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Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's Been A Great Run!


Today marks the 37th anniversary of when I began to run. It started with about a half mile and a collapse on a treelawn. I was working as a child protective social worker, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and feeling a need to find another way to handle a level of stress that I found intolerable. My goal was to get to a half hour or 4 miles of running, whichever came first. I stuck with it, all the while still smoking, and after about four months, could cover that distance comfortably. I vowed to quit smoking on my 25th birthday, which I did. I gained about 20 lbs. in two months, but with more running, lots of sugarless gum, and a bit more self control, I was now running about thirty miles a week and back to the weight I was on that birthday. I struggled in the first few years running in winter and spring during allergy season. Thanks to an article by Dr. George Sheehan in Runners World, I learned I probably had exercise induced asthma, got tested and learned how to treat it, and was really finally off and running. In the beginning, I went to a few races, never thinking about beating anyone, just trying to hit certain benchmarks of time. Like most runners find at the beginning, getting faster is easy. My first goal was to run 5K under 20 minutes. When I hit that, I went for 19. Then for a few years, trying like a maniac to hit 18:36....a six minute a mile pace. Then to go low 18's, then under 18. All of a sudden, at that pace, I was starting to win age group hardware. What a wonderful bonus. I tried for years to take this speed up to 10K, being able to hold sub 6 minute mile pace for 5 miles, but never getting closer than 6:06 pace for the 10K. I learned to diet every spring down to 163-165 lbs. in order to optimize racing weight. My 30's were a difficult personal and work period for me, and running became much of my identity (often too much), and the one leg of the stool that was holding me up. I have always viewed life as a three legged stool....one leg your loved ones, one your profession, and one your avocation. Running was a very wide stool leg, too much of that time. My 40's brought me the son and wife I never really had, and with a new emphasis on running half marathons to ultras, I found myself happier than I had ever been, and finally able to sit on the stool and relax. Life still had the usual difficulties, but it all just seemed easier to handle. My running struggled in my mid 40's with my first of four back surgeries, but Deb and Terry kept me upright, and I was able to get my tin parachute and escape the work world at the enviable age of 49 1/2. I mounted a few more great years of running in my early 50's, but three more back surgeries left me unable to ever again reach the level that I so desired. I fought this up to my 60th birthday, when I pulled off a sub 25 5K followed bye a torn meniscus and more back trouble. I have worked my way back to 4 days a week of running 7 to 10 kilometers each, with the other three days going to weight lifting and doing speed work on an exercycle. If I were to ever race again, I would be amazed. I am so happy to just move thru space and jog along these days....I take every run like it is my last, trying to embed the sensation into my brain as I move in case it is taken away. I try once a week to do some kilometer intervals just to feel what it is like again to suffer for the art. I need that bit of misery just to appreciate it all. I no longer try sprints cause the possibility of injury is just too damn high....so I do one minute repeats on the exercycle, getting an insane sweat up in a half hour at the gym. I come off the bike like I was coming out of a pool. I have to wipe my mess up with a few towels and clean off the machine....but my heart says thanks for that! So as I approach 100K of age, and have passed 100,000 kilometers of distance, I have come full circle to 37 years ago.....just enjoying the movement of my body thru space, marveling that I can still do it, trying to just be in the moment, not trying to think anymore about what any of it means...like Jimmy Buffet sings, "breathe in, breathe out, move on"....

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