Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Running Down a Dream

I went for a run last night.

It was the first time so far this year that I've felt good about how far I was able to go. It's still not quite what I was doing toward the end of last summer (and by "summer" I really mean "however long it was warm enough to run"), but I'm getting there. I'm building up my legs and my wind to where they need to be, and I find that it happens more quickly each year.

The thing that sucks about running is that you pretty much have to do it outside. I know there are probably places with indoor tracks, but I can't afford to use them. When the weather is warm and dry, this isn't a problem. Here in northwest Ohio, though, only summer is consistently that way. Spring and fall are usually okay with the "warm" part, but the "dry" can be unpredictable. I can't run in the winter because it's too cold, to say nothing of the snow and ice that are often covering the sidewalks.

What this means is that I take a several-month hiatus from running each year while the weather is uncooperative. Each spring, as the weather gets warmer, I have to get back into a routine and build myself back up. Honestly, I'm surprised I haven't given up, because that first run each year is a killer. I never make it as far as I plan, and I end up walking back to my place, huffing and puffing and holding my sides.

I started running a few years ago when I realized how out of shape I was. There's a park in Troy where I used to go shoot hoops each night after dinner, and one evening I was invited to join a pick-up game. The participants were mostly older guys, I'd say probably in their upper 60s, and they were short one person for even teams. I didn't figure I'd have any problems, so I joined in. I did okay for a while, but we were playing full court, and all that running just wore me down. I couldn't breathe. The old guys were running circles around me, and I felt like an idiot. Shortly thereafter, I started running, in hopes of getting my wind up and just getting into better shape. I haven't been invited to play basketball with any geriatric athletes since then, but I feel confident I wouldn't embarrass myself like I did that day.

In my own defense, and to give those guys some credit, in talking to them after the game I found out that they had been playing together several nights a week for over twenty-five years, and they were good.

At any rate, that's where my running habit started. I was hesitant to start because I didn't really think I'd carry through with it and do it enough to matter. I had always hated running just for the sake of running, all the way back to the days of gym class and running the mile (although at least in high school I was able to run the full mile without slowing to a walk, which I could never do before then). Now that I've been doing it for a while, I like it. I feel good when I'm finished, instead of being totally out of breath and miserable. I just have to make sure I go at night, because running while the sun is out drains me pretty quickly. I could get better at it, I'm sure, but it's just one more obstacle. I'd rather be out at night anyway.

Since I ran further last night than I had yet this year, I'm a little bit sore today. I even kind of like that, though. It's nothing major, and it definitely lets me know that I got a workout last night. Despite my soreness, I'll probably go again tonight if the weather is in my favor (which it's supposed to be). We're not quite out of the rainy season, so I have to take my chances when I have them.

Now I just need to figure out some sort of exercise to do during the winter, so I don't have to kill myself getting back to where I was each spring.

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