50 Years of Running: An end to the city experiment

Before the Sycamore Pumpkinfest Run at the end of October, 1984. I’d raced almost two dozen times and knew that I was overtrained by then, and tired from the season.

For almost two years my roommate and I made the best of our city life together. But both our lives were starting to change. His graduate work in exercise physiology at the University of Illinois-Chicago was winding down, and my ‘graduate work’ in journeyman distance running was almost complete as well.

The city life that began with us getting a Queen bed stuck in the door frame so that we couldn’t get into the apartment would ultimately come to a close with a U-Haul truck pulling up to the door of 1764 North Clark Street. That move was still a few weeks off, but we both knew it was coming. Our lease ran through November, and that would be that. I’d pile all my stuff in the back and jam it into my parent’s garage.

The late nights and wild times were now coming to a close. We had some damned fun times together along the way. I think back on the day that we both got into his girlfriend’s pot. Not knowing how strong it was, we shared a thick joint and within fifteen minutes were so stoned that we retreated to separate corners of the room and sat there pointing and laughing at each other. All we had to do to burst out laughing was bring up some stupid story from our past and we’d convulse into another fit of laughter. While the world’s problems swirled around us, and our own situations were far from stable, none of that mattered during those couple of stoned hours that we shared. Then his girlfriend showed up and walked into the room. Within seconds, she could see what was happening. “Oh God,” she chuckled. “You got into my pot.”

That was the understatement of the year. It took us a long time to come down from that high, and along the way a box of crackers suffered a horrible fate along with some Cheez Whiz and some other disgusting foodlike substances. But it was a helluva ride while it lasted.

Repeat victories

It was mid-October, and I still had a series of races to run, including my defense of the Frank Lloyd Wright 10k in Oak Park. I was spending more time out in the suburbs with Linda, so we drove down to Oak Park together in the early hours. I was both nervous and excited to try to win that race again.

Upon arriving, we learned that the course was altered due to construction. “We’ll have people out there directing you where the route is changed,” the race director told me. That wasn’t exactly reassuring. The recent race I’d won in which the course was more than a mile long made me suspicious of any last-minute changes. Plus I’d had other such experiences with errant course “guides,” including one lead police car that slammed on its brakes at the start of an intersection when I was flying along at 5:00 pace. I slammed into the trunk of his car, spun around and found my feet again, and had to run away from the pack of runners descending on me. Talk about an unnerving experience. I still won the race but I was a mess inside my head the rest of the way.

Critical adjustments

The race directors moved the starting line up several hundred yards to avoid construction at the original point of departure. We all jammed onto the street and waited for the gun to go off. I took the lead at the mile mark and steadily built on the distance between myself and the rest of the runners behind. There were three thousand of us out there, but I could only see a few of them as we wound through the city of Oak Park. With a half-mile to go, I saw a volunteer directing me to make a left turn, so I ran a block and was directed right for a block, then right again to turn toward the street from which I’d just come.

I could see no one else behind me at either turn, so I knew that I had a big lead. But when I came back to the original street, the rest of the race had gone straight where I had done the three-block race detour. Apparently the runner in second missed the volunteer’s direction and the rest of the race followed along behind him. My lead vanished. I glanced right to see the madding crowd descending on me. I turned hard left on the crosswalk and sprinted home to win by just twenty yards or so.

Was I angry? You’re darn right I was. Plus the winning time wound up being 33:00, a full minute behind the time I’d run the previous year. That was an indication (again) that the course I’d run was far too long. I knew my pace well enough to know that I’d been cranking along at 5:00 to 5:05 the whole way.

At any rate, I collected a second silver cup for winning the Frank Lloyd Wright 10k and was grateful to get out of there with the win. I earned two of those beautiful trophies and over the years have used them for serving champagne and other cold drinks. I try to remove the tarnish every few years, but it’s hard to keep up. They’re the only two trophies I’ve kept other than the Second Place NCAA Division III plaque from Luther College days.

My then-girlfriend Linda Mues running the Sycamore 10k in 1984

A week later I joined a bevy of Running Unlimited team members racing out in Sycamore at the Pumpkinfest run. That 10K was a vexation of sorts. I’d finished second and third a couple times but never won the damned thing. Nor would I win it in 1984, finishing out of the Top Five as my Running Unlimited teammates chewed up the course ahead of me. I was just tired. My time of 32:26 wasn’t horrible but I represented the team interests well by finishing in the Top Ten. The splits were 5:03-10:07-15:10-20:30-26:00-32:26. There was a time when I’d have been ecstatic with those splits, but I’d raised the bar some during 1984, so I went home a bit disappointed.

One triumph of the day was the fact that my girlfriend Linda decided to race in Sycamore. That was the only 10K that she’d done during our relationship. To her credit, she finished in under 60:00 on just a few weeks of training. I was quite impressed actually. She toughed it all the way through, a portent of things to come in the future.

One more cold

I should not have raced that day. I knew that I was exhausted before ever stepping to the line. The day after the Sycamore race, I came down with a cold starting with a sore throat, runny nose, aches, and fatigue. For days I didn’t feel like doing anything. Yet for some stupid reason I traveled to Decorah and back that weekend, perhaps for an art show on my part, I can’t recall. But I took it completely easy on the running with a 25-mile week.

Racing despite being fatigued. A day later, I was sick as a dog with a bad cold.

I rested the following week as well, logging just thirty miles as the fall season wore down. Then on November 17, I joined my city girlfriend to run a Saturday race called the Trotters Twosome. We’d planned it months in advance and her leg was finally healed from the stress fracture she’d picked up that summer, so I drove up to Arlington Heights and we both ran well enough to claim the Twosome victory. My time was excellent, too, racing through four miles in 20:17. Funny what a little rest can do?

That night, I traveled downtown for one of the last weekends of living in the city. She and I celebrated a bit with some dancing and drinking, and I woke up with her in the morning. We laid in bed after some morning sex, and then, in a panic, I recalled that Linda was heading downtown that same morning. I was scheduled to pick her up at the train at 9:00 a.m.

To cover my tracks on the night out with the city woman, I’d told Linda that I’d be hanging out on Saturday night with one of my roommate’s friends, a guy named Larry. I don’t know why I chose him, but that turned out to be a massive mistake.

I dropped the downtown girlfriend off at her place with a kiss, trying to play it cool all the while, and rushed over to meet Linda at the train. She climbed in the car with me with an odd smile and asked, “How was your night out with Larry?”

I’d actually forgotten what I’d told her about going out with Larry, but I started in making up yet another story about where we’d gone when she interrupted me and said, “That’s funny, I rode the train in with Larry this morning.” And it was true. She pointed to him walking down the street in front of us. He gave us a wave.

And I. Was. Busted.

“Okay,” I admitted. “I lied.”

I’d had my wild year. Now it was time to make a commitment after three years of dating.

And that was that. I decided that it was time to break off the relationship with the downtown woman. Granted, I’d tried to tell her way back in June that I was seeing another woman in the suburbs, but we’d buried all that that time spent together. Wishful thinking will do that. But I also don’t think she was totally naive.

That said, I directly confessed to the downtown girlfriend the truth about Linda. Her response? She punched me in the arm and said, “I knew it!” But I figure that I got off easy on that one. I’d had friends whose girlfriends gave them a bloody lip and a black eye for sins far less than mine.

From there on out, I dumped double life and was never unfaithful again. Ever. I’d done my time as a pale imitation of Henry Miller, and I certainly wasn’t a Hunter S. Thompson type. Not by a long stretch. My wild times were just wild enough for me.

I also learned ten years later that the downtown girlfriend had the last word on our association. While out running one day with a friend, we were reminiscing about those days downtown and I made a comment about how much that woman liked sex. And he said, “I know. She slept with me two weeks after you broke up with her.”

“You dog,” I turned and said to him. But it wasn’t that much of a surprise. She’d given me an STD just

Like most things in life, I’d sort of assumed I knew what was going on in my immediate world when I really didn’t. Certainly that college girlfriend had also played me for a fool quite a while, but I learned from that. The other women I’d dated taught me many things as well. It’s called gaining life experience.

But now that the city life was over and our last rent was paid in Chicago, it was time to move on. It had been a helluva year thus far, I’ll say that much.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
This entry was posted in 10K, Christopher Cudworth, college, competition, mental health, running, running shoes, sex and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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