Anger is defined as a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad. Once in the anger stage, the individual progresses past the denial stage and denial cannot continue. For most of thirty-four years I had embraced the denial stage. I was comfortable in my own skin, and I had plenty of it to show for my lack of effort.
I can tell you exactly the day and time my journey began and the exact moment I realized I had been in denial. That moment was a watershed moment and catapulted me kicking and screaming into my anger stage. On May 27, 2012 my wife, fed up with all her previous efforts to make me exercise, approached me and said, “I’m having a midlife crisis”. Those statements are generally followed with bad news, and in this case I thought it was horrendous. She told me she wanted to enter a half marathon that took place in November. I think my response of “good luck with that” wasn’t what she wanted to hear because she persisted. The trump card of “if you loved me you would do it with me” was used, and I had no choice at that point but to enter us both in a half marathon I didn’t want to run. It also involved a word from my past that I took aversion to: marathon. I believed nothing involving the word marathon could be good.
We began our “training” on June 1, 2012. How do I know the date so well? It was the day we both walked out the door to run and I hid behind bushes and let my wife run past and walked very leisurely and smugly back to the house, dabbled water on my face, and did my best impression of appearing out of breath when my wife returned from her run. I was still chest deep over my eyeballs in denial. I believed I looked and felt good and no one was going to make me do something I didn’t want to do. When my wife returned and asked where I ran, I lied and told her I ran a different route. This same scenario occurred the next day, and when she returned from “our” run I received the stink eye and was questioned as to which route I was running. I lied and told her I ran the hills on the golf course.
Later that evening I heard my wife on the phone with her sister. When she hung up she informed me we were running a 5K that Saturday. My wife’s sister was helping to organize a 5K race and we were now signed up to run. My wife, after 20 years of marriage, realized to initiate change she would need to tap into my fiercely competitive side. She had seen that side many times but never in athletic competition. To her, it was worth a try as everything else had failed. You can imagine how the race transpired. My watershed moment occurred when a five-year-old boy passed me and looked up as he passed and said, “run faster mister”. Then to add insult to injury he made choo choo train noises as he motored on past me.
I finished the race and didn’t die, but as I watched the awards being given, something inside me changed. I was looking at all the fit people getting awards. I had once been fit. I had once been a fearsome competitor. It dawned on me at that very moment: I was fat, out of shape, and unhealthy. I had now moved past denial. All at once an anger at what I had allowed myself to become came to the surface. As we stood there — my family surrounding me — I made the announcement that I would be standing on the podium next year.
If this story were a movie, you wouldn’t hear the theme from Rocky just yet.
Love Gently Live Justly Race Hard,
Stephen Ruffin lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his wife Karen. They have two grown children. Stephen and his wife embrace the multi-sport lifestyle. Stephen is a Boston Marathon qualifier, Ironman, and All World Athlete. He is avid about the sport of triathlon and credits the sport with reclaiming his health. He is sponsored by TriBike Transport and competes on Team TBT.
He can be reached on his Linkedin page under: Steve Ruffin. Or you can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org