At one point during my early 20s, I worked part-time jobs while training nearly full-time as a distance runner. Though I knew I wasn’t world class by any means, the mood among serious runners in the early 80s was one of commitment. It felt like mission to find out how good you could be.
In the years 1983 and 84, and bleeding somewhat into the year 1985, we all raced frequently and as fast as we could go. This wasn’t the “I did a 26.2 or 13.1 set.” This was hard, fast 5Ks, five-milers and 10Ks. It was the occasional ten-mile road race in the heat of summer, or the cold half marathons of mid-spring and fall, when the temps shivering your skinny ass at the start and winds often buffeted those willing to stay out that long.
Quite a bit of self-knowledge and discovery comes from a few years of that kind of effort. I learned so much that there came a time, not long after I got married in 1985, that I realized the journey of hard competition should come to an end.
Over the years, I kept running because it saves my brain from the native anxiety and brain chemistry that is part of my genetic makeup. Plus I like staying fit. Finally I added cycling as a complement to running in the early 2000s, and in 2014 even swimming entered the picture.
Perhaps you have a journey that is much different than mine. It might have started in high school or much later in life. I’ve profiled a number of people in this blog during the last eight years. Their stories fascinate me. Their missions too. From young athletes to aging warriors like myself, their stories are all important.
I often compare my own continuing journey to the people met along the way. But sometimes I even compare the journey of today with my own history all those years ago.
That happened while I was engaged in a twelve-mile run with my wife Sue along the Fox River from North Aurora up to Geneva and back. My length of runs has been steadily increasing throughout this winter and spring. After a sucky, painful, disturbing year last year, 2020 has seen a bit of recovery.
If that seems strange to say in the face of a pandemic and a wobbling economy, so be it. We can only tend our own garden, to quote the book Candide.
Week-by-week, as my wife can testify, I’ve added a mile to the weekly longer runs. It started with 6-7 miles. Then came a few runs of eight. A nine-miler was encouraging in that my hips did not tighten up as they done the last few years during long days. Finally I topped ten miles and the Garmin said, “Congratulations! Your longest run!”
The goal is the run 13.1 in a healthy fashion so that I can do a Half-Ironman someday. Ironically, I haven’t even done and Olympic. That’s only because I was alternately injured and sick most of last year. But my swimming progressed throughout and swimming a mile is now possible for me. In fact, I enjoy it.
That and the hip tightness was holding me back from tackling a Half-Ironman. But yesterday I ran twelve miles with negative splits the last four miles as I dropped rom 9:00 to 8:40, then 8:20 and actually ran the last mile in mostly sub-8:00 pace.
At the nine mile mark it was clear in my head that the run would end well. It was still possible that I’d tighten up, but every time that thought entered my head I relaxed and shortened the stride slight and kept running easily and faster.
I’ve been on a mission of self-recovery. Perhaps you have been down this path as well. I’d love to hear your story if you’re willing to share. It’s a fun thing to engage in the profile process as my recent subjects can testify. Where have you been? Where are you going? What motivates you? Let’s talk.