I first discovered my tolerance for running in my middle-school years, when my dad would take me out running in preparation for cross country, a sport I would ever have a love-hate relationship with. I signed up each year, looking forward to practice. To this day, I remember fondly being dropped off on a remote country road to run miles and miles of hills in the summer sun. As much I loved cross country practice, I hated the meets. I wasn’t motivated by the competition and hated how much racing hurt. Still, every year, I signed up — I wanted to be dropped off, to be accompanied only by the dust and sound of my footfalls. I loved the isolation, the heat, the ease of long runs. I learned to appreciate the hills.
After high school I joined the Navy. Being in an environment where fitness was required was alright, it was an excuse to run and I found myself in better shape than I’d ever been in high school. It was truly becoming something I loved, something I did for fun on my own time. It was then I learned to seek out that rapture in isolation. To this day, many of my most vivid memories from those years are seemingly uneventful runs; A base perimeter at dusk in August, accompanied by crickets and fireflies; coaxing room-mates away from EverQuest to help them get in shape to pass their “PRT” so they wouldn’t get booted; dusty suburban roads to posh gated communities, somewhere in Portsmouth; peering through the window of a record store into the depthless eyes of David Bowie’s heathen, a CD in a record case I’d come back later that day for on bike. And then, so many miles in the sweltering heat of Pascagoula, washed down with Heineken and a BLT at Sonic–an obligatory scowl at the open container, but always a wink and service by roller skates. Some times I feel like those runs are the only real time markers I have from those years. Everything else feels like a dream, faded.
…and so it is with some sadness that the next part of my story could be summarized as “more than ten years without running”. I don’t want to say much more about those years, not now. There are so few miles to mark the days, the years.
July 29, 2013 I laced up an old pair of Brooks running shoes. A few hours later, I posted this on facebook:
Last time I ran five miles, I didn’t own a car. If I couldn’t get somewhere on foot, I had to hope Heidi was free. There was no Jerry Day. There was no streaming music over 4G–many homes still had dial up and those that didn’t were trying to purge the modem noise from their memory. My cell phone did not sms or have a camera (nor would its successor). My MP3 player was the size of a Walkman, skipped like a Discman and had room for a couple hundred megabytes. I was probably listening to Depeche Mode; the next Alphaville album wouldn’t come out for another 10 years. The hair on my head was thicker, on my back thinner. A few things haven’t changed: my mustache has remained stellar, I’m still partial to yellow tinted eyeglasses (though I’ve had to go from cosmetic to prescription) and nothing will bring me more happiness in this moment than a BLT and coffee.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I have my doubts about the accuracy of the app I tracked with that day. Though I still have the GPS track to prove it, I doubt I ran five miles. . . Nevertheless, I had run again. While my ankle (That’s a story for another day, too) and hip would be out of commission for the next few weeks as a result of too-much-too-soon, I’d felt it again. I had to have more. With a great deal of encouragement from dear friends and family, I spent that summer trying to get back into shape. I didn’t clean up my diet entirely, but certainly tidied it up. Exercise became a regular chore, then habit, then focus.
This blog is, at its heart, about the love of running — pure and simple. Perhaps you’ll find it inspiring, motivating or annoying… whatever the case, I love to talk about running almost as much as I love running. Those closest to me have been gracious with listening, but . . . perhaps, most of all, this is a favor to them, my girlfriend especially, who’s almost certainly heard her fill.