How a former professional triathlete discovered his love of running after he quit racing
By Pablo Rodriguez
When I was a professional triathlete representing my home country of Costa Rica, I equated running to competition. Why would I run if not to prepare for the next race?
I never asked myself if I liked running; it was my job.
So after I quit professional sports, I stopped running. And with a new desk job, my life became sedentary.
In 2004, living in Spain, I decided to regain my health and some basic fitness by resuming running. But the only way I knew how to run was by training for a race.
After registering for the Budapest Half Marathon, I began running for the first time in years in Girona’s Devesa Park.
Fifteen days before the Budapest Half Marathon, I did a little “tune up” trail race, a 21 k.m. run up and down the mythical Mount Puigmal in the Pyrenees.
At the starting line that day, I knew I was good shape and felt my familiar, killer competitive instincts–which I hadn’t felt since my triathlon days–kick in.
When the starter’s gun sounded, I sprinted off the line, hammering uphill all the way to the 2,994-meter summit of Puigmal. I was totally focused, felt powerful an strong.
After cresting the summit and beginning my descent, a voice inside my mind began yelling, “Stop you idiot! You’re moving so fast you didn’t even notice the 20 mountain deer jump in front of you!”
Feeling stupid, I slowed my pace, turned around and saw Puigmal’s summit towering above me. I yearned to run back so i could admire the views from its peak. In my rush to dominate the race, I had missed so much.
It wasn’t until many years later that I completely understood what happened that day.
I learned that was drives me is not the thrill of competition, but rather, the thrill of exploring this beautiful world in the most natural, primal way I know how: on foot.
Now that running is my job, I sometimes run up to the Puigmal, lay on the ground, being present and noticing the tiny, simple details, just like any other animal.
Why are these the moments I feel most complete and happy? Is it just a huge overdose of endorphins? I don’t think so; it’s much more than that. I never felt this kind of happiness, while racing.