I went for a run this afternoon. A run I hadn’t planned on. The last few months have been challenging for me getting back into a regular running routine. For several weeks, every run I went on involved tightness in my calves that made it virtually impossible to run. My planned 3.5 mile weeknight runs ended up being 2 miles because I just could not go on. My planned 4 or 5 mile runs ended up the same. But I kept going out and giving it the ol’ college try.
I got new shoes. The guy at the shoe store said I should try rolling my calves. I started doing that. Not daily, but a couple of times a week. I also started doing a few exercises to try to strengthen my legs. Calf raises, squats and a few others. Not daily, but several times a week.
I ran every morning of the four day Thanksgiving weekend. 3.5 miles the first two days. 4 miles the last two days. My calves were better, but not back to normal.
I then got sick. What turned out to be a very minor chest cold. A cold that I probably could have continued running through. But I didn’t. I used it as an excuse not to run that week following Thanksgiving. A week that stretched into two weeks. And there is the dilemma that always occur with a break. The break stretches out and last much longer than it should.
I went into work today for a couple of hours and stopped at a burger place for lunch on my way home. I ran into Rich there. I went to high school with Rich. Back then he was on the cross country team. I was on the newspaper staff. He was an athlete and one of those kids who was involved in the social life of high school. I was a geek and was not involved. We knew of each other, said hello to each other, but we weren’t necessarily friends.
He continued to run, eventually becoming one of the top distance runners in the area. Good enough to have a credible chance of making an Olympics team, although I don’t think he ever did. He still runs and is regularly a top runner in his age group at the events he enters.
More importantly, he found a way to turn his passion into a career. Rich owns the company that puts on the vast majority of fun runs, 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons in the area. There are enough of those that he has an event, or two, pretty much every weekend of the year.
I started running about 10 years ago. My second organized run was one of Rich’s events and I saw him there after not seeing him for decades. Ever since, we’ve run into each other at running events periodically. His signature event is the Urban Cow Half Marathon. It was the first half marathon I ran. And the last. The first time I ran it, my goal was to run it in 2 hours. My final time was 2 hours and 29 seconds. Close enough, but no cigar. I would have made my time if I had not spent the last three miles in significant pain because of a weakened muscle in my right thigh. A problem that would crop up in the years ahead whenever I exceeded 10 miles.
I ran two more half marathons over the next year or two. And then signed up Rich’s training program for another go at the Urban Cow. While training for that, I started playing indoor soccer for the first time in my life. I tore a groin muscle. Not once, not twice, but three times. I still ran the half marathon and spent much of the last half dragging my right leg along behind me. My time was 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The injury has hampered me ever since. I am not expecting to run a half marathon again, but I’d like to run three or four times a week, three to five miles each time, with an occasion run of seven or eight miles when things are feeling right.
So, I ran into Rich and he was what he usually is. Just so alive and vital. He’s like a splash of paint, in many colors, in an otherwise black, white, and gray world. He’s always positive and supportive. It’s actually one of the things I love about the running community. 99.9% of runners don’t care how fast you are or how far you can run. The only thing that matters is that you’re running. That you’re out there trying to get healthy and getting it done. Rich is the embodiment of that spirit.
I envy him for the fact that he found a way to continue his passion from all those years ago and combine it with a way to make a living and spread his passion to other people. Isn’t that the dream so many of us wish we could run down?
By the time I left the burger place, I knew I would be going for a run this afternoon. It went well. I ran almost five miles. The stiffness in my calves was almost a non-existent thing. It’s time for me to stop finding excuses. It’s time to get back into the regular running routine. For my health, both mental and physical. And for that dream. I haven’t given up running down my dream. I wanna be like Rich when I grow up.