I visited with a friend from high school recently whom I had seen maybe only once or twice since we occasionally bumped into one another at college.
He asked if I was still running.
Still running, I thought to myself. That implies that I was once a runner. I was never a runner. Not really. I could recall wanting to be a runner and trying to be a runner, but I never liked it all that much.
I don’t recall how I answered his question other than saying that I wasn’t running, but it did get me to thinking about my life as a runner.
I suppose it began on Cawley Road when Susan Webster’s dog, Pepper, would chase us around her house. I was terrified of that little dog. I’m guessing that if a person would have suddenly turned and yelled and Pepper would have skedaddled in the other direction, but I never thought of that at age six.
On a safe run, I would leave Susan’s front porch and make it all the way around to the back without spotting the little Devil Dog. Most times he would be encountered halfway around. I would suddenly reverse course, with those little teeth gaining on me all the way up the steps and onto the low brick wall.
In my junior year of high school I went out for track and became a half miler. That was in the days of Mr. Ritsema, who trained us by making us hold onto a T-bar attached to the rear of his car.
I won my race occasionally. I think I placed third at the league meet or maybe it was the county meet. Was I that good? Probably not. I got in the slow heat at the regional competition and missed a trip to the state meet by a second or so.
That was the closest I became to becoming a runner. I’ve been in the slow heat ever since.
Before leaving for college I bought a pair of Puma running shoes. They were the latest thing. The Bryner boys were with me when I made the purchase—I must have gotten a ride to the big city with them for shopping—and Jim thought it was rather ridiculous. He already had a year in college and knew those things were not needed. [Note of interest: Everybody, I mean everybody, wears “running shoes” now. Very few of us did in 1968.]
I don’t remember ever running in college except in the required gym class.
I was soon to enter my bicycling era (sort of running on wheels), but when I moved downtown in Portland, Ore., I bought another pair of running shoes. I even went out running in them half a dozen times, perhaps.
When I returned to Morenci, I might have run along the creek path a few times. Maybe I was just frantically searching for Ben who was overdue from a hike.
My wife and I try to be walkers now, and sometimes we run a 100-yard stretch of the 400 yard loop. (No, we haven’t completed our metric conversion).
I was on a massage therapist’s table recently (man, she really knows how to hurt a guy) and she asked about my exercise. I told her I walk and I run up and down the stairs.
I explained the latter activity was intentional. I really run up and down the stairs. It’s great exercise. I don’t know if I would really classify it as running. It’s just repeatedly climbing and unclimbing stairs.
She was asking because of the word “run.” Very hard on the body, she said. Maybe she was sizing me up for return visits because she does a lot of work smoothing out the bodies of runners.
I don’t know if she meant it this way, but I took her words as sage advice: Running is hard on the body.
I put her words to practice immediately. I still won’t become a runner.