Short term goals and New Year resolutions come and go – this year I resolve to remember birthdays and anniversaries – but why do you really run? What is your big goal?
If you read “Who is this guy again?”, you know that I run to keep up with my kids, which is really as impossible as looking dignified in a dentist’s chair, drooling as they stick sharp tools in your mouth and ask you questions. But truth be told, I have run off and on my entire life starting with the junior high track team when I got suckered into running the 800 yard event because I was tall and skinny and had long legs. I was so skinny as a kid that my dad used to say when I stuck my tongue out I looked like a zipper.
Coach said, “Doug, I need you to run the 800.” He was totally unaware of this race until it came up at our first meet, and we had never trained for anything more than 400. “You can do it. Just pace yourself.” Right.
It was just me and one other guy. When the gun went off, I dusted him. Wow, this is going to be easy, I thought. He doesn’t even look like he’s trying… wait a minute. Yup, I pooped out and he passed me after lap three of eight. When I finally walked across the finish line holding my side, I got the expected pity applause and cheers. Then I bent over a bush and gave up my breakfast. The applause was replaced with, “Oh!”. I did get a second place ribbon, though. Cool!
Then there was high school when I regularly ran from wannabe girlfriend, Margaret Ramirez (and she was fast). The cross country coach kept harassing me too, “Come on, join the team. You would be great. You’ve got long legs.” Once, I found a note in my locker from a Secret Admirer: “I really like you. Meet me after school on the football field. Oh, and wear track shoes.” Nice try Mr. Klein, but I still associated distance running with puking.
Since then, there was the occasional dog chase or 2-for-1 sale at Little Caesar’s Pizza down the road, but nothing serious until after college when I decided out of the blue to be a police officer.
The requirement was to run two miles in 12 minutes. A pace that is as mythical to me now as Tinker Bell and tasty diet soda. However, I was 25 and the memory of the 800 yard fiasco had faded, so I donned my short shorts and sleeveless tee and hit the road.
During the first run, my pace was ten minutes and I was huffing and puffing at that. I don’t know if I can do this, I thought. Then some girls hooted at me and, thereafter, I was running every afternoon. Alas, I never got into the academy as the economy turned down and there was a freeze on hiring. My eligibility expired and I moved on to other things. No badge, no gun. No reality series based on my life.
The next time I ran was six years and 40 pounds into my marriage. We paid $300 for a treadmill so I had to use it. Half an hour every night and I lost 30 plus pounds in a couple of months. Well, that and eating nothing but salad. The weight loss was so drastic that every time I shook my head, my eyeballs rattled and the dog’s ears perked up.
That eventually lost its luster, though, as we all know how exciting treadmills are and why they are fondly referred to as “dreadmills”. People would ask, “Don’t you get bored running in the same spot all the time?”
My response, “But I’ve got this exciting video that makes it seem like I’m running with the bulls in Pamploma.” I could only fool myself for so long until the dreadmill was sold to another excited chubby hubby.
Fast forward a couple of years to our first beautiful baby boy. “Aw, isn’t he cute? He’s trying to crawl… Whoops, there he goes! Get him before he reaches the lamp plug!” Children quickly discover that the funnest thing in the world is to run away from you and have you chase them. This is instinctive behavior, similar to birds flying south for the winter. They giggle and run serpentine style towards the stairs as you give a panic-stricken chase. Ever tried to catch a chicken? Piece of cake next to children.
It got to the point where I had to slam Red Bulls on the way home from work to keep up. “Honey, where are the Powerbars, and that butterfly net?” Nothing worked and soon I was left with only one option: run. There was no way I was going to talk my wife into buying another treadmill, so outside running it would be.
It has paid off in spades. We had another baby boy a couple of years later and the three of us have enjoyed playing football, soccer, kickball, baseball, basketball, hiking, running… you name it. And those are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life! But let’s not get carried away, here. They still run circles around me. “Come on, dad! I want to win!” Hey, it’s better than sitting on the sidelines.
So, that’s why I run. The races, the bling… they help with commitment and motivation but are secondary. My medals hang inconspicuously on hangers in the closet where only I can see them. Occasionally, I’ll wake up with one around my neck after dreaming about going head to head with Usain Bolt.
My goal? To keep running as long as possible so I can take those opportunities to participate in fun stuff. I may not look like a zipper anymore, but I can hold my own in a Nerf gun war!