The Barbaric Runner
Guest Blog Submission by: Greg Myers Jr.
“Hi, I’m Greg. I’m an alcoholic. I’m a runner, too. I’m also a husband, father, brother, son, Marine and, according to most, a good American. But, I was terrible at the second thing and barely recognizable at all the others while living my life as the first – an alcoholic. It wasn’t until I made things simple did I understand anything about life. It sounds silly, but I think it’s beautiful: If I’d never become the runner barbarian I am today, I’d be dead.
We were at Duke’s Hawaiian Barbeque in Huntington Beach, Ca. As an act of good faith – or sucking up, whichever you prefer fits – we were taking our commanding officer out to dinner on the first day of a port stop. I was wearing a light blue, 2014 Kobe edition Nike t-shirt, Van’s shorts, low-top Chuck Taylor’s and a ratty Chicago Bears cap. The rest of my party was in pants or jeans, a collared shirt and wore an overall “I need to impress my boss” look on their clothes as well as their faces.
I stood next to the supply officer. She looked professional, but she was born with a mouth missing a filter. Her conversation process went see, hear, put in brain, process and shoot out of her mouth. There was no vetting. We love her for it.
She looked at me, head to toe, and said, “You look like you fit in.” She wasn’t talking about the dinner party. She was talking Huntington Beach.
I’d heard it before, but never believed it. I was too insecure. That day, maybe for the first time in my life, I agreed.
I’m a barbarian. I belong where I say I belong. It’s a new way of thinking about life for me, but I love it. Most importantly, since I finished that last Corona Lite bottle two years ago, it works.
Running was how I did it.
Running is barbaric.
Society equates barbarism with acts of heathenism conducted to please the barbarian. Striking an animal on the head for meat is barbaric. Peeing outdoors is, too. A human employing a simple action with little to no advanced assistance for his or her survival or pleasure is barbaric.
It’s just like running. Barbarians are associated with evil. I’d label them simplistic. They specialized in the perfect execution of simple tasks paired with brute force and iron clad will to live. Survival was doing simple tasks to live and be happy. You know, a lot like running.
When that barbaric mindset takes over, transitions into a lifestyle and is employed in every aspect of life, your life changes. Running changed mine. It can change yours too.
You just have to find your barbarian heart.
I found my answer to life at the bottom of a bottle. It’s a cliché, but it happened. This isn’t a story about my disease, but it does contribute into my journey. This story is how I’ve eradicated character deficiencies in my life via several sources. I’ve discovered they always crash together and culminate in this nirvana I experience when I run and then I started using that same feeling in my life. I found my God, bettered my marriage, and became a father and a better person to everyone on this journey. I became a better person and found a better life through running. It’s simple, barbaric and I couldn’t imagine anything greater.
It wasn’t as easy as step one: put beer down. Step two: Put on shoes and run. Step three: enjoy better life. Changing your heart to change your life takes time – a lot. Just like getting better at running.
I was insecure and drowned myself in more self-induced anxiety than the President of the United States. I held grudges. I started conflicts just to one-up others. Let’s just go ahead and say that before May 28th, 2014 that I wasn’t a great person.
Instead of dealing with these issues in a healthy manner, I tried pouring alcohol on it to make it go away. I shut off the faucet, but the character deficiencies were still there, still looming and I made it seem they were out to kill me. I cried. I yelled. I did it in my car so no one would see me, but I did it. It helps I was driving down the barren CA-62 for work in the Mojave Desert so no one would see me, but I did it.
The only place I felt normal was running. I ran while my life was swallowed in booze, but I did it more to say “look at me, I run marathons” than I did it for myself. I was living my life for others until I started to make running about me.
There were other influences: my God, my family and my health (I lost 40lbs), but it always seemed to keep going back to one thing: my heart. It was starting to power me to places spiritually, mentally and physically I never knew existed or thought were unattainable. My heart was the source of all my power. It could never be better on display while running.
Yes, I got a lot smarter: more fruits and vegetables, paying attention to my body, run upright, 180 strikes per minute, land on the forefoot and every other fact any goon like me can find written or said somewhere. But there was one thing that changed you won’t find how to do in a magazine: I wasn’t cutting corners anymore. My heart wouldn’t let me. I was going to be the best runner I could. My heart wouldn’t let me do anything less.
I went from a drunk, 210lb 4:47 marathoner in 2013 to a 170lb 3:38 in 2016. That was the change on the physical level. What happened on the spiritual level has been unimaginable.
I don’t worry about what others are doing. I’m not running your race. I worry about what I’m doing. I’m running my race and I’d rather enjoy it versus worry about you. I concentrate on being positive in my running and it ebbs into the rest of my life. It turns out that doing good things for other people helps make them good people. Then, the world becomes a better place. All we need to worry about is running a good race.
I never let people or irritating tasks defeat me. If I can run 2,000 miles in a year and, at the time of this writing, run at least one mile for 227 straight days, I’m never going to let one jerk defeat me and make me have a bad day.
I’m human. I get in bad moods. But I get out of them quick. In running, I’ve found there is beauty in the world. If I’m in a bad mood, I just look the other direction.
The past is done. Learn from it, but move on. To quote Mary Englebright and every person on Twitter who has plagiarized her: “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” It’s impossible to run backwards in a race. Why would you do it in life? If it was a bad mile, learn from it. If it was a good mile, do it again. More importantly, always keep moving.
The best thing I learned is that life is simple. Simplicity doesn’t erase hard, but it will always remain simple. A marathon is nothing but one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles. Complexity is only the compilation of a lot of simple things tied into one. Eat, train, and think right and you will have a good race. You will have a good life.
Maybe the barbarians weren’t such buffoons after all. Always keep moving, keep fighting and keep running. It will always get better.
The next night, several of us went out again. We just didn’t have any obligatory baggage. We were just out to have a good time.
One of my friends had an envelope with a congratulations card for his daughter. She was graduating high school that week and he was sending the card off because he couldn’t be there. Of course he would call and video chat, but he wanted to do one more heartfelt thing for her: send a card. It was endearing, beautiful and simple.
We elected for a taco shop with eight-dollar burritos and one-dollar taco Tuesday over another dimly lit and $30 a plate restaurant. The food was great, the conversation was better and the simple memory is one I’ll enjoy forever.
That night, I remember thinking to myself, burrito in one hand and coke in the other, that this is where I belong. I never would’ve learned that was possible if I’d never learned the right way to put one foot in front of the other, the right way, in running and in life.
It’s a simple and barbaric lifestyle.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.