Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Early History of Running

Deep thoughts about running?  Deep thoughts during running?  I’m not really sure what I’m trying to capture here, but we’ll see where it goes.  This will be sort of a running journal, an opportunity for me to explore my extroverted tendencies and share the joys and pains of my running journey.  Some of what I write may be technical (best shoes, training methods, diet, etc.).  Some of what I write may be for entertainment purpose.  Some of what I write will be to capture lessons learned (and it likely will cross over into the spiritual).

I have been running since I was a child.  Then it was just to run from my sister or others as I teased them, or from the scene of some newly made mess.  There was a commercial, way back in the day, for a shoe that was supposed to make the wearer extremely fast.  I begged and begged until my parents finally bought me that brand of shoe.  With a sense of great expectations I put the new shoes on my feet in front of my grandmother’s trailer.  Pulling the laces tight, I tied and retied my knots perfectly.

A few other children had gathered around to observe my exploits—my sister, some cousins, and a few neighborhood kids.  I jogged up and down the sidewalk a few times to warm up, then I told them to watch while I unleashed the power of the shoes in a sprint up the sidewalk.  Crouching in the three point starting stance, I waited while someone counted down: “Ready!  Set!  Go!” 

Spring from my stance I took off down the sidewalk, pumping my legs and watching the shoes work.  I was certain I was faster than I had ever been before even if I didn’t notice much more wind racing through my wild hair.  After a few dozen yards, I reined myself in and turned around to gauge everyone’s reactions.  Nobody seemed overawed, much less mildly impressed.  One of the neighborhood boys chuckled at me and said, “I can run faster than that.”

The challenge couldn’t be ignored.  We picked a starting line on the sidewalk, lowered into our starting positions, and waited for the countdown.  On “Go!” I took off as fast as I could run.  Within about five steps it was obvious that I was outmatched and wouldn’t catch him.  Devastated I slowed to a walk.  As he turned and began to gloat, I had a sudden thought.  What brand of shoes is he wearing?  Maybe he was wearing the same new brand and simply had more experience in them.

I said, “Let me see your shoes.  What are you wearing?”  He looked down at his shoes and I looked at them as well.  They were well worn, almost worn out.  Where I had nice new leather and a well-textured soul, his shoes were thin and torn, smooth on the bottom. 

“I don’t know what kind of shoes they are.  I just wear whatever my mom buys me.”

That day my dream of being fast didn’t die, not completely, but it was the first step toward a realization of my natural skills and shortcomings.

By middle school I once again was entertaining hopes that I might turn into a fast runner, although maybe not as a sprinter.  At Workman Middle School in Pensacola, Florida I managed to run one mile in around 5 minutes and 45 seconds.  My hopes were that my legs would get longer and I would be able to decrease my time.  Unfortunately that was the fastest mile I ever ran.  In ninth grade I started to put on a lot of muscle weight and my legs didn’t get much longer.  During tryouts for the freshman football team the next year at Booker T. Washington High School, my forty-yard dash was barely fast enough to earn me a position as an outside linebacker.  I never ran the forty-yard dash that fast again.

From that point on, at least until I tried to get into the Air Force, I never pushed myself hard to run for speed.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t run.  I ran a lot.  Primarily I ran because a wrestling or football coach told me to run.  I ran so I could make weight for wrestling.  But, at that point in my life I didn’t do much running for the joy of running.  Oh, I enjoyed running during a football game and crashing into someone.  I enjoyed a good pick up game of basketball or ultimate Frisbee.  Running itself, however, was not the goal or path to fun.

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