I read a post by Accidental Fire that really got me thinking. I highly recommend that you read his link for besides being insightful, it provides context for what I am about to write. This post is about what his got me thinking about.
Among the many shoes that I have worn, my running shoes, my trainers, have been my constant companion. Oh sure I have changed brands and models and styles over the years, but wherever I have gone and whatever I have done I’ve always brought my trainers. Running is as much a part of my identity is anything else that I have done or experienced.
While I was always friends with the athletic kids I could never truly call myself one. Like most suburb kids born in the late 70s, I grew up outdoors playing football and baseball and basketball and whatever other sport we could think of. And while some of my friends grew up to be quarterbacks for the high school or even played on various college teams in various sports, I was always just a bit or sometimes quite a bit worse than most of them at it whatever game or sport we played.
We all grew to love riding our bikes and finding little ramps to jump and things like that. I think it was with writing someone’s around the 5th or 6th grade that I started to realize that I seem to have a bit of an edge there. By seventh grade, I had joined the cross country and track teams at my junior high to compete in the distance events. Again, I was not the best, but in my first year in particular I was one of the best.
I broke my foot at the beginning of my junior year of high school, and by the time it healed, and I had gotten myself back into shape I no longer had the desire to compete. Running alone for those months while I got myself back into shape changed my view of running. It became very much something for me. I would go exploring, really just around the rural neighborhoods and farmland that I grew up in, but there was a sense of being that I found in those times. To say it another way, I really love running by myself pushing myself and against myself and exploring much more than being part of a team.
In hindsight, I find myself torn at times between how much I got from that running by myself, and how it has become a part of my identity through the rest of my life, and just having a couple more seasons of that camaraderie.
I went to a division 1 university for engineering, and while I was a decent distance runner by high school standards, I was not up to the standards of the runners who could compete there. I was friends with a few of those guys, and they were just on a whole other level. So the my running continued to be mostly for me.
I ran some with friends now and again. I ran some with my ROTC detachment, but I usually ran alone. I had friends, lab partners, and I had a lot of homework. Electrical Engineering was a difficult program for me and almost everyone else; about 85% of the kids I started with changed majors. Running was my escape from all of that.
What about drinking, well I was teetotaler then besides it being underage. Besides, part of the running escape for me was to escape the social demands of friends, competitors, and of course girls.
I can recall clearly the primary runs I would take everywhere I have lived; I like testing myself against the clock on the same paths. Often, a new year would bring with it a desire for a new path, but often they were the same. I’d occasionally sprinkle in a new route.
I miss all of those old runs, and I guess I miss the time, place, and people who were with me there. There is this great line in the movie Field of Dreams, a great Kevin Costner baseball movie, where the actor James Earl Jones observes “… baseball has marked the time…” He goes on to say some wonderful things about that game I love, but running is how I have marked my time. I see my life by the trainers I have worn, and the paths I took them on.
I’ve run the block and neighborhood I grew up in. I ran to and across town, and back. I ran across and through state parks and later national parks. I ran on college campuses and military bases. I’ve run on 3 continents, but along only 2 oceans. I ran around the lower half of Manhattan, and through small New England towns. One day, I hope to run with my son, and watch with pride when he finally beats me.
Accidental Fire’s post got me thinking about all of this, as I nurse the latest injury of mine; a broken foot and damaged tendon in my foot. It’s merely the latest of many such injuries; I am one of those people who don’t feel much pain when they run, and I ran about 2.5 miles after the fall when I busted my foot. As always, I will recover and run again. I am also thinking of Harrison Ford’s great line in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where he rolled out in that roguelike way, “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” This is how I deal with stress, and as during so many recoveries of my past, I have had to find a way to get by.
This also got me thinking of recreation and entertainment cost efficiency. I get a lot out of my dollars spent on my trainers. My other hobbies also tend to stretch out. Well, before this post becomes another, I will have to end this here.
I would, however, love to hear your thoughts on this.