I suppose for me this should be some form of closure. I haven't run a mile in several years, and never will again. That is hard to say, because running was an integral part of my life for over twenty years.
It all started rather slowly back late in 1976. I had been out of teaching for over two years and had put on a few pounds. I tried to play basketball on weekends, but, of course, that didn't help. We lived in San Francisco so we would see large groups of people running. There even was a race(Bay to Breakers) that had thousands of participants. One May we went to the edge of Golden Gate Park and observed the throngs of runners in that race. It was inspiring. I went out and splurged $30 on a pair of Nike Nylon Cortez running shoes and started slowly jogging around the big irregular block on Twin Peaks on which we lived. My first runs were about 3/4 of a mile. It was weeks before I measured my distance in whole miles, but within a couple months I was hooked. I ran my first race in February of 1977, a six miler sponsored by the Chinatown YMCA. I told my support team to look for me in about 48 minutes. I had never run that far before, but I know I could run a mile in eight minutes, so I was hoping the crowd, the adrenalin, and the excitement would allow me to do several miles at that pace.
Imagine my surprise when I finished in under 42 minutes. Now, I'm not only hooked on running, but racing. I want to compete. I knew I could get faster if I worked harder, ran further. So I did.
It is true. Somewhere in the basement I have records of every mile I ran, where it was, which shoes I wore, and how fast. I have detailed records of most of the nearly 250 races I ran. I could find the splits(mile times) of the marathons and half-marathons I labored through.
But I'll leave my statistical running reminisces for another time. What I need to address is the perceptions a pair of sixty year old guys have about their long-running hobby.
My co-conspirator spoke glowingly of my accomplishments and for that I am thankful. But I see this entirely differently. My "glory time" in competitive running was very brief. I ran, faster and further than I ever thought possible, for a few years, and then I very steadily slowed down. I have no idea why. I worked hard, watched what I ate, and did just what a distance runner is supposed to do, but I just slowed down.
But Kevin maintained his competitiveness year after year after year.
When he finally ran a half-marathon, sometime in his fifties, his time was as good as I ran in my thirties. I regularly opened the Omaha World-Herald for race results, because Kevin was always placing in the top ten of some metro area race.
Kevin managed to run, each successive year, very nearly as fast as he ran the previous year. It just drove me crazy. I was happy for his continued success, but frustrated at my inability to keep up.
It was probably my knees telling me it was time to hang up the New Balances. In any case, I have my new knees and just this week began my new exercise regime. And let me tell you how hard it is to walk backwards. My new exercise regime includes walking on a treadmill, mostly backwards, riding a recumbent stationary bike, and using an Airdyne, as well as a teeny bit of weights. Most unusual of all is my gym. I am just continuing to go to my physical therapy place, paying a token fee to join their "gym" program. I'm the only person doing this so it isn't hard getting to the equipment.
I will always treasure my running times and memories, and always respect Kevin for the long time he was able to run much faster than his contemporaries.
And I hope we can come to grips with the fact that our bodies wear down, and then find ways to maintain our health.