Sunday, September 1, 2013

Remembering My Running Anniversary

Generally speaking, August is a stupid month. Sure, some awesome people have birthdays, but August is pretty much a longer, warmer, Monday-holiday-less version of February.
That said, I do look forward to the end of August, as it's my running anniversary. It was at this point 18 years ago, right before my freshman year of high school, that I started running.

I was always an active kid. I played Little League baseball, youth basketball and lots of pickup football. (I failed to hono[u]r my father's Canadian heritage and never tried hockey.) But puberty robbed me of what shred of coordination I possessed.
On top of that, I was starting at a new school. I went to public schools until fourth grade, when I a) discovered sarcasm and b) got bored. My parents thought a Catholic school might help, so I went to one for middle school. (It didn't. I emerged more sarcastic, largely agnostic and still bored.)
A couple weeks before the beginning of school (which in New England is around Labor Day), the local paper ran an ad listing the dates and times of fall sports tryouts. I wanted to do something, but I hated playing soccer, was way too small for real tackle football and had never tried whatever were the other fall sports. (Hey, it was 18 years ago. I don't remember.)
Then I saw cross country. "How hard can that be?" I wondered. I also that no one ever got cut from cross country teams. Done.
I showed up the first day of practice in high-top basketball shoes and knit shirts. It took me at least 45 minutes to cover the 5K course, and I stopped several times. Needless to say, I wasn't really cut out for running.
But I persisted. After all, I'm stubborn and competitive. (Those plus sarcasm are a mighty mix.) Plus, once I finally invested in running gear and stopped finishing dead last, I kinda liked it.
Now, I never imagined I’d still be running 18 years later. After high school, I went to a small, urban liberal arts college that would have been Division IV in athletics if there were such a thing. The urban part, though, made running easier, not to mention fun, and aside from a preventable bout with runner’s knee after my freshman year -- the cause? Insufficient stretching -- I haven’t taking more than a couple weeks off running since I took my first uncomfortable, basketball-shoe-clad strides in August 1995. 
I’ve detailed the stages of my running career before, so I won’t rehash them here. I’ll only add one thing: Despite the soreness, the chafing, the loads of laundry and the smartass kids shouting, “Run, Forrest!” I have no regrets. None. And every year, in the last week of August, I remember why.