Running – When I First Felt Like A Runner

When learning a new task, a new skill or developing a new way of life.  We have all had that moment in time when we feel like we have mastered the skill or transformed our old selves into a new image of who we want to become.  For we that was leaving being the old mental image I had of myself.  An image of the “short, fat man jogging” and becoming an athlete.

This is a letter I wrote to Runners World Magazine back when I first felt like a “real runner.”  Nearly 16 years later, 17,000 miles…and I’m still going strong!

This letter was written in June of 2001.  I received an reply from one of their editors concerning this letter, they were going to feature it.  But after the first contact, I never heard anything more.


(Running on a Treadmill, Thule Greenland, 2001)


Runners World
33 E. Minor St.
Emmaus, PA 18908

MSgt Brian Burk
PSC 1501  Box 1223
APO  AE 09704

1 Jun 01

Dear Runners World,

I write you this letter from “On Top of The World” Thule Air Base, Greenland.  I’m Master Sergeant Brian Burk serving on a remote tour in the United States Air Force.  I’ve been a runner on and off (mostly off) all my life.

Serving in the military is a challenging profession but couple that with remote tours (one year separation anyway from family) and being constantly on the go it’s hard (at least for me) to stick with any exercise routine.  The result was gaining 30 pounds over 7 years and falling out of shape.  One day you wake up and say “Gee I’m not 29 anymore and boy I sure look like it”.  For me that day happened 03 Aug 2000 when I set foot at Thule Air Base.  Looking in the mirror I made a pac with myself to not leave this place the same way I got here.  The challenge: lose 30 pounds and get my life back (fitness wise).  Being in the high arctic (900 miles south of the North pole) much of my running was going to be done indoors during “the dark season” on a treadmill.

They say any journey begins with the first step; my first step was a hard fought 2 mile run last Aug.  Now after a Artic Fall, Winter aka “the dark season” (Nov till Feb in 24 hour darkness), Arctic Spring (temps below –30) and our approaching summer (temps a mild 40 degrees) my 2 mile labors have blossomed into 20 mile long runs with monthly mileage averaging 125+.  I’ve lost 32 pounds, and regained my self pride.  Most importantly, although claiming to be a runner (jogger) all my life I now claim to be an athlete.

What got me through this…well my family number one (e-mail is great) with guidance and inspiration from your magazine and on line site.  Every month I scanned the pages looking for advice, inspiration and all the pictures of runners running outside.  After each successful long run my reward was to cut out a picture of someone running outside which I hung on my refrigerator.  Thank you for producing such a great tool.

Running is no longer something I claim to do…it’s me.  I borrowed this from Lance Armstrong and tweaked it to fit my lifestyle.

“This is my body.  And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my treadmill busting my ass everyday.

What are you on?”


Brian Burk

(Near the end of my Thule Tour, Aug 2001)

FYI:  At the time I thought Lance Armstrong was innocent.

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