I’m having one of those moments where I’m trying to piece together exactly why I’m doing what I just committed to doing.
These days, I seem to have these with some frequency, for any number of reasons. Overcommitment seems to be a fundamental facet of life these days. I’m going to be a Cub Scout Cubmaster starting in the fall. I teach Web journalism in fall evenings to undergrads at Emory. I have two young kids. I occasionally try to write, including a current stint doing video game reviews for si.com and a former stint at videogamewriters.com. Two years ago, I tried nanowrimo and got 27,000 words into a novel before I finally felt like I couldn’t do anymore. I have a full and fortunate life.
So why did I just sign up to run a marathon in the fall?
I am in a study being coordinated by Emory and Georgia Tech on “predictive health,” which is, essentially, an analysis of what makes people sick and what of those things can be predicted ahead of time with sufficient data. I started the program a little over two years ago, and it has helped put me on a much more healthy path — at least physically. Mental health is still in question.
Before starting the study, I had it in my head that I was in pretty good health. I’m on the short side of average, about 5′ 7.5″ tall, and my weight was on the upper end of the spectrum for “normal,” at least by BMI: about 158. The predictive health study measures an exhaustive array of health factors, from family and mental health to food intake to exercise to arterial elasticity. In nearly every case, I came through on the “reasonably healthy” side of things. No problems with cholesterol; no arterial issues. Diet wasn’t great, but since I wasn’t overweight, I wasn’t too worried about it.
The DEXA scan, though, got my attention.
DEXA is the bees’ knees of fat measurement. It’s effectively an X-ray for your whole body, showing bone density, fat distribution and lean mass in an extremely precise fashion.
My reading was alarming. I was in the 100th percentile for body fat — nearly 36% of my body weight. I always knew I was a bit pudgy, but seeing it laid out in such stark figures really got my attention.
So here I am, two years later, trying to figure out my body and what I need to do with it. Since that measurement, I’ve had some successes and some failures, and I’ve made significant modifications to my diet and exercise. I’ve become somewhat of a runner (though it’s always hard to know when you transition from being a “jogger” to being a “runner”), and I’m aiming toward doing my first marathon in October.
The purpose of this blog, which I’ve had since 1998 off-and-on, is to document that experience, as much for me as anyone else. I’m starting as what I’d describe as a novice-intermediate runner, having not run anything longer than a half-marathon last November, but I’ve been running about three times a week for the past year-and-a-half, so I think it’s time to make the step.
So I’ll be running the Atlanta Marathon on October 28, and I’ll be writing about the experience here — looking forward and back at successes and failures, favorite gear, favorite runs, nutrition and, hopefully, a good story about crossing a finish line.