Today marks fifty years of being a runner.
On New Year’s Day in 1972, when I was 17 years old, my sister, Laurie, invited me to join her on her daily run. She had been running regularly for a while at that point and I could see that it was helping her lose weight. So I joined her. It was fun, even though the last half was primarily uphill. We lived on the top of a hill and there was no route that didn’t end with uphill for the last half mile, at least!
I enjoyed it enough that it was the start of over a year of running four miles a day without missing a single day. She never missed a day, so I thought I could never miss a day, either. I remember running on a day when the snow was up to my calves and I was slogging along in car ruts all the way.
And I still liked it, so I kept running. I no longer ran every single day, after I finally missed that one day in my second year. Before long, I was taking Sundays off , but the six day a week running continued for many years.
I ran through pregnancies, sometimes up until the last couple of weeks, but I needed to take breaks after each baby was born. I had various injuries, so I was required to take time off for them. As I got older, I found myself missing more days because of injuries, but I never gave up on running. I got myself rehabilitated and then hit the road again. And when I couldn’t run, I did other aerobic exercise, so I would stay in good shape for eventually running again.
I took up racewalking and, eventually, Nordic racewalking as an alternative to running when I needed it. As I’ve gotten older, I have replaced many running days with Nordic racewalking days, because it is easier on my joints. But what I really look forward to, even now, is my long run on Saturdays.
I’ve collected a trophy and a couple of medals for races, but I am definitely not a racer. I much prefer to run in solitude, where my only competition is myself. And I’ve recently realized that my long torso and short legs are traits of a swimmer’s body, rather than a runner’s body, so I can accept my historically slow times. I’m just delighted that I can still get out for a weekly long run!
I always pack my shoes and running attire when I travel, so I have run in many places in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, New York, and Massachusetts. I’ve run in beautiful settings in state parks and along scenic roads and in boring places like parking lots and tracks. I’ve spent some years running the same section of country road every day and other years mixing up my route through a variety of streets in town. I’ve run in weather as cold as 20 degrees below zero, wearing layers of pants, jackets, hats and mittens and breathing through several layers of protection. And I’ve run when the temperature was almost, but not quite, too hot to be out in. I’ve run in snowstorms and in the rain and in wind that seemed to almost blow me backwards.
I started running in Purcell shoes, which are very supportive, but also very heavy. Then I discovered Nike Air Pegasus shoes and they have been by go-to shoe for decades, each one seeming even more lightweight than the previous, but still providing the cushioning I need. I can’t find them right now, so I’ve had to try a different Nike shoe and it just isn’t the same. It is okay, but I miss the original Nike Air Pegasus. The right shoe really makes a difference when you are running a ways and I’m very glad I had such good shoes for so many years, even if they did get more and more expensive!
So, fifty years. I’d hoped to make it to age 60 still running a bit, and I’ve exceeded that by several years. And I have no plans of stopping. My current exercise regime seems to be working just fine, so I’m going for another decade. One week at a time.