I found myself sitting on the curb, huffing, puffing and sweating. I had run all the way from my house. I have no idea what my pace was. The year was 2007 and I didn’t even know about things like Garmins yet.
I hadn’t gone far. In fact I was less than a mile from home but I had spent the last 17 years more or less as a couch potato. Eventually, I finished my run-walk-sit making my way “all the way around our development”. By my canny estimation it was around 5 miles. My first run was complete.
I had been motivated by a pending fall elk hunt. When my buddy Joe and I signed up, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 lbs
and really couldn’t walk even a short distance without huffing and puffing. I had a poor diet and a stressful job. I was a stroke waiting for a place to happen. But I didn’t want my physical condition to be the reason I was unsuccessful when I went elk hunting. We would be hunting in high elevations which would be difficult enough without carrying around 70-80 extra pounds. To that point, I began reducing consumed junk food and added running.
I wish I could say I loved running right away but I really didn’t. In fact I hated it. Running was hard and it hurt. But when I finished a run, wow! What a rush! And the weight came off. Slowly at first but then I steadily started dropping 2 lbs./week. The numbers on the scale crept down. 220. 210, 205, and then that glorious day when they slipped down under 200. I found myself shopping for a new wardrobe and I flew to Montana as a much thinner more fit man. I’m certain my horse appreciated it.
Not only did my waistline change, but so did my attitude toward running. Suddenly I looked forward to logging a few miles and I greatly missed when I was unable to. The most disappointing day in my running career was when I bought my first GPS watch and learned my neighborhood 5 miler was actually a shade under 2.5 miles. No matter, two loops had become easy.
When I started running, my shoe of choice was a pair of Reeboks that had come from Sears. There was nothing special about them other than I had designated them to be my running shoes. Eventually I realized they were kind of worn out. (I think they were actually worn out when I bought them.) I went to see Sorita Fitzgerald
at “A Running Start” in West Reading to buy a pair of actual running shoes. Sorita was awesome helping pick out real shoes that were right for me. She asked to see my old ones and politely explained they weren’t running shoes at all and the best place for them was the recycle bin. As a new runner I stood in the store chattering endlessly about my running and excitedly telling Sorita about all my upcoming plans including a 4 mile race. She had probably seen this new runner act a thousand times and commented that it would be an automatic PR. “What’s a PR”? Oh the novelty and naïveté of being a new runner!
As it turns out, I became a pretty good runner. I wasn’t always the fastest guy in my age group but they usually knew I was there. Pennsylvania in general and Berks County in particular has a lot of fast runners. I would see much slower winning times for my age around the country and be in awe of our local runners. I accepted the challenge and worked to get faster.
I’m fortunate enough to have been able to complete a few marathons and half-marathons and even run Boston twice albeit very slowly. That and completing at least one Ironman are experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Triathlete? Yes, I did become a triathlete adding swimming and biking to my running mostly to avoid being a one-trick pony. I’d hoped my learned love of running would carry over into swimming and biking but it never really has. In fact, this year as I recovered from surgery. I seriously considered dropping the swim and bike and just focusing on running again. The sport of running offers such a variety of events one could spend a lifetime pursuing different distances, paces, venues and challenges and never be able to say they did it all.
I’ve carefully rehabbed over the winter after surgery. I felt I was making a healthy and careful return to running but then got short-circuited by an unexpected injury At first I thought it was fairly minor but the long-term prognosis is not great for a runner. I seem to find myself in a repetitive cycle of blocking issues keeping me from a return to the freedom of running. It is like one of those strange dreams where there is something you want to do or somewhere you want to go but silly and ridiculous things keep stopping you. Things like tying to tie a shoe that won’t stay tied or getting a key to go into the car ignition and it just won’t go. One thing after another in this crazy dream stacks up and suddenly you realize it is hours or even days later and the event you were dreaming about getting to is probably long since over. Finally, I wake up think about the dream and realize I was never going to be able t get where I wanted to go.
I dream of returning to Boston one day. I dream of running a fast 5K again. I even dream of just running a few miles easy, early on a Friday with friends. There are a hundred different destination races I’d love to do but at least for now it seems it may be time to find some new dreams.