently made a pretty big life change. I moved from Houston, TX to Charleston, SC about three weeks ago. However, I had only moved to Houston about 5 months before that! Yeah, I move a lot and work a lot of jobs, mostly on short-term contracts. Oh, if you haven’t figured this out by that very short introductory description, I’m a “Millennial.” [I just typed “Millennial” into a large search engine, cough google cough, and one of the first results that turned up was an article in The Atlantic titled “How Budweiser Lost Millennials.” This is clearly a VERY serious issue. What are your thoughts?]

So, aside from the ridiculously asinine moving truck/trailer rental situation that resulted in me going to a multitude of truck rental locations who couldn’t honor my reservation or had no record of it, and eventually ending up with a 16-foot truck, car dolly, and towing my car behind the truck (on the dolly) even though I own very little material possessions, the move went pretty well!

Keith Hanson Moving Truck

The ridiculous moving set-up. Yeah, the truck was about 10-15% full. Awesome.

I left Houston on the 2nd Tuesday in November cruising at an impressive 59 MPH, and likely averaging an equally impressive 8 MPG. Traveling east, like a new-age explorer of the eastern frontier (that doesn’t even make sense), I began in the West Gulf Coastal plain, crossed through the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, and eventually into the East Gulf Coastal Plain, mostly on IH-10, until I reached the childhood home of one of my best friends in Southeastern Alabama. There, I visited with his parents and ate some amazing home cooked food (eggplant parm, Brussel sprout casserole, squash with cranberry and almonds, yummmmm – thanks L. & L. Sutley!) and rested my head for a short while. Driving this route from Houston to Charleston takes you over some of the most beautiful and unique habitats and ecosystems in the United States. A truly challenging environment, the swamps, coastal wetlands, and estuaries of the Gulf Coast host a rich diversity of wildlife and are vital nursery grounds for countless fish, shellfish and other species. This region is critically important to the ecology, economy and cultural heritage of the United States. Additionally, some of the most serious and dedicated “locavores,” live in these areas and they are NOT HIPSTERS, far from it actually. They more closely resemble traditional subsistence communities, not tattooed, skinny-jean wearing “Portlandians.”

The next morning, I saddled up on my iron horse, which equaled about the length of an 18-wheel tractor trailer, to continue my journey east to Jacksonville and finally north to Charleston. During this leg of the trip, I crossed through into the Sea Island section of the Atlantic Plain Coastal Plain; another super cool area with an amazing cultural history and more great wildlife and ecosystems, like the once numerous, but now sparse, longleaf pine forests. I finally arrived in Charleston late in the evening, where I reunited with my beautiful girlfriend! The trip was a surprising success, and I am now uber-confident that I have a fall-back career as an 18-wheeler driver!

Beautiful Southeastern Alabama. A good place to stop in the middle of a 20-Hour drive.

Beautiful Southeastern Alabama. A good place to stop in the middle of a 20-Hour drive.

Now, you’re probably wondering, what’s going on here? This is not a travel blog! Not a blog about moving! Why are you telling us this! This is ridiculous! Well, aside from being a pretty major part of my life for the last month (and remember, I already said this was a blog about life, so HA!), my move from Houston was enlightening, and here’s why. Seriously, there is a point to the moving story – stay tuned!
I have only been running, truly running, for about 2 years and 6 months. Prior to this, I hated running. Don’t confuse that with not playing sports, because yes, I played soccer, and hated running during it. Played baseball, yup, hated running. Volleyball, again, hated running. Tennis, you guessed it, hated running. It was so bad that it was basically a joke between my friends. I accepted it and it wasn’t really a big deal (at the time).

I will not discuss how I got into running, or how I really began enjoying it, until later. But, I will say that during my move to Charleston I did not feel like myself. And somewhere between my wandering attention span in Lake Charles and parts of my body falling asleep that I didn’t think could fall asleep in Jacksonville, it finally dawned on me why I didn’t feel like myself. It’s because I wasn’t able to RUN! Running has really become such a part of who I am and is so integrated into my life, that I don’t feel the same when I don’t run. Running is a part of just about every day for me. Whether it’s a weekday interval session, a weekend long run, an end of the day slow run that feels so good that I just keep going and it ends up totally screwing up evening plans for making dinner and/or going out with friends, or just a medium paced jaunt, running is super important to me. It lets me be active (obviously), creative (not so obvious), reflect on life, work out issues, clear my head, and really be myself. Some have called it romantic, and I guess I could see that. Some call it sensual, and sure, I suppose that works too. Most of the time, I try not to overthink it. I try to just run. It’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to me (just like my girlfriend, friends, and family are to me) running feels like home.

My last long run in Texas was on the fabled Rocky Raccoon 100-mile course. Huntsville State Park, TX.

My last long run in Texas was on the fabled Rocky Raccoon
100-mile course. Huntsville State Park, TX.

So, back to the moving shenanigans. The me of more than 2.5 years ago, the me from College, the me from High School, wouldn’t have thought twice about sitting in a moving truck for 2 days straight and it would have never even occurred to me that I was missing something. So yeah, things change. I have taken days off of running in the past and “Zero Days” are an essential part of training, racing and recovery, but that’s not what this was about. I drove all day on Tuesday and Wednesday, and you bet your ass I went for a run on Thursday. It was a good one, too! It was partly on the beach, and partly on the beach-side road, and it felt great! When things are in flux, changing jobs, moving to a different city, changing climates, regions, or whatever, the consistency of running always settles me in and brings me down to Earth, and I love that.

I traveled over 1,100 miles on my move from Houston to Charleston and crossed through a lot of great places with a lot of great races. There are two really cool races that I want to note here, and in the interest of full disclosure, I am not sponsored-by or affiliated in anyway with these races:

First, is the Gulf Coast Interstate Relay (www.gulfcoastinterstaterelay.com), which is a 234-mile relay race (running or cycling) from New Orleans, Louisiana to Florabama (the coastal border of Florida and Alabama). The scenery and route look absolutely amazing, and although I have not yet done the race, and will likely not be able to participate this year (April 3-4, 2015), I would love to do it soon.

Second, is the Keys 100 (www.KEYS100.com). Yes, I’m stretching the fact that I didn’t actually drive through the Keys to get to Charleston, but I drove “over” them, at least as the crow flies. Also, it would have been just a little bit out of the way to drive to the Keys to get to my final destination. Anyway, this is a great series of events held May 16-17, 2015 that includes a 100-mile individual, 50-mile individual and a 6-person 100-mile relay option. I did the 100-mile individual event last year (more about that later) and it was fantastic. It is such a great event! You get to run point-to-point, from Key Largo to Key West (the southern-most point in the U.S.).

Next scheduled race for me: December 13th, 2014. 37th Annual Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon.

Enjoy and get out there and RUN!


All Photos: Keith M. Hanson 

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