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49 Years Running: It’s Who I Am

49 Years and “miles of trials”

I know my birthday. I know my wife’s birthday, my sons’ birthdays, my step daughter’s. I know my wedding anniversary (the first one and the present one). I’m a guy who knows his dates. I also know that on this day forty-nine years ago, I became a runner. Forty-nine years is longer, by the way, than I have done anything in my life with the exception of being alive; a son; a brother.

So, Happy 49th Runner-versary To Me!

Things change in 49 years. When I began running, there was no Nike (ah, would love to return to those days), no cellphones, no Gore-Tex, no lycra (a blessing on the run in more ways than one), no internet (in fact we didn’t even know who Al Gore was). There was no GPS (you knew how far you’d run because you knew how long it took and you KNEW pace). It was different. It was also the same.

In 1966, I’d head out the door an enter a world of my own choices. I could think, I could drift. I could push it, I could GPS it (yeah GPS stood for Go Pretty Slow a long time ago). I could compete with others, myself, or I could run in total mental and physical isolation. My choice.

Today, i have the same choices. I like that.

In 1966 Bobbi Gibb ran the Boston Marathon. Bob Anderson started The Distance Running News (eventually became Runner’s World). Steve Prefontaine was a sophomore.

HEROES: Left to Right, Top: Frank Shorter, Steve Prefontaine, Joan Benoit
Samuelson, Rob de Castella, Dean Karnazes Middle: Jim Ryun, Ron Clarke
Grete Waitz, Moses Tanui, Ryan Hall Bottom: Dave Wottle,
Kilian Jornet, Meb Keflezighi

I began logging my miles in 1966, mostly because Coach Pingel said I should. I had a small group of heroes: Jim Ryun, Ron Clarke, Al Ruffner (teammate and state champion during my first year of running). Today, my heroes are everywhere. Back then, my heroes were older than me, today they are considerably younger (not surprising since most runners today are younger than me). I ran because I wanted to excel, and because I REALLY liked it. It was fun! 

Social Media has made it possible to not only follow SO many races and racers up close and personal, but to also be social media “friends.” There are podcasts, live streaming of events, online reviews of gear, and interviews galore. There is Universal Sports and Bein covering Track & Field and some road races. There is, Salomon Running, Kilian Jornet, The Ginger Runner, and a plethora of opportunities to get my running fix at any time of the day or night.

Races give medals for just showing up (sometimes you actually have to finish too). The sheer volume of my T Shirt collection is off the charts (my oldest not-quite-disintegrated one goes back to 1972 when I purchased a Florida Track Club shirt so I could be like Frank and Jack). We have gun times, chip times, but still, just like before, we have good times. Runners are typically some of the nicest, coolest, real people on the planet.

SHOES: Left to Right, Top: Bata Bullets, Tiger Obhori, Salomon Speedcross,
Middle: Brooks Transcend. New Balance 1260, Nike Air Max,
Nike Huarache, BottomL Adidas Tokyo, Nike Waffle

In the end, in spite of the many ways running has changed in the last 49 years, I still run (and as of today it’s 106,970 miles) because I like it. The benefits have been eternal: friends, travel, achievements, creativity, madness, joy, despair, peace. But mostly, it’s an activity that is a part of me, a part of my life.

Four years ago today I wrote this about that first day: “I began a journey that would transform my life with a simple 30 minute run. And while the travel, people and the racing have all been rewarding, I knew that first day that there was something I really liked about the act of running. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but I felt something.

Running was/is a simple activity, cyclical in its nature. One foot placed in front of the next in order to move forward: to cover ground, to open my mind, to allow me opportunities to escape my troubles or celebrate my triumphs. Mostly, to connect me to and strengthen my relationship with this planet upon which I exist. For that, I am ecstatically, humbly grateful.”

It’s all still true. Maybe more today, than ever.

I am who I am because I run. I run because it’s who I am.

Run On! 

How the journey began: (