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Ruminations on Running

By Jerry “Jer-Bear” Kartchner

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I haven’t always been a runner. It wasn’t something that I did in high school or in college.  As a matter of fact, I only took up “jogging” in my 30s after friends and family members mentioned lovingly on a regular basis that I was soft, flabby, and ‘a heart attack waiting to happen’.

My younger brother suggested a jogging regime, but recommended that I start by just walking for 20 minutes to test my stamina.  I was offended…this seemed condescending and much too easy to me because I thought that anybody could go out and run a few miles (a thought which proved foolish).  My first run was a disaster and I was embarrassed by my performance. I resolved to secretly build up my endurance until I was at a stage where others wouldn’t ridicule me.

Running was really HARD!!  I was not an instant success!  The fat didn’t fall off in chunks!  This exercise routine wasn’t the quick and easy fast track to a svelte body that I had imagined!  I was very fortunate to have a supportive wife who encouraged me and a brother who (when he found out I was exercising regularly) offered to train with me on a weekly basis.  Having a running partner/coach made a big difference….but it was still a challenge to change long term bad habits.

Soon I was able to go longer distances and I noticed that increased endurance and weight loss weren’t the only benefits.  I slept better at night.  I felt better during the day.  Running also became a therapy for me because after a stressful day at work, a hard run would burn off the grouchiness (as confirmed by my wife and children).

After many months and much encouragement from my brother and others, I signed up for a race (Memorial Day 10K in Salt Lake City).  My longest run had been 4 miles, but I decided to go for it anyway. My brother and a friend ran with me almost all of the way and I still wanted to quit!  Racing is really hard and I was not that fast.  I was therefore surprised at myself when I signed up for another race a few weeks later.  Only 15 months later I was crazy enough to sign up for the St George Marathon!

Who could have guessed that during the next 25+ years I would run 25 marathons, two or three hundred other races, and log 65,000 + miles (and still counting).   I was never the fastest guy around, but I enjoyed the competition.  I also didn’t realize how many friends I would make because of my running….what a discovery!

FAST FORWARD TO THE PRESENT

Age has caught up with me…the clock doesn’t lie and neither does my body. In the last few years I have ceased to race the clock at maximum speed and finish in anaerobic nirvana.  My performance has been on the decline for years and my body protests when I push too hard.  Don’t explain to me that most people my age have long since surrendered. In my dreams I expect to be fast, to make an incredible surge for the last 200 meters, and pass my rivals!!!  Alas, the reality is that I am no longer willing or able to do the hard workouts.

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