Tyrel Chambers

My Running Journey: Dev's Who Run

July 30th, 2022

~11 minutes

Before we get started on this little article, let me give you some backstory. I'll try to keep accurate headings so you can skip through the article if you'd like.

The best thing that's happened to me in recent years, other than getting a job in web development, was starting a running routine.

For years I tried to start such a routine, but I always failed to keep going after the first run - literally. I didn't have a goal, a destination over the long term.

What changed for me was a couple of things: deciding to join the military and reading/listening to Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins. I recommend that book to anyone struggling to do anything because it helped me kick myself into gear with his no-BS attitude. I won't go into too much detail because I think it would be outside the scope of this post.

In short, I always gave up way too early, I never pushed myself through any hardships in exercising. Raining? Nah. Snowing? Nah. Sunny? Nah. There was no winning in my mind and I knew where the problem lay, but I felt powerless to change it. I felt like no matter what I tried to do, I was always at war with myself.

I was a big guy at the time, about 277lbs at my heaviest. I was sad, unaccomplished, and the least confident I'd ever been. When you're that big, nothing is fun and everything hurts when you're exercising.

I decided to join the military

In October 2019, I decided I needed some structure in my life and to give myself meaning. I was working at a job I partly enjoyed, but I didn't want that to be the end game. Overall, I wasn't happy with where things were headed, so I decided "hey, let's do something big". I was looking for a purpose in life and the military seemed like the best option. I'll probably write another small post about how I retaught myself grade 10 math after being out of high school since 2011, in 2 months and scored incredibly well on our CFAT which is the "Canadian Forces Aptitude Test".

So, after I made this decision, I stumbled across the book Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins. I wasn't sold on it because self-help books (not saying this is one), and books like them, I thought were just weirdness.

But, this book changed my life.

I remember listening to this book twice for a total of just over 30 total hours before I said enough was enough. It spoke to so many insecurities in me and the mental battle I was fighting and had been fighting for years. At peak hopelessness, I learned that even though I was 265lbs (at this time), I could still make myself out to be something more than the nothing I felt I was.

Hearing about David Goggins torturous upbringing, the troubles in school, the fight with his weight and battling his mind in the same way I was, was reassuring me that I wasn't alone. He also talks about how he overcame all of these shortcomings and more, not just to put them aside and work alongside them, but to deal with them for good.

He ultimately became a Navy Seal, applied for Delta Force, became an Army Ranger, and is now an Ultra-marathon runner. His book resonated with something deep inside and ended up unlocking my mind to find its potential.

It started in October

I concluded that if I was going to do this - join the military, I needed to dive in full speed. I went from not running, almost ever, to running nearly every day and yea, looking back, it was probably not the best. But run I did.

I ran about 1.88km every morning at 5:30/6:00 before I left for work. I knew that if I left it for after work, there was a 100% chance that I would be too comfy/tired/"I'll do it tomorrow". I needed to short circuit that and give it no chance to be a thing.

It was hard to get up and run at all and at that time. I'd end up sitting on the front steps for 10 minutes staring at my shoes while fighting a mental battle that was trying to get me to go back to bed. I'd already made it out of bed and that was a win, but this is where the rubber was going to meet the road and everything I felt throughout my life and everything that I was feeling then, was going to be the deciding factor of what happened next.

My rationale was, that it doesn't matter (to a degree) how long I sit here, as long as I don't go back to bed or leave this step. Eventually, I put one shoe on after the other, and when that happened, it was easier to stand up and walk out the door for what I knew was not going to be a fun time. Half the time, the key to literally putting one foot in front of the other, was just not thinking about "it". Did I want to put on my shoes and leave? Not at all, but I didn't think about it, I just put 1 shoe on and the next, etc etc.

The night before, I did myself as many favours as I could. I laid out in the open the clothes I was going to wear. This took out the guessing game and lessened the time it would take to get to the next step which lowered the risk factor of going back to bed.

I had my shoes placed on the steps so I could sit down and put them on. I chose the time I was going to run at and how far I was going to go.

My friend who was a marathon runner also helped me greatly. He helped keep me accountable. Thankfully, he was getting ready for work at the same time I was getting up to run so I'd text him every morning about what I did that day; how far I went and how long it took. I did that for months.

After the first run, it was almost comical. I felt dead on my feet and as I sat in my computer chair, my breathing was 100% wheeze. Every time I inhaled, it sounded like a gaggle of children laughing deep inside my lungs. My chest was tight, it didn't feel too good, but after that day, it never happened again.

So anyways, I was losing 1.5lbs a day just by interval running for about 22 minutes every morning! This was fantastic.

I did end up running into injuries as would be expected and I didn't know how my body would respond to this sudden stress of running, but in reality, I didn't really care. If I ended up having a heart attack while running and died on the side of the road, I was okay with that because where I was currently headed, what was the difference?

My biggest recurring problem was the shin splints. They hurt a lot and they were a constant presence. I decided that even with shin splints, I would run because it was either we go somewhere pain-free, or we go somewhere in pain, but there was only one outcome - going somewhere.

I hit and surpassed my 1km non-stop running goal

I remember my first goal was to run 1km without stopping. I think I ended up hitting this goal 1-2 months after I started running, I can't quite remember. It happened on the day when my quads were yelling at me, my shins hurt, I really didn't want to run and I almost used my 1 allotted rest day for that week. Funny enough I ended up running and hitting that goal. I was ecstatic!

Piggy-backing on that success, I went out again the next day for my run and ran 250 meters further than the day before which was 1.25km! Once I hit those goals, 2km non-stop came even quicker.

From there on I kept up this furious pace and even added in weight training with my friend 3 times a week. I ended up going from benching 80lbs to 150lbs in a month, but unfortunately, that ended because COVID decided to make its grand entrance.

I remember going out for runs where it was -21c and felt like -27 at 5:30 in the morning. It's hard to describe how cold that was. I went out wearing three top layers and two bottom layers and when I got home, I couldn't feel my sides or my quads. It was amazing. It was amazing because months earlier, I wouldn't have gone out even if it was a beautiful 21c day with partly cloudy skies.

Throughout COVID I was still running outside and using my stationary bike at home. I ended up going from 0km running per week to at most 35km a week with multiple 5km runs and a 10km run. Keep in mind, when I say run, most of the time I'm talking about interval runs.

In the spring of 2020, I ran my first 5km run with my friend who was in the process of becoming a cop! He was quite in shape actually, but he helped me finish that milestone when I wanted to quit at the 2.25km mark. I was so tired and my mind was telling me that there was no way I was going to complete this. But, my friend never let me stop and I didn't want to let him down even though I was checked out mentally. By the 4km mark, my feet were numb (that still happens and I don't know why perhaps my shoes are too tight?).

I finished the 5km run without walking.

After that, however, things sort of died down because now I was in a place where proper training would be needed.

Shortly after completing that run, I thought I needed to do this by myself to prove to myself that I could do it. It was a drizzly Tuesday and the sun was hiding behind some dark clouds. I threw on my jacket and drove to a trail that I ran at. Long story short, I completed that run without walking (5km).

The injury that took me out in 2021

In June of 2021 however, a lot of things changed. I ran into a particularly nagging injury where my left ankle was in pain. Some days were better than others but running/walking was always an issue. The pain was felt behind my achilles, in between my ankle and my achilles. I don't know why I felt it there, but it hurt to walk or move my foot.

For the next six months, I ran maybe three times. I was worried I would do some significant damage to my foot and I thought maybe it would be best this time to rest.

Over these six months, I ran less, I walked less. I decided I wasn't going to join the military because as a last-ditch effort, I applied to the company I'm currently working at and received an offer. The military was always a plan B. It was a tool to get me motivated enough to change the course of my life, and if everything else went to crap, it would at least give me a job that would be interesting for a moment.

When I received my offer from This Dot, I tossed aside the plans for the military (obviously) and as a result, the driving force behind my running was also gone. Because see, I was running and working out so hard to prove to myself that I could take the military requirements and surpass them. I wasn't waiting until I got to Basic Training to get into shape. I wanted to be so fit that instead of worrying about how I was going to make it through the runs and the other PT sessions, I wanted to be able to help others get through it.

My reason for running was gone, my reason for getting up was gone, and this all leads us to where I am right now. Sitting here at 253lbs after reaching my low of around 227-230lbs a year and a half ago.

Where do we go from here?

There will be a follow-up to this post. It's on my heart to talk about what I learned about myself and my mind over the couple of years I was working out and running. While the injury sidelined me a long time and I didn't do much running through that winter, I've still learned a lot about myself. To the point where I am not worried about the future. I enjoy running. I learned what it takes to get me out and exercise. I learned how to work with myself to a degree, but I've still got a lot to learn.

Anyway, I'll save that for the next post. I know this isn't programming related and I debated whether or not to post this, so if you made it this far and read the whole thing, I very truly appreciate it.


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Tyrel Chambers

I'm a software engineer and indie developer living in Ontario, Canada. I love day-dreaming new ideas and using my free time to bring them to life.