50 Years of Running: The Fuse

And the years that I spent lost in the mystery
Fall away leaving only the sound of the drum
Like a part of me
It speaks to the heart of me
Forget what life used to be
You are what you choose to be
It’s whatever it is you see
That life will become

–Jackson Browne, The Fuse

The big events of life––like getting engaged and married, having kids––and then some––all wait patiently outside the door of youth. Whether that youth is well spent or misspent, it’s all the same. You turn the corner toward adulthood when––as we read in the Bible–– the mind awakens to a different reality. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I know that’s a passage with far more theological purpose than my employment of it here. But it still applies. You can’t know what the future’s like until you’re experiencing it in the present. As Jackson Browne accurately captured in his song “The Fuse,” it’s both easy and hard to “forget what life used to be” when you start to realize “you are what you choose to be.”

The gritty path of that transition from youth to adulthood finally hit me in late January, 1985. “Hello, little journal,” I wrote. “I feel as if I have now purified you. No more running data lining up your pages. Just pure sad and happy thoughts crossing your pages. Perhaps these will no more give direction, really, the way that things are done.”

Weighing beliefs

Then I wrote, “Listening to “The Fuse” again by Jackson Browne. Hard to go back to that unadulterated time. Alive in eternity––that nothing can fill. I am free now to hurtle headlong toward death, and soon with a mate. Oh, what arguments and changes we will see. What money we’ll spend. Then we’ll die. Just like all of humanity. Just like all the carefully rendered faces in the art museum. Just like mom and dad. and too soon, Oh, too soon. I will miss them. I am living in their house. I am lusting nights and wasting days. I am so human it hurts like a stab in the dark. So sudden a pain I have to jump to skirt the reality. Running like my car with its vital vents open. I stick fingers up my orifices and in my mouth, prodding my humanity and probing its aches and rhythms. I’m at once gay and hetero, never confirming one. I don’t think I’d like to.”

Never one for literal definitions be they social or theological, my sense of direction was both sound and undefined. I felt good for the decisions we’d finally made. But I also knew myself, even then. I understood that somewhere inside of me there was still unreconciled anger and anxiety. All that running I’d done was a psychological salve. It helped me cope, but it was not a cure. There were still issues of usefulness and meaning to find and confront.

Retrospect

In the year 2022, I took an Enneagram online test that would have been enormously helpful to read in the year 1985. Back then, it could have absolved me of some angst about who I was, where I’d been thus far in life, and even where I was going. To some extent, it might also have shown how long it would take to get there. On the subject of self-image, it read:

“You are very aware of what people think of you, and you cultivate your image with care. This means that you often make choices that others admire, and are often well-liked. However, it can also lead you to be overly concerned with appearances over substance—in the worst-case scenario, leading a life that looks good from the outside but isn’t fulfilling. Worse yet, your concern for image sometimes backfires, causing you to come off as inauthentic and creating distance in your relationships. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be admired, as long as you keep a sense of balance. Sometimes the right choice isn’t the one that wins you the most acclaim, and sometimes you have to be willing to ruffle a few feathers as you pursue what’s right for you.”

Some of that insight explained things that I did not yet understand. Yet some of it illuminates things I was already engaged in. “Willing to ruffle a few feathers as you pursue what’s right for you.”

That’s what I’d been doing between the years of 1982-1985. I was willing to ruffle a few feathers to pursue some tangible goals that proved to myself that I could set them up and achieve them. It did not matter whether I’d become world-class as a runner or not. I set a course and made it happen, learning plenty of lessons along the way, like the fact that letting nerves get the best of me is my worst enemy.

The Enneagram continues with observations about the razor’s edge of fault versus joy: “You feel separate from other people, and tend to think that others can’t truly understand you. Most likely, you grew up around people—either family or social groups—who made you feel like an outsider. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating yourself as a unique person, but everyone needs a sense of belonging. You’ll live a fuller life if you put some time and energy into creating a network of kindred spirits. Somewhere out there are people who are just as offbeat as you are, and who will make you feel like you’re finally understood.”

Those were my running buddies, the offbeat people I needed along the way. Runners were surely the foundation of my friend network. As much as we competed with each other, and competed for each other’s attention, we also supported each other.

The five guys who formed a team at Luther College

Another Enneagram bit of wisdom: “You are a grounded sort of person, tuned into what’s happening now. You don’t spend much time thinking about the future or imagining what might come next. You’re way ahead of those multitasking folks who struggle to “stay present,” but you can also be a bit blindsided by life. Without a vision for the future, your path through life can be haphazard, and you may make decisions based on circumstance rather than a cohesive plan for what you want. Although nobody can predict the future, that doesn’t make thinking ahead a waste of time. Making a point to think about how you’d like your life to go will make it more likely that you get what you want.”

Oh God, I wish someone had pulled me aside and shared those words at that point in life. That would have been so, so helpful.

And more about my Enneagram “number”, the Eights: “When Eights are psychologically unhealthy, they are some of the most aggressive and domineering of all the types. Since their core fear is that others will seek to control them, they go all out to let people know who is in charge. At this level of health, the Eight can retreat to a dog-eat-dog world where everything is about bullying and challenging others to get their own way; a true contest of wills.”

There is evidence of an at-times abusive father in that information. And my response is predictable from understanding the past:

“At some point in their childhood, Eights have convinced themselves that only the strong can survive and be loved. It’s hard for Eights to believe that anyone could accept them for their weaknesses and so they hide their vulnerabilities. Young Eights may show an inner strength and a fighting spirit that adults may mistake for a self- confidence that does not exist. Even in childhood, Eights are fiercely independent. Many seem older than their years.”

I was told that last part many times. And my writing and art were beyond my years.

“Seizing control so they cannot be controlled is the major driver for Eights, and this manifests as an aggressive child who has a tendency to exert their will over every situation. Eights stand up for themselves and, at this level of immaturity, may attack physically or verbally when provoked. They are the type most likely to get into playground fights, although some will step up and take charge of situations because they perceive themselves as the strongest person in the room.”

I had those playground fights. Some of that drive came from sibling rivalry and aggression.

“For many Eights, then, their childhood is marred by power struggles. Perhaps they had a domineering parent, or perhaps the parent was intolerant of the child’s forceful nature. Either way, an Eight raised in a battlefield of clashing agendas and explosive arguments is likely to entrench and become even more persistent in getting their own way. This attitude carries through into adulthood, and the Eight may keep their defenses up and deny their own fears and vulnerabilities to maintain the upper hand.”

But by my mid-20s, the growth process was occurring. I was growing up.

“At average levels of psychological health, Eights are stimulated by conflict. They like to provoke reactions to enhance the intensity of a situation and they don’t beat around the bush, pushing boundaries and delivering ultimatums to see how far others will let them go. They seek to show that they are tough to stop others from taking advantage. Balanced Eights will do anything to stay in control may resort to competition, boasting and intimidation to impress others and show their strength.”

I also realized that every relationship is a power struggle. Some of that never changes. The last lines I wrote in that running journal covering the years from 1982-1985 were both harsh and honest. “But the battle with this woman’s crotch will be a long one. Long as I live I’ll yearn for another and it will yearn against my brevity. I want to go back to the womb, rocking slowly asleep with th eneck of my phallic being resting against her hood, and she covers me.”

After that, the pages go blank in that composition book I transformed into a record of my early 20s. I have no regrets about anything I said or did during those years. No guilt over the dalliances or the pursuit of sex. No remorse over the anger I felt at the injustices by employers or manipulative associates. I was an Eight for sure, aggressive at heart yet fearful at times, in the soul.

But my goddamn fuse burned brightly.

Though the years give way to uncertainty
And the fear of living for nothing strangles the will
There’s a part of me
That speaks to the heart of me
Though sometimes it’s hard to see
It’s never far from me
Alive in eternity
That nothing can kill

Posted in 10K, aging, aging is not for the weak of heart, anxiety, Christopher Cudworth, college, competition, cross country, mental health, mental illness | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Return engagement

Moving back into your parent’s house after six or seven years of self-sustaining independence is an odd but sometimes inevitable choice. With Linda crammed into a single room sharing expenses with a fellow teacher, there was no space to join her. My folks let me fill half their garage with a pile of stored furniture and belongings, and we made the best of it while I made plans on what to do next.

That winter I took a job as the assistant director of the Norris Sports Complex, a multiple-use facility on the St. Charles High School campus. It featured an 11-laps-to-the-mile indoor track, four full-length basketball / volleyball courts, and a set of soccer walls to host the leagues on weekends.

The indoor soccer program was the real moneymaker for the facility. I had little to do with its operation other than to get the tall curtains pulled up to the ceiling before closing on Friday night. Our daily operating hours were from 6-10:00 pm Monday through Friday, but the soccer leagues ran from dawn to dusk.

Droves of pickup basketball players arrived every night. They came from all over the Fox Valley, including black players from two of the larger nearby cities, Elgin and Aurora. Having grown up loving and playing the game of basketball with all kinds of people, those players were welcomed in my eyes. But not everyone in the mostly white community of St. Charles was happy about their presence. I considered it my job to get to know almost all the players over time and never had any significant problems. Quite often I’d join a team to play a game or two. That helped build the bond of trust between “management” and the players.

We also employed a floor manager to specifically run the basketball court. His job was to assign players to teams as they arrived. There were guys trying to juke the system by walking in as a team. Our job was to make the teams fair as fair as possible within the ‘winner-keeps-the-floor-for-two-wins’ system.

Getting burned by Doc

One night, while the guys from Elgin were dominating the floor, I joined up with a team that had a chance of beating them. We got out on the floor and on the first possession the ball was passed to the little man I was guarding. They called him Doc because of his wire-rimmed glasses, and he was lean and quick, that much I could tell from the moment he got the ball. But what I didn’t expect was his jumping ability. He drove toward the basket and I fell for one of his fakes, then he leaped over my left shoulder and dunked the ball. The whole place erupted in cheers and teasing. Doc had caught me by surprise. All I could do is fist-bump Doc and say, “Nice move.”

The Run/Walk Community

Most nights I’d spend time talking with the runners and walkers that showed up to get their mileage in during the cold winter months. Few people understood the concept of how many laps it took to walk or run a mile in each lane, so I figured it out with the help of Linda, who’d signed up to work the front desk a few nights per week. We created a simple chart that people could study for reference. Ten years later, I returned to the Sports Complex one night and was proud to see that our chart, though faded with time, was still posted in the case just above the stairs.

My local reputation as a runner helped build a community relationship because people knew that a person was in charge that cared about their needs. Often there would be basketball players not paying attention as they stood outside the court right in the walking or running lanes. It took time to educate everyone about track etiquette required, but eventually, I could see the players checking the track before crossing.

We had several people each week walking at the track for medical purposes, especially heart patients recovering from surgery. We made a point of getting to know them well in case anyone had a problem, but no one ever did. For that I was grateful.

Bloody hell

But there was a night when I thought I’d seen my first gym visitor die on the spot. One of the basketball players tripped at the baseline, stumbled forward and struck the top of his head on the soccer boards. Instantly he started to bleed from a tear in his scalp. A puddle of red blood formed around him and grew quickly. Fetched from the office by players screaming, “Come quick!” I ran out to find the guy sitting there a bit dazed but conscious. We called emergency services and kept an eye on him. It turned out he wasn’t that badly hurt at all. No concussion. He was back playing a night or two later.

Thinking back, I’m a bit surprised I was never required to learn CPR to run that facility. Such were the good old days of facilities management. I was lucky nothing truly horrifying happened that winter.

Sickening behavior

There was one thing that made me sick, however. Our locker room got robbed by a pair of guys carrying a big bag with a set of bolt cutters inside. While one guy watched the door and the other broke into lockers, they stole wallets and other valuables and made their getaway. It was quickly discovered so I called the police. I knew the officer that arrived from high school, and he apparently assumed that I held a similarly aggressive mindset about the burglars. Using a well-known racial epithet, he asked, “Do we know anything about the n****** that did this?”

At that point, all I wanted to do was get the police report done and get that officer the hell out of their. He a nightstick in his hands. I was worried he was going to go into interrogation mode with any other black person in sight.

A few days later, without anyone consulting me, a new policy was passed down that significantly increased admission fees for everyone but the residents of St. Charles. That change in policy hurt many of our regular visitors, and many people complained. I pointed out the fact that it wasn’t actually our patrons that caused any problems. It was just a couple opportunistic thieves, and that could happen anywhere. So the policy was switched back a few weeks later, but that rush to judgment made me feel sick about the knee-jerk racism we’d just experienced.

Future stars

I always viewed the facility as a welcoming place for all. When a black father from Aurora showed up with his little kids to use the track for training, I charged him just one admission fee, and let the kids through for free. Several of his children went on to become track stars at the highest levels in Illinois. It certainly didn’t hurt the facility to help some kids make strides toward their dreams.

That decision to encourage young talent certainly suited the philosophy of the man that helped design the facility. That was my friend and former coach Trent Richards, who advised on the interior plan when he was coaching at St. Charles High School. The Norris Sports Complex was one more intersection between my life and that of my former coach Trent Richards.

I did my own share of running around that track during the winter of ’84-’85, because while I’d just concluded an intense year of training and racing, I did still plan to compete in 1985. So I ran interval workouts and jogged around with patrons during warmups and cooldowns. Along the way, I made lifelong friends that I still see on the running trails to this day. Forty years later, we still give each other a knowing nod because that little world inside the complex was kind of special back then.

A Work/Life Partner

Linda mugging for a photo in the early 80s

Working together with Linda was the perfect complement. She took care of the nightly check-ins and the money, and I moved about greeting people, offering fitness advice and making sure things ran smoothly from opening to close.

And sometime during those winter months, I invested in an engagement ring. Then I invited Linda to dinner after work after calling ahead to ask the owner of a favorite local restaurant called Erik & Me if we could stay a few minutes after closing. Anders understood when I told him, “We’re going to get engaged.”

Sitting across the table from here in the middle of January, I was nervous but excited to be asking her to marry me. We’d talked about it many times, and I’d held off for reasons that only I understood. But I was finally ready. She said yes.

A week later, we visiting her parent’s house in Addison. Sitting in the back room facing the spacious yard behind their house, we chatted with them a while and then asked, “Do you think the back yard would be a good place for a wedding reception?”

Both of them jumped up from their seats and said, “Yes!” And we set the date for June 29 of 1985.

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, running, track and field | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Exhaust fumes and lane changes

By November of 1984, I’d raced enough that by the 17th of November when I ran a 20:17 four-mile… that should have been enough to call it quits. But then my former coach and then-business associate Trent Richards got involved in a big race out in Rosemont, and he called me to sign up. It was a Turkey Trot that was attracting world-class runners like Mark Nenow, the Kentucky graduate that had recently set a 10K road race record.

So it was tempting to rev up the engine one more time. I showed up at the Rosemont convention center convinced that I still had one more race left in me. I’d managed a 14-mile training run the week before, and got some light prep running done that week for a total of 40 miles, but something definitely felt off inside me. Distance runners that have trained all year and are getting near “past-peak” conditioning know the feeling. You become stale. It’s like having an anxiety in your system that won’t go away.

At that point, I should have listened to the advice of Marty Liquori in his book Guide for the Elite Runner. Once you’re raced out, it’s time to put away the racing flats and go back to slow running. I could have skipped that race and no one would ever have known.

But I’d been living the edge for a few weeks and couldn’t turn around. Back on the 20th of October, the week after the Frank Lloyd Wright Run victory in Oak Park, I signed up for a big-time event in Lincoln Par to try my luck running with the true elites. On the starting line, I stood next to Alberto Salazar and Thom Hunt and Keith Brantly and other emerging national and world-class runners, I decided to go out with the lead pack and hold on for as long as I could. The first mile was 4:42, and already I was falling behind. The two-mile split was 9:52. I hit three miles at 15:03 and four miles at 20:19. Again, those were pretty good pace markers for a sub-elite runner. But heading into the last mile I was running on exhaust fumes and finished in 25:30. Way back in April I’d run a 24:49 with energy to burn. But that was the start of the season. Now I’d learned yet again that I was no indomitable, and I certainly was no phenom in the making.

So in late November, I stood in the crowded field of the Turkey Trot feeling exhausted mentally and physically. There was a mass of runners all around me, and I had no real appetite to get up front where the best of them stood.

Off we went, and from the get-go my legs felt near dead. I managed a 4:50 first mile, came through two miles in 10:02, ran through three in 15:10 and hit four miles in 21:00. By then I was cooked. I hit the five-mile mark in 26:30 and even walked a bit. Near tears. Then I jogged through the six-mile point at 32:00 and turned off the course. I had no interest in finishing the race. It meant nothing yet took a whole bunch out of me. I wrote in the journal: “Tired and distracted from the start. Pretty disgusting effort, really. Shouldn’t have raced but felt the possibility of an undertrained miracle. Instead experienced the woes of a stale effort. Good time to start the winter.”

I’d felt good all that week but that’s because I’d finally let up in training enough to give myself a break. In truth I was a maxxed out distance runner with little left in the tank.

Cross country calls

The calendar turned over into December and I was taking it super-easy when a few of the Running Unlimited guys called me up about a cross country race to be held in a forest preserve near Schaumburg. I thought “What the heck?”

The day turned out to be fresh and clear, not too cold for running. The five-mile course included some jumps over hay bales and the like, and I was in my element with all the steeplechase background I had. I ran relaxed and happy and with no real burdens on my brain, I ran 26:39 and won the race going away. That was a nice way to close down a year that began in January with a couple indoor track races. I’d set PRs at 5K on the track (14:47) 5K on the road (14:57) four miles on the road (19:49) and five miles on the road (24:47). I also set a PR at the 10K of 31:10, a PR at 10-miles (53:30) the half marathon (1:10:58), and the 25K at 1:24:47.

IN terms of results, I won five or six races including the Arlington Heights Library Run, the Community Classic 10k, the Mt. Prospect 5K, the Frank Lloyd Wright 10, the Warrenville 10K, an indoor two-mile, and finished second or third in several others. All in all, a very good year.

That was all on top of about 3000 miles of trainingor an average of nearly 60 miles per week.

What can other runners learn from all of this? Here’s a list of ten observations that I might call “lane changes.” In other words, moving out of whatever lane you’re in for a fresh and informed change of pace in thinking is always good.

  1. There does actually come a time when “enough is enough.” Once you’re stale, let it rest.
  2. Getting constant colds is also a sign of overtraining. While it was a successful year, I did get sick several times through too much intensity, too often.
  3. It’s possible to improve considerably with sufficient dedication, but the existing talent of every runner ultimately has finite possibility. “It is what it is.”
  4. For journeyman runners like me, it’s possible and likely far more practical to expect to work full-time. The gains earned from having unlimited training time are not the answer to limited talent. Be honest with yourself.
  5. There is considerable joy to be found in racing your hardest and best during the period of your life when it is most practical to do so. That tends to be in the early 20s through the late 20s. Some runners do get great results in their early 30s, and perhaps it is wise to take a longer view of what the push for improvement should look like. Rather than trying to jam it all into a couple years after college, think in terms of a longer-scale rate of improvement.
  6. Life balance is important. But so is understanding that “life balance” also comes from figuring out what it is that drives you, for better or worse, and coming to grips with your true motivations for running or any other endurance sport.
  7. Running races or competing in endurance sports is often a question of managing “nerves” so that you don’t collapse under self-inflicted pressure. Always remember that 90% of the drama in any situation is in your own head.
  8. Running and endurance training can help people (like me) cope with conditions such as anxiety and depression. But too much concentration and pressure and self-criticism flips the model around until it becomes its own source of fear. Be wise and step back to consider what it is that drives you to worry, be anxious or nervous before events. Think as if you were looking back at yourself ten or twenty years in the future. What would you tell yourself? How would you see your efforts? Can you give yourself credit for doing your best? Then give yourself credit in the present moment, and let your body and mind do the work.
  9. Let yourself “enjoy the wins” if you earn them.
  10. Forgive yourself for the occasional failure. It happens to all of us.
Posted in 10K, 13.1, 400 meter intervals, 5K, anxiety, Christopher Cudworth, cross country, mental health, mental illness, race pace, racing peak, track and field | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in 10K, Christopher Cudworth, college, competition, mental health, running, running shoes, sex | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Hanging out with Bill Rodgers

The face that launched a thousand running questions.

My former coach and business associate Trent Richards ran a side hustle as a race director for road running events. He recruited his former athletes to work logistics, run timekeeping equipment and help with setup. It was always a bit chaotic working for Trent. He knew what he was doing but not always the best way how to do it. So we covered those tracks the best we could.

The only real problem we ever had was during a corporate road race held on the parking lots and side streets of a business district in Oak Brook. It was mid-summer and got hot out early, and we worked hard getting all the rigamarole set up in time for the race to start. The race was sponsored by a beer company and there were giant metal tubs filled with ice and beer near the starting line before the race even began. Some fool runner with a bad drinking habit dug into the stash and downed five or six beers before the race even started.

In those hot temperatures, he didn’t last long, and I found him lying in a culvert with his swollen tongue hanging out of his mouth. The guy suffered liver failure from drinking all that alcohol and trying to run on a hot day. I quickly ran to retrieve the emergency services team and that idiot survived, thank God. But later on, he tried to sue the race and its directors for having the beer available pre-race in the first place. Talk about lack of responsibility for one’s own actions!

There were other event mixups at races Trent directed, but none so serious as that. But when he called me in advance of the Deerbrook 25K to ask if I’d like to serve as the host for Boston Billy Rodgers at the race, I volunteered right away. My duties were to pick him up the morning of the race in a rented Volkswagen Beetle, since that’s the kind of car Rodgers requested. I was excited to help out and looked forward to meeting one of the most famous runners in the world at that time.

Rodgers in his heyday, wearing those Tiger racing flats.

Thinking that I wasn’t going to race that morning since I’d be escorting Rodgers around, I piled on the miles in the four days leading up to the race, which was held on October 1st. I wasn’t keen on racing again after that debacle of an overly long 10k run in Warrenville the previous weekend.

So I engaged in a big training week instead.

On Wednesday the 27th I ran seven miles at 6:00 pace. “Medium effort,” I wrote. “Light and strong.”

On Thursday the 28th I ran nine miles in the morning and another three with Linda in the afternoon.

On Friday the 29th, the workouts consisted of six miles easy and nine at night “Medium/strong.” In my journal, I noted some “dizzed out” feelings from the pile of training, but still pumped out another ten miles on Saturday the 30th, the day before the event at Deerbrook. That totaled 72 miles for the week. I’d gone 9, 9, 10, 7,12, 15, 10 over seven days’ time, and 44 miles in four days.

Driving Bill Rodgers around in VW Beetle was pretty damned fun.

I got up super early on Sunday morning for the 1.5 hour drive down to Joliet from Geneva. The morning was cool and fresh, and I secretly wished that I could race that day. For all the mileage that I’d done that week, my legs felt fresh. I drove my little Plymouth Arrow to the race site, picked up the keys for the VW and headed over to the hotel to meet up with Bill Rodgers.

It wasn’t a fancy hotel by any means. I parked outside and found the room number, which faced the outdoors, more like a motel than a hotel. I knocked and the door opened quickly. There stood Bill Rodgers in his underwear. “Hey Bill,” I responded in a nonchalant manner. “I’m here with the VW you requested.”

He grabbed his running stuff and changed in the bathroom, then doffed a set of Bill Rodgers nylon sweats. How many people can say that they get to wear running gear named after them? Yet there he was, the real Bill Rodgers sporting a full suit with that distinctive Boston Billy runner logo on it. “Okay, where we going?” he asked.

I offered him the keys but he walked around the other side of the car and said, “You drive. I don’t know where I’m going.” So we both climbed in and I tried to go back the same way that I arrived but got a little lost. We finally pulled up to the race finish and Bill muttered, “Oh wow. Lots of people!”

Rodgers has aged much like the rest of us.

There were. A ton of people considering the distance of the race. 15.5 miles! A 25K. I knew of only one other race of that distance in the entire country, held over in Grand Rapids. I remember that Greg Meyer had won it. He later went on to win the Chicago Marathon.

As we sat there in the car for a minute, Bill turned to me and said. “I’m not feeling that great today. If you want my number, you can have it.”

While I wasn’t planning on racing, I always carried my racing shoes with me in the silvery Frank Shorter running gear bag that was sitting on the back seat. “Um, huh,” I replied. “I ran a bunch of miles this week.”

“Up to you,” he said, tossing his race number and pins on the seat. “It’s here if you want it.”

Now, I’ll admit to being a bit inspired in having the chance to escort Bill Rodgers around. He was charming and affable, even a bit daft in person. Just like they said he was. That eternally open expression of his was an open invitation for people to approach him, and right when we pulled up in the car that morning, a runner saw him in the car and came jogging over to tap on the window. Bill rolled it down and said, “Hi there. What’s up?”

The guy got a serious look on his face and asked, “Do you have any advice for a four-hour marathoner?”

Without missing a beat, Bill responded, “You can run for four hours?”

That was a genuine question. I think Bill hadn’t done the math that most runners do, and failed to realize that it takes a 9:00 per mile runner about four hours to complete the 26.2-mile distance. Some day, when I got much older, I would come to appreciate what that meant to a runner of that pace. But back then, I just found it humorous the way Bill responded. He once got into trouble by calling the efforts of plodders “graceless striving.” And in many respects, he’s absolutely right as compared to the running elite. Rodgers later modified those views. In any event, the guy at the window that day laughed, and said, “Yeah, I can.”

But for Bill, it was “on to the next thing.” And he turned to the other window to answer the next question. I felt like the squire to a running king. I sat there in the car with Bill as people approached the car and peppered him with questions. It was getting close to race time, and Bill said “C’mon, come run with me.”

That looks like Boston Billy next to me in this photo. It wasn’t but I was racing with the ghost of his fame chasing me that day.

We jogged a half-mile together and my legs felt absolutely great that morning. But Bill, not so much. “I’m not feeling all that great,” he told me. And then sensing my state of mind, he repeated again, “Do you want my race number?”

I though to myself, “Aw, what the hell…” I’d run so many miles leading up to that race all I’d had to do was jog a block or two and I felt ready to go. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I was gonna go for it. I was ‘friends’ with Boston Billy now. How could I turn him down?

And luckily, right from the starting gun, I felt incredible. Racing along at 5:10-5:20 pace, I found myself in third place overall.

Several spectators called out to me, “Go Bill!” Apparently they’d looked up his race number and figured that I was Bill Rodgers. Finally I turned to someone and said, “No, he’s not running today. He gave me his number.”

That’s how relaxed and smooth I felt the whole race. At one point, the TV truck with a full camera crew pulled in front of me while I cruised along. “How’s it going?” they asked. I felt so super I responded, “Great! I might not win this thing but it’s going well…”

I wish that I’d asked for a copy of that video before Trent Richards passed away a few years ago. It would have been fun to see my young self running along that day. But a few years after his death, his wife Joan disposed of all the running stuff. I’d missed the opportunity by only a few days.

If I’d won that would have been a true fairy tale finish. But I got third overall, finishing about thirty seconds behind an old college rival, Ralph Longus, who ran for Willam Penn. I was impressed how far he’d progressed as a runner. He looked strong and smooth and I could not make up any ground on him the last mile or so. I finished in 1:24:47, a pace over the whole distance of 5:20. If I’d have run a marathon that day it is likely I’d have finished in 2:26 or under.

Given the mileage that I’d run that week and especially in the four miles leading up to the race, there’s a good chance I could have run even faster that day in Joliet. But one never knows, and it does no good to engage in woulda-coulda-shoulda. I’m proud enough of that third-place finish.

I did have a tight hamstring following the race. And meeting up with Bill to take him back to the hotel, I tried to hide the injury. But a guy that smart is used to old runner’s tricks. When I bragged a bit about the race I’d had on top of all those miles, he said, “Well it’s fine, if you don’t get injured.”

That was humbling. But in the end, I didn’t care. It had been a fun day and one to remember for a lifetime. I had been a good escort of Boston Billy, and he told me so. I think he appreciated the fact that I did not barrage him with conversation or questions during our time together. It’s quite a bubble in which world-class athletes sometimes exist. They’re treated like a commodity by so many people who encounter them. Thus far that year, I’d avoided being an intrusive jerk with the likes of Sebastian Coe and Eamonn Coghlan. But it was hard not to be a bit awed by the presence of Boston Billy. He was considered the “people’s runner” for his offhanded approach to success and uncalculating person.

And yet he was a man of keen precision in his own running, even citing the fact that while winning the New York Marathon one year, he paid attention to every detail, like the right way to carry his hands for maximum efficiency. If you ever know the factors that add up to greatness, the evidence is right there. Bill Rodgers was a man that respected his craft.

Posted in 10K, 13.1, aging, Christopher Cudworth, competition, healthy aging, marathon, running, running shoes | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

50 Years of Running: The Curse of Marathon Santa

Issued in 1984, the Marathon Santa Christmas Ornament was my prize for winning a 10K race in Warrenville, Illinois.

In late September ’84, I was picking races closer to the suburbs as my time living in the city was coming to a close. Spotting an event listed in the Warrenville area, I signed up on race morning and lined up eager to get a win on a cloudy, cool day.

The gun went off and within two miles I’d built a solid lead. The course wound through neighborhoods and I followed a guy on a bike over hill and dale. I ran the first mile in 4:56…but the second mile seemed really long. I passed through that marker in 10:32 even though I had not slowed a bit.

Something’s wrong,” I called ahead to the lead guy on the bike. “Are we on the right course?”

The time only got worse at three miles, which I passed in 16:10. I hadn’t run that slow through three miles in more than two years. The same thing held true through four and five miles, only the splits were further off-base. And then the race kept going and going. I ran harder to try to make up the pace difference but it didn’t seem to matter. At some point, I decided to just run until the finish line showed up. We were well past 33:00 and counting as the miles rolled on. I finally finished at the 37:00 minute mark. The course was nearly a mile too long.

Disgusted, I crossed the finish line in first place and turned around to see if anyone was close. There were nearlly one thousand people signed up for the event but now of them were in sight.

“Stupid race to run,” I wrote in the running journal. “Course inaccurate.”

This little bastard would haunt me for another thirty years.

Linda and I waited around for the awards ceremony that were held inside a high school cafeteria. We walked past table after table filled of prizes. “Geeeez,” Linda observed. “You should get something pretty nice for winning…”

We there waiting for the awards ceremony while the big raffle giveaway took place. There were home goods and fitness membership, glassware, and electronic doodads like Walkmans and boom boxes. I leaned on the cafeteria table eager to get on with things. But the priority was clearly on making the masses feel glad that they came. The race even seemed secondary to the damned raffle.

Finally, they started announcing age-group winners. That process took a half hour. At last the time came to hand out awards to top finishers in race. Toward the end, my name was (at last!) announced and I received a polite round of applause while walking to the front of the room. This was almost two hours after the race had finished.The woman handing out the awards shook my hand and handed me a small box. It was sealed in wrapping paper, which I considered a bit odd, and I walked back to the table with it clutched inside my fist, and sat down with Linda.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I have no idea…” I replied, lifting up the box to turn it around for inspection.

“It’s about the size of a watch,” she volunteered. “Maybe a sports watch. That would be nice! Open it up!”

Surprise!

I carried a torch for running for many years.

I tore off the wrapping paper and looked at the object inside. It was a Christmas ornament, a plastic Santa Claus holding a torch forward like he was running an Olympic Relay. Linda looked at me with an expression of mixed bemusement and total disbelief. “What the hell??” she stuttered. “All this nice stuff they give out and you get a Christmas ornament for winning? There must be a mistake!”

I sat there thinking about the whole experience that day. The long course. All those prizes and waiting for a couple hours for the awards ceremony. It all felt like a cruel joke, as if someone was pranking me.

As the crowd started to leave, we walked up to the front of the room. I was half planning to ask if there was a mistake. But then I turned to Linda and said, “Screw it. Let’s go home. This whole day was a joke.”

Later that week, I pulled out the ornament and shared the whole story with my father. He thought it was hilarious. “I’ll take that ornament if you don’t want it,” he chortled. And he kept on Ho-Ho-Hoing about “Marathon Santa.”

Christmas Tradition

For years later, on every Christmas Eve my father would wait for us to arrive at their house before he’d pull out the Marathon Santa ornament and hang it on the tree with a big flourish. “Here’s your Big Award!” he’d roar. When my kids were little, he’d hide the Marathon Santa in the tree and encourage them to find it. Then he’d Ho Ho Ho all over again. He loved to give me joyous grief about that ornament.

I suppose there was a lesson in that annual display of grandiose teasing for me. My father loved taking the pomposity out of things his entire life. He never liked guys who smoked pipes, for example. Nor did he like men with big beards. And toupees? Forget it. All were signs of conflicted vanity in his eyes. The Cudworth Clan of four boys is all bald to this day.

My bald head in 2020.

My father loved trolling me about receiving that Marathon Santa ornament instead of some nice prize for winning the race. The tradition lasted for decades until my father passed away at 89 years old. I wound up being his caregiver after he had a stroke in 2002 and my mother passed away from cancer at the age of 80. He’d lost his speech due to the stroke and yet found a way to still tease me every year when hanging up that damned little Santa ornament. “Hoo hooo hooooohhh…” he’d say with eyebrows raised and a big grin on his face.

Forgiveness

Stewart Cudworth was a pretty big advocate for me in many aspects of life. While there were plenty of times in my youth and beyond when he exasperated the hell out of me, I ultimately absorbed all of that into a blanket of forgiveness. In so doing, I also learned to forgive myself for some of the failings in my past.

I think earning the Marathon Santa helped all that in some way. While cleaning out my father’s house after he passed away, I happened upon that ornament but decided not to keep it. The torch was broken off, for one thing, and also, my dad was no longer around to mock me with it. That plastic talisman stood for false and acquisitive pride. The Marathon Santa no longer meant the same thing to me without my dad to tease me about it.

Posted in 10K, Christopher Cudworth, competition, race pace, racing peak, running | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Noble causes and otherwise

A double rainbow.

We didn’t even spend $500 on our trip out west to Colorado in mid-August 1984. Over the years, I’ve met other people traveling around the country on similarly meager funds. They always seemed happier than people spending tons of money on their vacations. For one thing, the expectations are lower and the pleasures are that much better appreciated. We came home tired but satisfied with our journey.

We all need road trips now and then. As it happened, I was on a perpetual road trip with all my running adventures that included traveling around, checking into races, and leaving towns behind that I’d likely never visit again. I once ran a road race out in Amboy, Illinois in which I signed up, jogged to the line, left the entire field behind on the dusty rural roads in the first mile, and finished without anyone else in sight. I never saw another runner that day. The organizers handed me a small trophy at the line. I looked around a few minutes, got in my car, and left without ever seeing another competitor that day.

I always liked winning, but that race felt like overkill. I meant to use it as a tuneup for the fall season and hoped to have a few competitors join me along the way, but no such luck. It made me feel kind of weird for having gone out there at all. Was I that starved for approval? The local runners just stared at me when I lined up in the bright white and blue Running Unlimited kit and clean new racing shoes. They all wore beat-up Brooks and leftover cross country gear from the area high schools.

As a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Kaneland.

Well, I came from similar small-town roots, so tough shit. I paid my dues running laps around Kaneland High school in the heat of late summer and the freezing cold of February. Sure, at that time I was a snot-nosed kid with a prototypical case of teenage dandruff and bad clothes, but with time we all get over that stuff. There was no need to apologize for having gotten better at this running thing. While I was once a hayseed, now I was a runner in full blossom. A few weeks later I did throw that little trophy in the trash. It meant nothing.

The arc of a career

The arc of my fourteen-year competitive racing career was long, often fun, and largely fruitful. Add in the lifelong friends and relationships built from those years of running, and it was all worth it.

The failures experienced along the way only made the eventual triumphs feel that much better. Yet having competed in running since the age of twelve, it was getting near time to check off a Big Box (or two) and bring an effective end to that competitive career.

I knew it wouldn’t happen right away, but I sensed it was getting time to think about it, then move into real life without placing running in front of all other priorities. The itinerant lifestyle of a journeyman runner wasn’t compatible, I reasoned, with having a family, working a full-time job and building a persona around something other than sports.

My head was spinning about what came next, but we’re all spinning around on the same globe that never sits still, so it’s perfectly rational to keep on running in one way or another. I knew that the sport of running would remain in my future. It would just take on different forms.

On September 16th of ’84 I wrote in the journal: “If you want to achieve what you can as a runner, this is the perfect, only time in life to do it.” I was absolutely right about that.

The arc of a career

Carlos Lopes

So it was that during the summer of 1984 I soaked up what I could of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics knowing that while I’d improved immensely, I would never compete at that level and never really expected to. But I was still inspired by what transpired. Aching to see some segment of the men’s marathon, I caught only the last few miles of the race on a borrowed TV. Hoping for an Alberto Salazar win, I was modestly disappointed when Carlos Lopes surged to the front of the race. Watching his silky smooth stride that day, I grew inspired to run even better on my own.

In early September I ran an eighteen-miler with those images of Carlos Lopes flowing through my brain. I loved the idea of running so impossibly smooth that it looked and felt effortless. I believed in that principle from the first time I took up running seriously and read an article in Sports Illustrated about how to develop an efficient stride. During my 18-miler that day, I concentrated on having my feet “kiss” the road in the fashion of Carlos Lopes. Before I knew it, two hours and ten minutes passed by. I’d finished a delightfully easy long run. Of course, if I’d have stopped to dwell on the fact that Lopes was about 37 years old when he won the Olympic Marathon, perhaps I’d have shifted my goals to continue competitive running. But then again, I was not world-class, so one has to measure the investment and returns.

Between runs, I’d paint and write. Perhaps if I’d had an ounce of sense I’d have asked that downtown girlfriend to help me get a job at the big publishing company where she worked. But I also sensed that she was probably not the woman in my future either. The city was great, but the country called me home. Plus my roommate and I were wrapping up our lease in the City of Chicago. Come November, it would be time to move out. Things were coming to a close.

Autumn Kickoff

One of the watercolor paintings I produced during my Chicago residency. A red-tailed hawk.

But in the meantime, I was geared up and ready to get racing that fall. The first opportunity came along in early September, and it went well. I ran to a second-place finish in the River Forest 10K. My Running Unlimited teammate, Jukka Kallio, let me lead most of the race and then pulled away in the last mile. We both broke 32:00, which was his first time under that mark despite the fact that he’d already run a 2:19 marathon in his career, barely missing the Olympic Trials the year before. So I paced him to a PR as I ran 31:53 on a warm day. He waited for me at the end of the chute and we shook hands, then hung around to collect our hardware. My girlfriend Linda enjoyed the opportunity to sit in the late-summer sun.

I stayed with her out in the suburbs that weekend. The next morning I took a birding trip out to Nelson Lake Forest Preserve. I also wanted to collect some colorful sumac leaves to use as subject matter in a watercolor painting I planned to do that afternoon. On the way out of the preserve, I met Charles and Dorothy Brownold, the two people most responsible for getting the park protected as an Illinois Nature Preserve. I wrote about that meetup in my journal. “Caught red-handed with sumac pickings, etc. at Nelson’s Lake Marsh by Dot and Chuck. They were a conciliatory accuser. I just left. They could never understand the need to paint from life. Raided prairie plot instead.”

Frankly, I felt that a small fist of vegetation was worth the price of getting trouble if it meant that I could do a better painting as a result. That was my noble cause that day: a few sumac branches, a clutch of goldenrod, and a few few asters. No real harm done. Yes, I knew that if everyone took flowers and plants from the preserve it might really be harmed. But I defended my intentions under the claim that I’d be producing art with my fistful of stolen plants.

Not so fast

I was getting closer. But not yet committed.

But the onset of fall had other people wondering what my intentions were as well. Especially my girlfriend. “Linda spooky sad tonite,” I wrote. “Her homing instincts grow stronger every day, it seems. House rates here. Babies there. Marriage everywhere. It’s drivin’ me nuts.”

I was still pulled in several directions and felt guilty for it. My downtown girlfriend had written me a letter from California, and I pulled it out of my gym bag that morning outside Linda’s apartmet and sat alone the front porch reading it with mixed emotions. The day was bland and humid, ad the nondescript leavings of summer heat still hung in the air. I wrote in the journal, “My mind is up in that gray suburban sky, looking out on dark horizons and my ears are ringing with crickets of lust.”

Ah, lust. That was indeed my one constant companion. Lust was the ignoble cause of so much equivocation. “Stayed up late last night till 11:45, watching Debbie Does Dallas on the fine-tuned VCR, on TV through the fuzz and no noise. Obsessed, I guess.”

That was the 80s for you. It was a self-indulgent decade of overproduced music, titillating videos and skintight fitnesswear swirling around in an epileptic-inducing state of confusion. Forty years later I can say that I don’t miss any of that shit at all.

Well, there were some things I liked. A Police album or two. The Talking Heads, especially the album Remain in Light. And the Tom Tom Club. Steve Forbert. Joe Jackson’s Night and Day album. Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps. Everything by Rickie Lee Jones. Bowie still. And Johnny Mars on WXRT. I was listening one night when he mentioned Wacker Drive, then quipped, “You Wacker, you brought ‘er.”

My best friend was listening to the same station and heard that on-air joke. From then on, it became one of our ‘go-to’ jokes with anything ending in an ‘er’ sound. Yes, that was Chicago in the early 1980s. Make it up as you go along, and take your noble causes where you can find them.

Posted in 10K, addiction, Christopher Cudworth, college, cross country, love, mental health, nature, running, sex | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Go West Young Man

In August of 1984, I polished off the last summer racing commitment and packed up to drive west with Linda to visit her sister Diane during a music residency in Aspen, Colorado. Diane had not yet earned a spot playing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but she would one day. In the meantime, she’d played for the Lyric in Chicago and done a summer stint at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, where we visited her during those nine months I lived in Philadelphia.

The day before we left I was stressing out about money, but a check finally came through from Trent Richards, so I had about $500 with which to travel. “Tired,” I wrote in the journal. “Glands up. Slight diahrrea. Didn’t sleep well…”

Our plan was to drive south through Missouri and stay with friends for a day in Wichita, Kansas. I still had a special place in my heart for the woman with whom we’d be staying. Now married, she was the person I’d grown so close to at Van Kampen Merritt. She showed up to watch me set a PR at 5000 meters in that midnight race at North Central. And she’d visited me in Philadelphia when I most needed support, and we shared a night together as a sign of everlasting appreciation and friendship.

So we remained friends, and she adored Linda, so the afternoon and evening we spent with her and her husband were special. It was hot as hell in Kansas that July, so we drove out to a giant reservoir to go swimming. The entire body of water was only four feet deep, so we waded out to our chests holding a beer and stood around chatting while speed boats thrashed around the surface in the distance.

I wasn’t concerned about running during the trip, but did go out for a five-miler in Wichita. Then we packed up and drove ten hours into Colorado. I loved the look of the flint hills in western Kansas, where sharp bluffs jutted out of the landscape. I loved the entire concept of the West, even the flat, dry plains of eastern Colorado. Finally, we entered some foothills and Linda decided it was time to celebrate with a glass of wine in the car. She popped the cork on the wine bottle and poured us each a half-glass. I was sipping away when I noticed a set of police lights closing down on us from behind. “Hurry,” I told her. “Put the bottle under the seat. The cops caught us.”

We pulled over and somehow disposed of the wine out the passenger side window. The cop talked to us for a bit and peeked around, but didn’t inspect the car. We didn’t even get a ticket for some reason. He was nice to us, and I’m pretty sure he knew that we’d been drinking, but saw that we were just a pair of dumb young kids on a western lark, so he let us go.

Finally, we drove into the mountains. As we climbed higher, a storm burst over the crest of the peaks and hail started pounding on our car. We were driving her parent’s Oldsmobile on the trip, and I worried that we’d bring it home pocked with dents, but the hail fell fast and didn’t seem to hurt the tough old Olds, and the storm brought fresh, clean air into the mountains. We parked in a camping spot facing a shallow valley with more mountains in the distance. The sun was going down as we popped up our tent and Linda made a quick meal on the Coleman stove. I walked out on the rough ground and a bright mountain bluebird perched on a big rock nearby. I smiled. We were truly out west now.

Our full camping site was reserved at Maroon Bells, a spot nestled high in the mountains with aspen trees all around. We went for a hike that first day and both our legs felt exhausted. Linda was coming off the foot surgery she’d had months before to remove bunions earlier that summer. For the trip west, we’d both purchased a pair of Rockport shoes for hiking in the mountains. I loved those things. They were so light and comfortable.

On August 16 we took a 6 1/2 hour hike up to 12,000 feet. At the start it was just gentle walking on a dirt path. But then we climbed higher on switchbacks, and I was impressed how well Linda climbed despite not having a ton of prep going into the trip. She always had a high VO2 max, as did her brother Paul, who in later years became an exceptional bike racer, competing in Category 3 and Master’s races for a bike club in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

We made it all the way to the top of a saddle where the mountain ridge was sharp. We sat on rocks to rest. A fellow walked up to us at that point and started a conversation. Then he offered to take our photo for us, and stood back to take a snapshot. He was gregarious and friendly and promised that he’d get us a copy of the photo someday. Months later he made good on that promise, showing up at our front door in Batavia that next summer to deliver the picture, have a good chat, and be on his way.

Linda was kind of weirded out by the fact that he tracked us down like that but I felt he was harmless, and the photo did turn out great.

Sitting down for a rest at 12,300 feet. This phot was taken by a “newfound friend” that brought it to us a year later.

And then another weird thing happened at that mountain pass. One of the prime reasons why Linda was so happy to go on a western trip was to have a break from her roommates back in Geneva. They generally got along okay, but one of them was a bit irritating and worst of all, she owned a cat. Linda never liked cats, but they liked her. So the cat would follow her around the apartment as a constant reminder of her somewhat abrasive roommate as well.

There weren’t many people in life that rubbed Linda the wrong way, but I almost busted a gut laughing when lo and behold, I spotted her roommate and her boyfriend hiking up the other side of the mountain. “Oh God, look who’s here,” I said to Linda, pointing down at the switchback below. “It’s her,” she said in amazement. Sure enough, we had a group chuckle about the happenstance of that hike, and took their photo as a record of the meetup. Then I did a short run at altitude to see what it felt like.

I peeled off the long sleeve sweatshirt to try running at 12,000 feet. I have a set of Rockport shoes on my feet.

Then Linda and I started hiking back down the mountain. The altitude was having its effects on her at last. Halfway down the steepest part of the trail, I noticed that she was getting loopy and saying stuff that didn’t totally make sense. “Do you have enough water?” I asked her. She shook her bottle, which was only a quarter full, and said, “I think I can make it.”

Well, that’s how she was. Her whole family was like that. They didn’t go to the doctor unless it was absolutely unavoidable. Her father once got sciatica so bad that he clung to the living room entry shelf for weeks on end rather than get treated for pain.

So I watched Linda carefully. She didn’t improve much by the time we got back down to 10,000 feet. That’s still high altitude, and we were only three days into the trip. I stopped drinking any water myself because I knew that I was fit enough to make it back under any circumstances. After all, I’d once run 18 miles from 6000 feet up to 9000 feet and back down again without a single sip of water at the Grand Tetons. So I kept my water bottle to use with Linda.

She finally got outright punchy. “I’m gonna just sit down right here…” she mused. But I coaxed her along, kept her going, and stopped her to take a drink every half mile. Finally, we got back to the campsite where she could sit down, have food and some energy drink. and snapped back into reality.

The rains come

That afternoon, we hung around the campsite and noticed a kid of around twelve years old getting in and out of truck across the campground. I walked over to see if he was all alone. He explained that his father and brother had done climbing in the mountains, and he was worried. He pointed up at the Maroon Bells, which aren’t known for their solidity. Then it started to rain.

The kid clambered back in the truck and Linda and I grabbed everything we could from the campsite and tucked it inside the tent. Never had I heard it rain as hard as it did that afternoon. The downpour was constant, steady, and persistently vertical. But the runoff was prodigious, rolling down the gray gravel campsite in tiny rivers. The air quickly cooled. We tucked our bare legs inside the sleeping bags and napped for a while. I glanced at my watch. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and it had already rained for two full hours.

We were tired from the morning hike, so the nap felt good. I stared over at her face as we napped and felt a genuine love for her. We’d shared a peak experience that day. Her hair was golden that summer thanks to all the sun she’d soaked up. Her face was tan, and her bare shoulders stuck out from the sleeping bag. I wanted to crawl in with her right then and there, and make love with the rain pounding on our tent. But I figured she needed the rest.

Ninety minutes later we both were getting cabin fever from being stuck inside the tent for so long. The rain was still pouring down and the wind had picked up to a roar. Lightning flashed across the darkening sky. I got out of the tent and snagged a tiny little Scrabble board we’d brought along for the trip and we played a game or two to pass the time.

And the rain kept coming. “I wonder when this is gonna stop?” she finally admitted. We argued a little over whether to just drive into town. Then dozed again. Then woke up laughing our heads off when she saw that my face was wet because the rain had changed direction.

Night sounds

Out amongst the big mountain.

At about 7:00 in the evening, it sounded like someone shut off the spigot. The rush of rain hitting the aspen leaves suddenly ceased. A bird called. The lasting drip of wetness was all we could hear. Otherwise, total silence. And then, a tumble of rocks sounded as they came rolling off the mountain. It was an ominous sound, haunting and sad, like the low moan of a dying era. Indeed, the Maroon Bells were once hundreds of feet higher long ago. Wind and weather and tumbling rocks wore them down to the heights we see today.

Now that young kid hanging around the campsite was more scared than ever. His father and brother were still not back from climbing in the mountains. The sound of those rockfalls made him worry that they were dead. We sat with him for a couple hours to calm him down. Finally, well into the night, we spotted a pair of headlamps across the canyon. It was so quiet we could hear the sound of their voices carrying through the clear mountain air. The lamps bobbed and flickered through the trees, and finally grew near enough to see two figures illuminated beneath them. When the dad and son got back into the camp, the young kid ran into his father’s arms, sobbing. “What’s up with you?” the father demanded to know. “You knew that we’d be alright!”

That seemed like a harsh response to Linda and I. The kid had a right to be scared. But every father has their own type of relationship with a son. That was not ours to dictate.

Stir crazy

We had our own issues to address. The water running under the tent had been a problem all that afternoon. We had draped a big black plastic sheet over the top of the nylon tent, but water seeped through from below. We pulled our sleeping backs out to give them a shake. During that afternoon, we’d both gotten punchy in stir-crazy kind of way, alternating between laughing at our circumstance and getting a little bitchy too. We’d been pinned in that tent and unable to move for hours. Something in my brain that sounded like a voice from outside my body told me, “If you can spend seven hours in a tent with this woman, you can probably be married and be quite happy.”

Mooning her sister Diane.

We went for other hikes with Diane and her friends in Aspen. Linda was lighthearted and joyous at being out west. That was the first time I truly let the notion of marriage penetrate my stubborn young man’s brain.

Linda and I with one of Diane’s friends Marcia.

The next day, Linda drove down into Aspen to meet up with her sister now that the music festival was taking a break. We’d been down to town a couple times and I’d made note that it was twelve miles from the campsite to the main street in Aspen. “I’ll run down,” I told her. “It’s cool out, so you can take my stuff down with you and have some time with your sister. I’ll see you in a little over an hour.”

I put on some Nike Pegasus shoes and started the descent. It was fun flying downhill almost the entire way. The race down Ashcroft took me just under 1:15. My legs were really tired and sore the next day.

Linda (right) with her sister Diane.

After a $20 hamburger, we had a beer or two and arranged to meet up with Diane and a friend the next day for a hike at Independence Pass. We walked around at 11,000 feet after a brief scare with a lightning storm that raised the hair of the women in the group. It was gorgeous weather after that. All of us were light of heart and happy to be in such a beautiful place. I’d turned a corner in my relationship with Linda. Hanging out with her sister made me realize what a special family she had.

Linda’s sister Diane in Aspen.

Our adventures were not completely over. Diane was riding back with us to Chicago from Aspen, and we drove all the way east to Omaha, where it was now dark and we still needed to find a campsite. For a minute, we considered camping down on the sand flats of the Missouri River or whatever it was with the locals. But we thought better of that.

So we snuck into a mobile campground a few miles up the road and parked out of sight on a large field far away from the main ranger station. Working swiftly, we set up the tent in the dark and crawled inside using a combination of sleeping bags, thick blankets and stuffed gym bags (in my case) for pillows. I lay there between the two sisters feeling a bit weird about the whole deal, and we all fell asleep tired from the trip. In the morning, we got up early, packed up the tent, and drove out of the campsite without looking back.

Equivocation

The trip with Linda was a turning point in our relationship. Yet truth be told, most of the trip I’d worn a red long-sleeved New York Road Runners Club tee-shirt purchased for me by the downtown girlfriend during one of her trips to Big Apple through her employer, one of the world’s biggest publishers. While my heart was leaning toward a commitment to Linda, I still had deep feelings for the runner girlfriend. She was smart and funny. Sexy, and loved to dance. I liked her spirit, and she had a sad side to her past relationships that I desperately wanted to cure. Trouble was, so did Linda. I wasn’t being condescending. I had my own past heartaches to reconcile, and was a touch equivocal as a result of being burned before. We all have our baggage to carry.

Posing in the NYRRC tee shirt.

Women have to be so tough sometimes, and it’s a burden they don’t always like to share or show. In fact, the downtown girl was so tough that I worried about her. All that summer her period had ceased due to the training schedule she maintained. She told me her problem was amenorrhea, a ceasing of menstruation due to the stress of the running she was doing. When body fat gets below a certain level, some women have problems with their period. Yet she wasn’t overly skinny, so that wasn’t the exact problem. In fact, she had full breasts and strong buns, a solid set of legs, and her hair was always rich and real. So she wasn’t some overwrought runner girl. She was just too tough for her own good.

She did tell me that she was sometimes feeling bloaty as her tummy reacted during the weeks when she should have had her period. All I knew was that she rocked her blue jeans like no one I’d ever seen. My friends noticed that too, and liked her well enough to respect the reasons why we were together downtown. But the unwritten rule seemed to be that what happened downtown stayed downtown.

My other concern for her was the stress fracture in one of her legs. I could feel the lump below her knee, and it was a ‘hot spot’ too. I encouraged her to see the podiatrist Dr. Durkin, who uncovered the stress fracture and recommended that she stay off it for a while.

Then one day, while she was running intervals with the women’s group over at University of Illinois-Chicago, I was jogging back to the starting line as she was running past with the women’s crew and I heard a loud “snap.” The bone cracked.

I’d only seen that happen one other time in my running career. Our 400-meter hurdler at Luther College once snapped his shine bone in six places after training in a pool all spring before running the sole outdoor race of his season at the conference meet. His plan was to get a qualifying time and then run at Nationals. But that never happened. His collegiate career ended right then and there.

In her case, she took a few weeks off from running and eventually got back to training, but a bit more judiciously. We didn’t see each other that much for a few weeks, but the pull between us was still strong. When did get back in the flow of seeing each other downtown, she passed along a common sexually transmitted disease and I got worried. I visited the doctor right away, but the effects gave me pause. I hadn’t gotten that stuff from Linda. Of that I was sure. That begged the question: was the downtown woman loyal to me? That was doubtful, I realized.

And why should she be? She had every right to do as she wished. I offered her nothing but some partnership and an organized sock drawer, which I vainly showed her one night in an attempt to impress her with my commitment to running. It was all a veneer. A ruse of my own creation. I was honest in my desire for her but dishonest in my intentions long term. I guess that’s how the game is often played in the Big City.

“I used her and she used me and neither one cared…we were gettin’ our share…workin’ on the Night Moves…” (Bob Seger)

I sensed that the centrifugal forces of life were starting to swing in earnest. In many ways, I was running just to stay in place. The trip west with Linda was like a game of crack the whip: an exciting time that produced a lifetime’s worth of memories. But the center of the storm always awaits. Its pull is inevitable. You can Go West, Young Man, but in my case, there was still business to attend do back home.

Posted in 400 meter intervals, Christopher Cudworth, climbing, competition, running, running shoes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Years of Running: Nike, you can always tread on me

The first pair of really revolutionary running shoes that I wore were Nike waffle trainers and racers. We bought the Nike Waffle Trainers during our college years for daily workouts. They were blue and yellow, stable and reliable, and we loved them for running on both the grass and roads in cross country. We put thousands of miles on those shoes over a few years’ time.

In 1975 or so, we were thrilled when the Nike Oregon Waffle racing shoes also came on the market. These were yellow and green, as you might imagine, and were perfect cross country racing boots because they easily made the transition to every surface. Built on a spike last, they were light and fast.

The Oregon Waffle Trainer
Post-collegiately, I still raced in the Nike Waffle Elites.

The next year and for three years after, I raced in Nike Waffle Elites. Those were also blue and yellow in the style of the Waffle Trainers, but much lighter. They were a cross between the spike last and the trainer, and that meant good footing in every condition as well. The soles were solid foam, so no Air components as yet, by 1980.

The panel at left tells the store of who the shoe fit best.
“The Mariah is designed for the serious road racer….” and admits that it’s not for cross country.
Finishing the last few yards of the Chicago Distance Classic in a set of Air Mariahs. Not my fave.

By the time I graduated from college, Nike was really ramping up in the road racing world. In late 1982 or early 1983, I purchased a set of Nike Mariah racing shoes. They had air soles from front to back. Designed almost entirely for road racing, the tread was minimal, and so was the traction. They weren’t the best shoes to wear on a wet day when the asphalt got slick from rain and oil and whatever else clung to the surface.

The Mariah was a novel yet flawed racing shoe.

The other problem with the Mariahs was their spongy feel. The total air sole was a bit distracting because of their ‘give.’ That compression aspect also led to blisters on occasion, especially in hot conditions. I tried to will the Mariahs I’d purchased at Runner’s Edge into a consistent racing shoe, but it never really worked out. Ultimately they wound up being what my college buddies used to tease each other about whenever someone showed up at a party or social occasion with their bright racing shoes on. “Oooooh,” they’d go. “Casual Elites.”

Nike Air Edge road racing shoes. They were the best.
The Air Edge was an awesome road racing shoe.

But not long after the Mariah sank into my closet a new Nike racing shoe came on the market. This was the Nike Air Edge. I fell in love with that shoe instantly and raced in it frequently during the early 80s. The Air heel was contained in a firmer form of rubber, so it did not squish around like the Mariah. The forefoot was not Air soled, but firm and bouncy foam, and it was really responsive as a result. The clincher in what I loved about the shoe was the traction. The sole composition was a nicely patterned grid or cross-lined array of horizontal grippiness. Not too much, but perfect for road racing. I ran under 25:00 for five miles in those shoes, a 31:10 10k, and a 1:24 25K (15.5 miles), one of my best distance running performances at any distance. Had I run a marathon that day, it may well have resulted in a time around 2:22.

I wish that I could buy a set of Air Edges to this day. They were built like a spiked shoe for the road. They’d be a great racing shoe for triathlon too, my chosen sport(s) these days. I’m a Team ZOOT Ambassador along with my wife.

The reason I’m writing about these older shoes today is that my friend and co-worker Glen Kamps at Dick Pond Athletics recently handed me a brochure for each of these shoes one night after I’d finished working a shift at the store. “Where did you get these?” I asked.

He replied: “I’ve kept them all these years.”

That’s Glen. He’s like a running shoe historian, having worked for Dick Pond for almost all its 50 years of existence. We chuckle often at our mutual histories, because while he’s got a couple years on me, we both happily recall the racing scene and its many names and heroes from the early 1980s when this whole road racing scene really took off in the US.

Seeing those little brochures gave me a nice dose of runner’s nostalgia. I don’t go in deeply for that, but when it’s a shared appreciation for all that’s changed in the world of running, it’s fun to have a little moment like that together.

I hope you can appreciate it too. We all have our set of favorite shoes from the past. Some got back years while others are more recent. And when those shoes share a “moment” like setting a PR or contributing to progress in some way, they live forever in our running hearts. That’s a good thing, and I like that my best shoes have left their tread on me.

I even got married in a pair of Nike Pegasus, and gave them to each of the groomsmen. But that’s a story for another day, and not so very far away.

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50 Years of Running: Getting past the crap and the flies

The year was half over, and running races in March, April, May, and June was fun, but the brain and body needed a rest. By late July of 1984, I was ready for a break from racing, but there were still a few commitments to be fulfilled before we took a trip out west that summer. Two days after my miserable DNF due to a sidestitch at Prairie State Games, I took entire day off. That was only the second day I’d skipped a workout in months. The real reason I skipped the other day was the hard night of wild dancing and outdoor dalliance with my downtown girlfriend. It was a warm summer night, and we walked out on the pier at North Avenue Beach to connect under a brightly shining moon. But the dancing was so intense and lasted so long that the next day my foot hurt. Plus, I was hungover. And also, a bit guilty and remorseful. The dichotomy of my life was catching up with me. And finally, even my thighs were sore from three solid hours of dancing. I knew something had to change sooner or later.

I planned on one out-of-town race in late July, a trip to the old college town to run against former teammates. So I picked up Linda in Geneva and we drove out to Decorah, Iowa in my Plymouth Arrow. Our plan was to meet up with our friends Bob and Kirsten Snodgrass and camp out at Phelps Park (legally or not). We drove separately and met them in Decorah on a Friday afternoon.

Nice tent, dude.

A crap fest

There was just one problem: On the trip up to Decorah, I’d taken the back roads. Somewhere in southwestern Wisconsin, we came around a big bend on a remote country road and faced a long stretch of rich-smelling hog slop running across the two-lane pavement. There was no way to slow down or avoid that shit, so we plowed right through it for a few hundred feet. The smell soared up through the vents and we both nearly gagged for a half-mile. We opened the windows as fast as we could despite the warm day and drove along letting the breeze circulate inside the car.

We figured that would take care of the problem, but once we got to Decorah it was evident the encounter had other ramifications as well. The stench of that pig slop hung on the undercarriage of my car and attracted what seemed like every fly in the county. Swarms of them clung to the underside of the car, so I parked it some distance away from our campsite.

You can see the car doors are open on the Plymouth Arrow due to the stench of the hog slop on the car’s bottom.

Bob had a good laugh about the whole scenario. He and I used to trade funny stories about bathroom emergencies that we’d either experienced ourselves or heard about from others. We joked about compiling a book titled Crap Tales. It probably would be a bestseller.

Racing flat

I felt flat the entire race, and spent that afternoon lying around like this after too much food and wine.
We spent a ton of time in really short shorts in the mid-80s.

The morning of the race in Decorah dawned cooler but still humid. I knew that I was fit, but the motivation to win just wasn’t there. I felt flat. One of my ex-Luther teammates won with a time ten seconds faster. I finished in 26:00 and was glad just to have the race done.

Early morning mist rises over the Upper Iowa river in downtown Decorah.

Back home, I stayed out in the suburbs and ran a thirteen-miler the day after the race with Linda accompanying me on a bike. On Tuesday, I had another side stitch during training. Plus, my thighs were sluggish and tired. Gee, I wonder why? Dude, give yourself a break! Yet Wednesday on August 2nd, I ran a morning workout of a 5:20 mile, a half in 2:20, and a 1.5 jog. Then in the evening I ran a set of 4 X 800 in 2:30-2:17-2:16 and 2:15. The depth of my obsession was great.

Heading into the weekend, I was scheduled to serve as a pacer on Sunday for one of Trent Richard’s clients, the president of the advertising agency that I’d been pacing in workouts. But on Friday night I got a call from the owners of Running Unlimited asking me to represent the team at a 5K race in the Northwest Suburbs that next morning. I appreciated their sponsorship and didn’t want to say no even though I’d already raced plenty that year. So I showed up with Linda in tow.

I’d forgotten my racing shoes, so the owners ran back to the store and grabbed me a pair of Nike Eagles. I was grateful for that, but a bit embarrassed. I also wasn’t sure that racing in a completely fresh pair of shoes was a wise idea. As it was, I laced them on with just minutes to spare and lined up for the 5K.

Lean and mean.

There were one or two other Running Unlimited guys on hand, including Bill Friedman, the man that had recruited me for the team. He was always a tough competitor even though he was ten years older than the rest of us. But given the situation, and the fact that we’d driven an hour that morning to get to the race, I wasn’t interested in wasting time. I took that pace out in 4:45, ran through two miles in 9:34, and finished off the 5K in 15:04. Even Friedman was impressed with that effort. “It’s not easy to run that fast on the roads,” he told me.

It always feels good to win a race. But it really feels good when you weren’t even planning on running a race at all. I’d gone from hardly caring about racing the week before to tearing it up the next Saturday. Such are the vagaries of long-distance running.

Duty and booty calls

I still had the 5K pacing to do on Sunday morning, so I showed up for the run downtown the next morning. Linda had enough for the weekend and stayed out in the burbs. I warmed up lightly and met up with Trent and his client near the starting line. My protege looked fit and ready, and I’d paced him enough in workouts to know that his goal of breaking 17:30 as a Master’s runner was in reach. His mistress was hanging out to watch the race.

We passed through one mile in 5:26, right on pace. At two miles we hit 11:15, and he was still good to go. The last mile was a bit harder for him, but we crossed the 5K finish line in 17:25. He was ecstatic. His mistress was waiting for him at the finish line with a big hug. I couldn’t help chuckling at that similarity between us. Me and my downtown girlfriend. Him with his work wife. The only difference was that I was not yet married.

Over the course of my life, I’d meet plenty of men with a woman on the side. And honestly, a few women with men on the side as well.

I’d also meet company leaders quite willing to sex it up with callgirls without seeming to feel any guilt about their behavior. And though I got invited now and then, I never spent time any time hanging around strip clubs throwing money at naked women. The one time I did join a friend at a club in Minneapolis, he got so drunk that he insisted on trying to rescue a pretty stripper from her occupation. “She’s too beautiful to be up there,” he insisted. “I’m going backstage to talk to her.”

“You won’t make it,” I warned him.

He refused to listen and commenced walking around the main stage headed toward the curtains blocking the dressing room when two giant bouncers appeared. They each grabbed him by an arm and lifted him clear off his feet. He was half their size and kicking his legs in mid-air as they carried him straight across the room and right out the front door. They may have thrown him into the street, but I don’t recall that clearly. I had to grab his jacket in the cloak room and join him outside. That was an interesting lesson learned.

Lincoln Park Pirates

I knew so little about the really wild world that I found amusement sitting in our Lincoln Park two-flat, I watching a parade of wealthy guys dropping off escorts from their limos and changing shirts before driving home to whatever the rest of their life offered. And while I had my shared of thrills during two years of Bohemian existence living in the city, once I got married I was never unfaithful to my wife. Once committed, I played by the rules and was proud to do so.

But not everyone around me did the same. A work associate of mine once asked what I thought about the idea of his having an affair. I told him: “Well, when you’re married, you have this road map, see. And your job is to get on the right road and follow it. But once you have an affair, all roads become an option. I think that’s a hard way to live.”

He agreed, and a week later her broke off the affair. But it took him some time to get the other woman out of his world, because she was a bit crazy. Not Fatal Attraction crazy, but crazy enough. Sometimes in life, we have to pass through some crap but the flies keep coming for us.

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, college, competition, love, race pace, racing peak, running | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment