A Year Of Running

About a year ago, I started running. I say "about" a year because I don't know the exact date. I know it was early July, so it's not quite a year, but I feel like writing about it now so here goes.

A year ago, I knew nothing. I didn't know about pronation and supination. I would have guessed that "gastrocnemius" was something to do with food, and "fartlek" was just a word that sounded funny. I didn't know the dangers of treadmills (or how to avoid them) and had no idea how winter running could possibly work. I had never heard of chamois creme, but perhaps the less said about that the better. Now I'm still far from an expert, but I can understand what more serious runners are saying and sometimes offer advice to runners even newer than me. But that's all just talk. How's my actual running? Let's take a look.

  • When I started, I needed about ten walking breaks during a 2.5-mile run, and it took me about 28 minutes.

  • On August 11 I was able to do that same loop continuously, without walking.

  • On September 13 I did my first (unofficial) 5K, in 28:09.

  • On October 27 I did my first (also unofficial) 10K, in 57:25.

  • I ran all through the winter, even in that awful February. I learned how to gauge the weather and bundle up enough but not too much. I learned how to recognize black ice. I became intimately familiar with every break between the snowbanks on every route I ran, in case I needed one to avoid a car, and I learned which streets to avoid entirely.

  • I've worn out my first two pairs of shoes. Currently I alternate between two other pairs, because now I want different shoes for long runs than I do for steep/fast runs.

  • I have quite a collection of other gear, from all-synthetic underwear and tights to belts and (my favorite) a clip-on pocket so I never have to leave the house without a key and a credit card.

  • I've run on three continents. In fact, I did that within a two-week period - Bangalore, Boston, Barcelona.

  • My weight is down to 180. My resting pulse is down to 54.

  • I feel deprived when I don't run. I have to stop myself when I'm sore, or when it's too hot, and sometimes that's a challenge.

Currently my best 5K is 23:28 and my best 10K (this morning!) is 51:42. In other words, I can go either 2.5x as far or 1.5x as fast as when I started. If I still qualified as a "Clydesdale" I might be a contender in some of the local races, but I've lost too much weight. My new "M5059" division is much more competitive, but it looks like I'd still be able to place above half-way more often than not. I'm currently on track (heh) to achieve my New Year's goal of running 200 times this year, which is likely to put me at more than 1000 kilometers but less than 1000 miles. My other goal is to "run under my age" in a 10K. I don't think beating my current best by 1:29 tomorrow is likely, but beating it by 0:56 on December 31 might be. Otherwise, I'll have something to shoot for next year.

So yes, I think I've made good progress and I'm proud of that, but before I get too full of myself I have to give a hat tip to my friend Hank. There are many people who have supported and encouraged me, not least Cindy who has to put up with my too-detailed reports every time I come back in. None of them are as inspirational as Hank. The dude ran the Grand Canyon, rim to rim to rim. Just a couple of weeks ago he ran the Mount Washington Road Race - 7.6 miles with an average grade higher than Loring Hill or the other "steep" sections I do around here. He looked good doing it, too. That shows me how far I still have to go, how much more I have to shoot for. That's pure gold right there.

I don't know how far I'll go with this thing. I might do a half-marathon some day, but I'll probably never do a full one. From everything I've read and heard, it just doesn't appeal. I'm more likely to follow in Hank's footsteps (heh) and try some of the steeper/wilder stuff. Years of hiking and stair-climbing have already made me stronger on hills than elsewhere. Or maybe I'll just focus on doing normal 5K and 10K runs faster. One way or another, I'm pretty sure I'll keep running for a while yet. In one year running went from something I hated to something I did out of desperation to something I now do out of habit and desire. It still feels weird to say I'm a runner, but I guess after a year there's no way to say I'm not.

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