So what happened? Like most of my friends who started young (I started in my early teens), I kind of grew out of the competitive phase. I didn't see the point of paying to run, and didn't really care about personal records anymore. I wanted to run solo, not with a group of sweaty strangers. Running became more about time free of electronics, even music, and turned exclusively to trails, because pavement just felt too harsh. Now, I find there are many other things I want to do with my limited free time, and running has been relegated to about two times a week.
So can I call myself a runner? I launched myself out of the house the other day. The cat followed, and I put him inside. He jumped back out the cat door. I distracted him with treats (he has me trained). I lumbered up the park trails, thanking my stars that I didn't carry a Garmin anymore. I know my pace is slow. I find it hard to care about this. I used to care, a lot.
Running was the first really hard thing I did. Back in the day, there weren't really training plans, nobody told you how to "fuel", we didn't have belts with GU, we ran uphill in the snow both ways, etc etc. But seriously, we mostly ran all out, all the time. As fast as we could, even in training. It taught me how to be tough. I don't know if I could have gone on to fight fire or work on a trail crew without this experience.
Now, everybody runs, but back when I started, it was still sort of unusual. People called it jogging. They wore sweatbands. Guys wore really short shorts. I owned a Goretex suit of a shiny silver material that I wore in winter, a coat and pants. I probably looked like a Martian. But it was fun.
Do I miss the way it used to be? Sometimes. There were plenty of moments on a long run when the stars aligned and nothing could hold me back. I've run all over the country, mostly in the national parks where I worked. There were a plethora of trails, and unlike the ones here, these were soft and smooth, free of rocks. Those were the good times. I will always be grateful for them. And even though I run in one week what I used to in one day, I don't regret a thing. Running will always be something I do, even if it's slow, even if it's only a few times a month. It's changed, but it hasn't gone away.
|After a record-setting race. Don't laugh! These outfits were the height of fashion!|