The 1970’s was like a long, hot summer I had to endure. I grew up during these years, graduated high school and learned to do the hustle against my better judgment. Disco did nothing for me. I was happy when The Babies and The Cars pushed their way through the airwaves to give real drummers a job. I liked the night life, I liked to boogie, but not the disco- I have never mourned the end of that era. It was also a time when the war ended, 18 year olds were allowed to vote, and drink; cocaine was THE cool drug due more to its price than the effects. Cher was into skating, Jane Fonda started exercising and throwing up (come on Jane, those abs were from barfing weren’t they? Didn’t include that in your work out tapes did you? Cheater!) The country turned to running; it was THE exercise of the decade. I had always run. As kids don’t we run just to get from point A to point B without stretching? I remember running just to see how fast I could get home. I ran out the door, in the door, and to my buddy Francine’s house on a daily basis. When the nation put on fancy running shoes and started making the cover of Sports Illustrated, I figured this was the exercise for me.
I started running with my high school friends. We would go to the local base and run a mile trail- it killed me. Have you ever noticed runners don’t look happy…that they grimmace? When I was younger I ran just because and if memory serves me– just because didn’t hurt as much; I guess I was more of a sprinter! I kept it up and eventually, sans teenage friends, ran on my own at local high school tracks. I even bought a radio headset which never worked very well; if I took a corner I would lose the music- but when I did have music it was a more pleasant experience, so I wore the bulky ear phones/radio for the few moments of good reception.
And, I looked too cool- I was on the runners edge.
I ran to keep from getting fat. I have the propensity for head to toe, even distribution of weight gain. I can get really heavy. My mother once told me- “You carry your weight well,” which is mom-talk for, “Wow, you are big all over!” So, I ran. I have bought so many different kinds of running shoes and have no favorites. I like the ones that don’t give you blisters- how about that? Once, when I was ‘carrying my weight well’ I went to visit my dad who had a different way of telling me I was heavy. He would say “Kim Jaye, come here and turn around and let me see your butt! Well now, I think it is time for you to exercise and the first one is to push away the plate!”
Good thing I had just bought a great pair of light-weight New Balance running shoes. I was off to the local track in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I hadn’t run in high altitude before and it was not pleasant. This skinny guy was there and he ran robotic like around and around and around. I ran and would gasp. Run, gasp, run gasp. He stopped and introduced himself and gave me a few pointers on my running ‘technique’ I didn’t know there was a ‘running technique.’ I couldn’t talk- so I listened to him. He said, “You are using your legs wrong- run like this, it will spare your knees.” He then showed me how to glide along, what he called the long, slow, run or the LSR. He also told me to buy Jim Fixx’s book, The Complete Book of Running, and encouraged me to run in the local 10 ks. I acted like I knew what a 10 k was, like I was interested in reading about something I had done all of my life, thanked him for the pointers and excused myself to rasp my way back to my car.
When I got home I wrote his name down and later looked it up as there was no internet WAY BACK THEN. He was a runner, certainly, but he was a marathoner, AND he was in Sports Illustrated a time or two. My first brush with greatness- I was given a gift- how to run, long and slow and reach the other side alive. Of course I bought Fixx’s book on running. It became my resource and I was sad to hear he died while running. It didn’t stop me from going out almost every day to hit the pavement; I was now running around the town in San Marcos, Texas. I was up to 3 or 4 miles a day in the early 80’s. I run becasue I like it- I also try different attitudes on during a long run. One is the Oh my, this is killing me yet I will endure attidude. That one is the one I fight the most. Not a goog place to be. Another attitude is the wow, this should be killing me but I feel good and in control. I will make the next mile and look good at the same time! These same attidutdes also folow me through life, in all things. Running just gives me the time to work through them!
My first marathon was in Hawaii a few weeks before my 40th birthday. I was running in Kona, and I heard AFTER the race it was one of the toughest courses. The American Diabetes Association had a program where a person could raise money for their cause which was 6500 dollars. If you raised the money and trained with them, the organization would fly you to Hawaii and pay for a very nice hotel, provide the transportation to and from the marathon event as well as supply a wonderful luau afterward. I hit the wall at mile 18. Hitting the wall is not fun; it is as though all of your muscles go crunchy. Every muscle hurts- it hurt more to walk then jog- so I jogged. I must have looked awful because people associated with the event were running next to me asking questions like, “Do you know where you are?”
At the last few water areas the volunteers had Tylenol. I took several hits, I also had a Tylenol with codeine. I finished with a smile because I saw my legs and Jesus on the other side of the finish line enticing me to keep on going, “Come on, Kim, you can do it!”
When I crossed the finish line and got my legs back I cried- not because I accomplished a 26 mile run, but because I hurt. When got back to the bus, all of the runners were sporting a nice salt coating, and none of us wanted to talk. I did the same run again 3 years later. I had a better time, still hit the wall at mile 18, and learned the volunteers were no longer allowed to give pain killers out to runners. I blame it on the Republicans.
I am now training for a half-marathon. Out in the heat and humidity of south Texas, I sweat and swell. Gnats immediately drown when they hit my skin. Are all runners naturally bad Buddhists? I am back to being in ‘bad shape’ and my first exercise is pushing away the plate; which I start…today. I am still into that LSR, it gets me to the other side and that is all I need. I now have an IPOD which never lets me down (if I keep it juiced) and today I am off to buy yet another pair of running shoes; the main investment in this sport, other than time and knees.