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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Stride and Seek

I’ve started running again. Not from the law or from the truth, just wanting to get back into shape. When I was in high school I ran cross-country and track, all distance events. I’ve never been much of a sprinter, and the one field event I tried – long jump – I ended up spraining my back in the process. (Yes, it is totally possible to sprain your back, and it hurts like hell, I can tell you.) I played basketball for a few years in junior high and high school, but though my lay-up skillz were not bad, I wasn’t very aggressive on the court.

My days playing center bench in high school.

I was too timid to run up to someone and knock them down, steal the ball, and leave fingernail scratches on their arm in the process – that’s how a lot of our opposing teams played. I spent most of my basketball career making sure the bench didn’t move. My coach would take pity on me for the last 2 minutes of each half of the game and put me in – if we were losing and there was no hope of catching the score up. But distance running, that was something I could do, and I loved it.

We were awesome.

I was by no means the fastest. And for a time, I was certainly slowest. But once I hit my stride, I was usually somewhere solidly in the middle of the pack. I was even ok enough to be second leg on a relay team. And for the full 5 years I ran, our girls’ cross-country team was undefeated; I think I may have contributed to some of that a time or two, though others were by far the solid points-getters for the team. I didn’t enjoy track as much as cross-country. There was a certain Zen to running through woods and fields, with uphills and downhills and rocks and tree roots; it felt like more of a challenge than running in circles for three miles and trying to keep track of which lap you were on. I loved the earthy, muddy scent of the trail mixed with the woodsy pine and dried leaf smell of the course. Once you were out there on the course, it was you, your stride, and the runners ahead of you that you intended to pick off one by one as the three miles ticked on by.

It’s been several years since I’ve done any kind of running. I’ve tried a few times since high school to get back into it, each time whining and wheezing myself out of it. There is substantially more of me than there was back then, and things bounce and jiggle in ways that they never did when I was seventeen, which makes for all kind of psyching myself out. But over the last three weeks, I’ve been running again, and I seem to have found my missing stride. It started out as an experiment; I discovered, after doing the Relay For Life at our local high school track, that this school has one of the cool cushy tracks that our track team only visited – the kind that absorbs the shock of your footsteps and helps propel you forward, while going easy on your knees. (For those of you reading this who might have been on my track team, think Hornell or Campbell-Savona’s tracks.) I started telling my husband that these were always the best tracks to run on – I got all of my best times on the cushy tracks. (Our school had a cinder track, which was decidedly less cushy and absolutely not fun to fall and skin your knees on.) I told him offhandedly that, instead of one of our evening strolls, we should go down to the school’s track and try jogging on it. So on a whim, we did. And it wasn’t bad at all.

I started out with jogging a mile, with a substantial warm-up and cool-down walk each time, just to ease myself back into it. I decided that I would jog slow - slower even than I walk, just to get the rhythm of running and breathing back. It’s been 3 weeks of intermittent convincing ourselves to go to the track, but suddenly, the mile is becoming easier to do. So on to two miles! And other places to run! Last night, my husband and I walked up to a nearby park and ran the trails through the forest, and the joy of running cross-country flooded back to me. I forgot my pedometer, so I have no idea how far we ran in miles, but it was a good run with some substantial hills, and we ran at a good clip. I’m looking forward to finding more places nearby to run like that!

I’m not going to go ahead here and say that I can call myself a runner again; I’m wary of jinxing my rekindled enthusiasm for running, lest I talk myself out of it again. And I’m not going to commit to ever running races again, for fear that I won’t follow through. But I have to say, it feels really good to be back in my Nikes.


k.a. barnes said...

Hello, Marcy! Reading about you running and seeing you with the viking helmet reminds me of the cartoons you drew for me about the Coots boys chasing us on the cross-country trails!

BobbaLew said...

RE: running....
I still do it — what I say is my knees still let me. Age 66.
I used to race; 5K and 5-mile, and 10K.
(Didn’t run in high-school.)
Ran a cross-country 5-mile once; lotta mud and a cliff. Woods was nice, though.
5K is my limit now; bog-slow.
Won my age-class at a recent race; 66-70 I guess.
I considered the reason to be I was the only one in my class.
45:48 for 5K is bog-slow.
Tried to run on trails at nearby Boughton Park — a guaranteed fall. Too many roots! Just walking our dog there almost guarantees a tumble.

BobbaLew said...

When my wife attended Campbell Central School, it was NOT merged with Savona (oh, the infamy!).
And it’s “Kamp-BELL;” not the soup.
(Of course, you knew that. But your readers wouldn’t.)

BobbaLew said...

Okay, I keep trumpeting the Precor AMT ( to you.
First try, I puked out at 17 minutes.
After that, one 30-minute session.
After a while, two 35-minute sessions. (400+ calories per session.)
In other words, ya get better.
A while ago I was worried my balance was degrading.
I started doing balance-training at the Canandaigua YMCA.
Trying to stand on a partially deflated half-ball about 100 seconds.
Got so I could do it — my balance is better.
Keep pushing yourself, Marcy.
Ya got at least one guy in your cheering section.
And if Mahooch can do it too, good for him.
As I recall, he used to smoke.
Don’t be afraid to try a race; you’ll push harder trying to pass people.
And NO BEER after a race — sody either. Eat an orange!