By Jerry “Jer-Bear” Kartchner
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.