Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thirty Years and Still Running

ORN: 20.3 miles, 3:31:08, R4/W1, 10:25/mile

What a wonderful morning for a long training run. The twenty felt good…pace held up well. My legs felt it a bit at the end but no real difficulty. With the humidity down and temps between 60-72F over the run, it was a surprisingly enjoyable summer run. One more 23 miler in three weeks, then the first fall marathon on Sept 20.

Flipping the calendar to August made me realize I had missed an important anniversary in July; it was 30 years ago I started running. Allow me a brief history.

We were living in Swaziland, Africa when our oldest son was born in March, 1978. I realized I had become woefully out of shape. While I had played multiple sports through High School and a bit of baseball at Purdue, I had no outlet for conditioning as a new Dad living in Africa and was grasping what to do. With no real knowledge, I just started running. Out in the morning, seeing if I could first run a mile…then two…then three. Although I had hated track in High School, I found I really liked it.

We came back to the US for a vacation in the fall of 1978, and I discovered the first “running boom” in America had started. I devoured Jim Fixx's classic The Complete Book of Running. I ran my first race on November 11, 1978, a small 5 miler, finishing in 35:32. I was hooked.

We headed back to Africa, moving from Swaziland to Lesotho where we spent three years. I ramped up the training and entered my first marathon sometime in 1979. Temps in the 80s with no water stops for the 30 entrants left me fully dehydrated after mile 21. I regrouped, planned better and finished my first marathon on August 2, 1980. In a field of 150, I ran a 4:17 and was next to last. The quality of African running has always been strong. I ran another marathon five months later in 4:16; I beat two guys. And they were guys...we never saw women running at that time.

We moved back to the US in late 1981 and I continued running. Raising a family, settling into a new job, going to graduate school all cut back on my training miles but I kept running. I entered a lot of 10Ks and half marathons through the 80s. As my two older sons got into sports, I started refereeing soccer, a hobby that lasted through the late 90s. I ran to stay in shape for soccer; it worked pretty well. In the back of my mind though, I wondered if I’d ever run another marathon; the desire was there but I couldn’t see the path.

A cool job popped up in 1996, the only down side of which was 70 minutes of commuting each day. That drive pretty much wiped out running and, eventually, even soccer. I struggled to find a way to stay in shape in limited extra time. My weight crept up and the conditioning leaked away. Then, out of the blue, an even cooler job opportunity found me in the spring of 2004 with the added plus of being less than a mile from my house.

Over the one weekend I took off between the two jobs, I determined to begin running again. I exchanged the time I had been commuting for running and it seemed to work. I found newly-constructed trails near my house, measured some courses and started back running. And I had no idea what I didn't know.

In the 17 years since I had run a road race, a new generation of shoes had emerged, about which I knew nothing. I started hearing of “technical shirts” which I assumed to be a cotton T-shirt with an integrated circuit embedded. There were hardly any 10K races, only 5Ks, it seemed. Running was new, all over again. My knees and Achilles kept hurting. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. Yet, it was great to be running regularly again.

I ran my first race of the new era over the Labor Day weekend of 2004. A simple, local 5K fund-raiser, I wondered if I’d be able to run it without stopping. I did, finishing in a very modest 29:45, despite wearing two neoprene knee braces. More importantly, I felt the rush of race day. It was awesome. During the fall, I discovered a good running store in Indy which reintroduced me to Brooks shoes. The pain went away and running started to click again.

The distances moved up. More races. Since I was already had a professional blog, I searched out running blogs and learned more. I began to think perhaps, maybe, just possibly, I could do another marathon. On April 9, 2006, it came true at the St. Louis Marathon. I ran a 4:29 and beat more than two other people. And this blog contains most of the rest of the story.

Thanks for listening…it is fun to recap 30 years of running. Blogging has been a huge part of this new era. What I’ve learned from all of you can’t be quantified. The camaraderie, the knowledge, the ups and downs of all of our experiences means so much to me.

Persevere.

14 comments:

WADDLER26.2 said...

Congrats on the milestone! That is so impressive and you are still going strong.

John said...

Great stuff, Joe.. I remember your visit back in '78, as it was the week before I started high school!

Congrats on the 30 years!!

david said...

Your story sounds very familiar, except I only did 10k races the first time around. I, too, have my copy for the "red book". Congrats on 30 years.... you have truly persevered!

crossn81 said...

Congrats. That is a great story. What type of work were you doing in Africa?

Wes said...

A happy 30 years :-) Way to go Joe! May your best years of running still be ahead of you!!!!

Backofpack said...

Gee whiz, go off on vacation and Joe writes two cool posts! Congrats on 30 years of your passion! May you run with passion for 30 more...

Darrell said...

What a great wrap up of the running part of the last 30 years.

I hope I'll be able to tell one of those someday.

Karen said...

Yes, all this is true by my memory too! I believe in the marathon in South Africa some of the runners were barefoot! Keep enjoying your hobby, brother!!

Karen

Uncle Nathan said...

Great job dad I talk about you all the time and am quite proud of your determination that this blog evident. Keep it up.

jeff said...

so hard to sum up 30 years of running, but you did it well. it's been a joy to watch the last couple years. you're an inspiration!

robtherunner said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the recap of your running history. I came about a copy of that book at a Goodwill store a couple of years back and bought it for $1. I still haven't read it, but I treasure it nonetheless. I wish you another 30 years of running.

Sarah said...

Congrats on your anniversary! I enjoyed reading your story. You sure were on the cutting edge running a marathon in 1980! : )

Mary Gee said...

I have been running almost as long, but not as consistently or as well, but I, like you, sure am grateful for what running has done in my life.

Shilingi-Moja said...

30 years of running! Thanks for sharing. And to think, it started in Africa.