Thursday, May 25, 2017

Once a runner

I'm not sure I can call myself a runner anymore.  I used to love running to the exclusion of all other activities. In fact, I would ponder invitations based on whether I would be able to run or not. Not being able to run was doom personified.

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!









11 comments:

  1. Ah, those days! Running in all kinds of weather...Not laughing....cute!

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    1. Wish I were still that young and thin, but knowing what I know now. Actually I'm much stronger now, couldn't do many pushups then.

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  2. Nice outfit! It's fun to look back on the fashions of yesteryear (did I really wear that???) I think as long as you run, no matter the distance or pace, you can call yourself a runner. I've been averaging two mornings a week and I think it still counts.

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    1. True, I cringe at the outfits but at the time...we thought we were hot stuff.

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  3. Young runners ... meanwhile, I failed the presidential fitness test in seventh grade because I didn't run the mile in time. It wasn't for lack of trying. I think they even gave us 12 minutes, although it might have been 10. It's one of the more enduring humiliations of my middle school years, as I struggled toward my gym teacher who was holding her watch and shaking her head, with a bunch of other girls who had recently finished their miles, sitting on the side lines.

    When I was 30, new interest in the sport only sparked because I realized how much ground some of my friends were capable of covering in Juneau's mountains in a day. They could run the Juneau Ridge in 3 hours — it took me 6. Imagine the places I could go if I could move twice as fast!

    Now I recognize that mountain running is many parts talent and risk-taking, and I'm still a hiker with better tolerance for time on my feet. Although I agree, when the conditions are ideal, one can settle into a rhythm and pace that generates perfect flow — there's nothing else like it, even cycling. I do love running, even though at heart I'm still the 12-year-old who couldn't make it around the track in time.

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    1. I think if I had started later in life I would still be enamored. People didn't really run trails when I started. A friend's dad did so I started too. Nobody else was out there. Good times.

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    2. When I was in my 20s, my then-boyfriend made running look both effortlessly easy, and a hopelessly unpleasant experience (while training for the Su100, he ran a 25-mile flat road out and back on North Douglas Island, five days in a row. Ugh, just ugh.) I suppose I'm lucky the desire didn't hit until later, but I do have friends in their 60s and 70s who have been running for 50+ years. Some people really are just runners.

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    3. 50 years is a long time. I'm sure I'll still be running then, I'm just more fond of other pursuits. Though if I had different trails maybe I would sing a different tune.

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  4. I always wanted to run but my body just didn't seem to be made for it. Back in the day I jogged and remember when I finally made it to 6 miles. It was never pretty nor enjoyable. It's a more efficient way to get exercise and even on flat terrain I can get my heart rate up vs walking. I've always envied friends who have the flow, the natural gate and rhythm. I'm the plodding elephant. Guess I best stick to biking and hiking.

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    1. Definitely when I have less time I go with a run. It just doesn't feel as great as it used to. Of course if we had less treacherous trails maybe I would feel differently,

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  5. I do love running, even though at heart and I prefer to walk for going on work rather on cycle. It helped me to maintain my body.

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