*Yeah, I know, this blog entry is not about firefighting, but if you remember my first offering, I mentioned that I would be all over the place. That, and there’s the fact that I received an email from Patch blog central that read: “Your contributions are among the most-read blogs on Patch, and we just had to thank you for it! Your voice is what makes Patch great. We can't wait for you to come back and blog again!" Sounds like, “Slacker…where the heck are you?” Anyway, this entry sort of relates to firefighting since I’ll do anything to keep this half-century old body in shape until I retire.
I hate running. Yes, you read that correctly. I really hate to run. It’s more the finish that I look forward to.
I still consider myself a novice runner as I only started to get serious with this craziness about a year ago when my surgeon threatened to punch me in the head if I didn’t cut out the Cross Fit, Boot Camp, Zumba (yes, Zumba. I have mad Zumba skills) and the other intense workouts that would end up contributing to the failure of all of his hard work. It seems that those hernia repairs can fail quite easily when you push them to the limits. I’m also the proud owner of two torn rotator cuffs, but have eluded surgery on those due to my constant physical therapy and shoulder workouts. I also had knee surgery back in the 1980s, so you can typically see me running with a slight gimp through Twinsburg with my knees held together by matching patella bands. Whether I’m running down your street or on one of the amazing running trails, the best part of it is waving at your friends, neighbors. walkers and fellow runners.
Anyway, I started out running a mile here and then a mile there about two years ago and that led up to my first 2-miler. It was a fundraiser for St. Malachi in Cleveland and it started in the flats, wound through the Warehouse District and then ended up near O’Malleys bar back in the flats (all good races end up near a bar and they all have beer. No beer…no run!) At the beginning of that race, I was nearly knocked down by some “elite runners” as they threw elbows and jostled for those front positions of the pack. Why they didn’t just line up near the front at the start is beyond me, but I soon found that it’s a recurring theme for some of these jackwagons.
It seems that no matter what race that I’m in, these same types of runners show up and think that they own the course. Seriously dude? You get the same damned tee-shirt and free beer at the end as I do and I don’t think this race is a qualifier for Boston! My cousin Leslie ran the Boston Marathon and she’s only 5-foot nothing, weighs about 90 pounds and had major heart surgery when she was a child. She’s not only a true elite runner, but she’s also a polite elite runner. One who will encourage anyone to start with that first mile and then call you a runner when you’ve completed it. I’ve read running blogs where contributors will blatantly post that if you run less than an eight minute pace and less than 20 miles a week, you’re a “jogger.” Oh, bite me! Anyone who puts on a pair of running shoes and runs with pain and sweat is a runner in my book, as well as many other’s books. These same people should also realize that the faster and longer they run, the more their body will take issue and become toxic. The Mayo Clinic did a now famous study that concluded non-runners and those who ran over 20 miles per week and at a pace faster than less than the eight minute mile had the same morbidity rates as the non-runner. Hear that Mr. Elbow thrower? You have the same chance of dying as a couch potato.
Now, certainly those rude runners are in the minority as I have discovered. As I progressed into running 5ks and those really cool Warrior Dashes, I’ve met many, many fun people who have welcomed me into their insanity. I ran my first 10K a year ago when my good friend Jill asked me to run a half-marathon in her place since she was injured and had already raised money. After I finished laughing at her, she told me that she could register me for the 10K instead, so I accepted. I began training for the six plus miles about a month and a half out from the date and I had never run more than three miles non-stop in my life. I was building up my mileage in weekly increments and it wasn’t until I was at the five mile mark that I had my running epiphany: Just keep going! After I finished that run, I discovered that I felt no different from three mile races that I was used to. I ran for her in the Rite Aid Marathon’s 10K and she greeted me at a water stop (along with my girlfriend, Pam) with a really cool sign that I still have hanging in my house. Jill is all healed now and is working towards her first full marathon (26.2 miles) at this year’s Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. We’ve become quite close and run some races together as Team Shenanigans.
This past October, I ran my first 13.1 mile race at the Towpath Half Marathon in the scenic Cuyahoga Valley National Park. What motivated me for this milestone was not only the encouragement of Jill, my girlfriend and a bunch of my other running friends, but a desire to fly that damned 13.1 sticker on my car. I trained for that race all summer and when I reached my 10 mile the week before the half marathon, I stopped right there. If I was going to run 13.1, I was getting a medal for the accomplishment. Jill and Pam were at the end of that race to greet me as well and I don’t mind saying that I felt very emotional about reaching my hard earned goal. I dedicated that race to my high school classmate Debi Lantzer, a half-marathon veteran who lives in Florida and was in a terrible auto accident that nearly cost her use of her legs. She was that quiet motivator who encouraged me from a distance and I thought about her and the physical pain she was in during my last three miles. I find myself now encouraging her to run further and further as she gets back to her former half marathon form and hopefully we can run one together soon.
After that accomplishment, I ended up meeting another great motivator in Christian Heller. A 26.2 veteran who is also the Chapter President of Train 4 Autism in the Cleveland area. Christian and his wife Kelly are beautiful people who share their love of running and also for Autism research. The running tips and encouragement that I receive for this couple helped me take my hobby to the next level. I’ve signed up for five half marathons this year and I have the honor of being part of Train 4 Autism’s running team as I run in the Rite Aid-Cleveland Marathon on May 19th.
This past weekend, I ran my first half of the season on another part of the Towpath that started in Cuyahoga Heights, complete with two high suspension bridges (four if you count the times you run over them) and nasty hill at the finish. Seriously, who puts a hill at the end? It was my friend Kim Adam’s first half marathon and I made sure that I purchased that 13.1 sticker for her beforehand so that I could present it at the end. We ran it with two more of our local friends, (although Katie Sorace ran like she was shot out of a cannon) and I’ll never forget the look of accomplishment on Kim’s face. It’s something that you never forget…the first time that you run a half marathon. After all, less than one-half a percent of the US population has run one.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give props to my awesome girlfriend Pam for being at all of my races, putting up with my complaints about the post-race aches and pains, the growing pile of shoes/shirts/bibs/socks/gels/goos…and for her continued encouragement.
I would tell anyone out there reading this who wants to run, but doesn’t think that they’re able, you’re wrong. If you run a mile, you’re a runner. If you run at a 12 minute pace, you’re still a runner. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep going, don’t stop and don’t let those “elite” runners get you down. The vast majority of runners will motivate you in your quest to further your distance and welcome you to the roads and trails. Visit local shoe retailers like Fleet Feet and Vertical Runner for great advice and to be properly fitted for shoes.
Friend: “I can’t believe you ran 13 miles!”
Me: “It was 13.1 miles”