Friday, August 7, 2009

My 40 years of running

I started running regularly some 40 years ago, back in 1969. I know that makes me old, but I still try to run 4-5 times a week, even though it is only a 1-2 miles a day now and I'm technically "jogging" (but looks more like a "shuffle" stride) now, since my college coach believed any pace slower than seven minutes per mile was a jog.
I started running back when running wasn't a fad, when it wasn't cool and not well respected by the public.
I wasn't a world-class runner, but did letter in college in running , gain a college track scholarship and log personal bests of 54 minutes for 10 miles; 1:18 for a half-marathon and 2:47 for a full 26.2-mile marathan. I also completed one 32-mile mountain ultra-marathon and estimate I've logged more than 70,000 miles running in those 40 years. My feet are flat now. (I used to have high arches.)
Also, 3 friends in my age group, Phil Skousen, Walt Blanco and Rick Call, have all taken up cycling big time in recent years. The later two gave up running and climbed on a bike instead.
I just haven't done that, after seeing all the close calls between bikes and autos. (Rick Call actually got struck by a car while riding his bike.)
After 40 years of running, you learn some things. Here's some of my advice:
1. First and foremost, run on cement as little as possible. You can have the best cushioned shoes on the planet and running on concrete is still bad. You triple your injury rate by running on cement.
Still , be sure you get quality running shoes.
Now that does mean you may be running on the side of roadways and not sidewalks, increasing the risk of an encounter with an automobile, but that is why you always run against traffic and pick a trail, instead of a road, instead, if possible.
2. Realize you can run for two separate purposes — either performance or health. The two aren't always compatible. Run for just the first purpose and you may burn out and you will be injured more often.
Some people need races to keep motivated. I don't. Running is mostly solitude for my taste.
(Speaking of marathons, the more I ran, the less my desire to finish one became. I did 6 and finished 4, but the last 2 I did, I walked in the last 6 miles some. Now I have no desire to run one, as they beat you up bad and require almost a month's recovery….)
3. You will get hurt running in some fashion. Shin splints, ankle sprain, etc. Some injury will eventually afflict you. Some minor injuries you just have to run with and some may never completely heal.
4. Expect to slow down as you get older. With aging, your stride will shorten and you will swear you are going as fast as always. Your stride frequency may be about the same, but not how far you stride out. You can also trip easier over things in the road or uneven surfaces as you get older and keep running, since your legs don't lift as much. Throw your personal bests out the window as you get older and start over…
5. What works for me is to run 4 days a week at a 1-2 mile distance each day. Then, on Saturday, I push for a double or triple that distance.
Are you a morning or night type runner? I can only run in the morning on a Saturday. Otherwise, I prefer night time for a workout.
6. Don't let the weather stop you. Running in the snow is OK. Only when there's a lot of ice around, do I skip an outdoor run.
7. If you at night you definitely need a reflective vest, not just light colored clothing!
8. Don't assume drivers will stop at stop signs or red lights. They don't always. Running can foster an "invincible" attitude sometimes and don't let that stop you from being safe around autos, whose drivers are unpredictable.
9. If you run with a dog and he pulls on the leash, you will eventually suffer injuries or extra sore legs/back from this continual practice.
(Accompanying photo is Lynn Arave in his running prime, decades ago.)
-UPDATE: Apparently 40 years is too much, cause shortly after writing this I had a variety of leg problems and I'm still not back pounding pavement, as of January 2014.
I'm having foot/knee problems and have to settle for walking.
So, if you are a runner -- beware -- enjoy it while you can, as you may not be able to do so all your life.
The pounding on pavement takes a toll on feet and knees, in particular, over the years.

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