I’ve Run for 50 Years April 1, 2017
One of the minor personal anniversaries I’ve knowingly preserve is I that was in a sports page photo of the local newspaper at the start of the mile run in the first track meet of the year my sophomore year in high school. That would be 1967. I’ve ran for 50 years. Why have I ran for 50 years? I am not exactly sure but I have a few hypotheses.
While I know there are health benefits, that is not why I run. While I’ve been in a couple hundred races, I don’t care much about the completion. While I weigh less than I otherwise would, I don’t run to look good.
Runners joke that they don’t know if they are running to some place or from some thing. I run because of how it makes me feel. I love to be in motion suspended between where I’ve been and where I’m going, free to go as fast as I wish to go. I love the tranquility of being alone in a busy world.
Running is the thread woven through my celebrating my accomplishments and my overcoming frustrations and failures. Running pulls together my education, career, family, vacations, and my life. Occasionally I think the time I’ve devoted to running could have been better invested in learning another language or becoming accomplished on a musical instrument but then I go for a run and have no regrets.
Running has re-enforced my slightly introverted personality and provided a setting where I seem to process a lot of my better ideas. Running has been a vehicle for exploring new cities, broadening my view of the outdoors, and increasing my attention to my surroundings.
I like feeling the rhythm of my arms swinging, hearing the sound of my shoes hitting the street, and becoming aware of my breathing. Running on a trail on an early spring morning, hearing the birds, and noticing the redbuds and dogwoods is a first class experience that shapes the day.
I started running the summer before high school undoubtedly because my older brother ran. My first memories of running were having races across our field to our neighbor’s oil well and back to the kitchen door. It may have been a half mile and we usually got stiches in our side back then—but it was fun. We did it in the rain, in the snow, in our bare feet.
Back then, few people ran. As it turned out, I did not make the high school basketball team and running probably filled a hole I may otherwise have had in my self-concept. I enjoyed the camaraderie of a team but have ran most of my miles alone since college—partly for convenience, but mostly because I like it.
By time performance, I am just an average running. One thing that has been constant in a half century of running is that I am usually the median runner. My father observed that in high school cross country meets I was often by myself between the fast guys and the slow guys. He remarked “you are either the slowest of the fast guys or the fastest of the slow guys.” I suspect few of the guys I ran with are still running today.
I achieved one of my life’s goals last spring when I ran 5 miles when I turned 65 and qualified for Medicare. I remember talking to my high school economics teacher, Mr. Griffin, about the term paper I was writing about Social Security and the topic turned to the cross country team. One of us asked “would I still be running when I qualified for Social Security?” Well, I made it. It wasn’t really a goal, it was more of a target that I aimed for. It served me well. It probably minimized my alcohol and food consumption.
The running craze of the late 1970s started right when I was in my late 20s and certainly pulled me along. One key to longevity, of course, is accident avoidance. I’ve had aches, pains, and overuse injuries but nothing serious. I’ve been lucky. The running craze of the late 1970s started right when I was in my late 20s and certainly pulled me along.
Running has etched the smoothness of the road, with its slopes and cracks, of my favorite running routes deep into my subconscious memory. Every five years or so I’ve ran the course in my hometown where my brother and I sometimes ran before school while in high school and still recall the crown of the paved roads, the landscaping of the neighbors, and the style of the mailboxes we past.
I run because I feel a sense of accomplishment, a sense of satisfaction. I feel alert and alive. The simplest reason for running that I’ve heard came from one of my sons when he was still in college. He said “the only way you can guarantee you will have a good day is to go for a run.” Yep, that’s says it the best.