Well, as Dutch Reagan might say, “There you go again.” And I’m going this weekend to run the half marathon in Pittsburgh. A year ago I considered that impossible, but Sunday I’ll give it a shot. We’ll see.
And I have a number of friends who are running either the half marathon or marathon — some for the first time — in Cleveland Sunday. Good luck for what should be a great experience.
Here’s my back story.
For those who visit here regularly or even occasionally you most likely know that I’m a runner. Not a fast runner. Not a competitive runner. But someone who for the past 30 years has gotten up while most everyone else is asleep (or maybe just going to bed, especially on the weekends) and laced up the shoes and headed out the door. Or for many years met friends near at a gym in South Akron — or on one of the towpath trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Then two years ago while running in South Carolina I suddenly had a sharp pain in my foot, figuring I had a pebble in my left shoe. No pebble, it turns out. But a mutant nerve adjacent to the toes — that can’t be fixed. So the pebble in my shoe remains a constant companion — and it bothered me enough that I pretty much gave up on running, switching to the elliptical trainer and riding my bike. Sigh.
Then I was in Budapest for several weeks late last summer. And while stuck in traffic on a Sunday afternoon runners in the city’s half marathon passed by on the other side the the street. I wanted very much to jump out of the car to tag along.
And then the following week — maybe two — I was on a flight from Budapest to Rome, sitting next to a young woman from Canada who had just completed the triathlon in Budapest that is held each year for the world’s elite competitors.
And talking to her — someone who was so full of life and enthusiasm — and someone who trained so hard, worked so hard — well, shit. It’s only a pebble.
So here we go. And I’ve been thumping along on the concrete now for the past few months thinking about the fantastic runs I used to have at this time of the year — as the bad weather turned to good and as we started in the darkness only to finish in the orange glow of a spring sunrise — with my friends Walter, Jerry, Matt and a host of others through the years.
And while I was noodling over it, I figured I might as well recycle this list of my top runs — listed on this blog previously in 2008 or so:
- Pittsburgh Marathon – 1988. At mile 25, we turned onto Forbes Avenue and there was the skyline of the Steel City straight ahead – and slightly downhill. Dorothy couldn’t have been happier when she made it to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. The women’s Olympic marathon trials were held at the same time – and I had just turned 40 the previous November.
- Hyde Park – London – 2004. A perfect early Saturday morning. Started at one end of the park – near Kensington Gardens — and made my way to Speakers’ Corner and back.
- Columbus Marathon – 1985. My first marathon – and it wasn’t pretty. At that time the race was held in October and it was extremely hot and humid. There is a saying that there are two parts to a marathon: the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. I was dehydrated and struggling toward the end – but I made it. Mary opined that I should probably put to rest any dreams of Olympic glory at this distance (or any other).
- Buckeye Half-Marathon – 1987. This was just a great run on a perfect autumn day. We started at the Richfield Coliseum (not defunct) and worked our way – mostly downhill – to Weathervane Lane in Akron. Ran with Walter, Jerry and Lydia, and we talked and laughed so much that it was disappointing to see the finish line.
- South Beach, Florida – Easter Sunday – 1992 – I usually don’t like running on the sand. But when in South Beach, well — do as the natives do. Then – and maybe still – it was OK for both men and women to be topless. So about a mile or two into the run, two young women approached from the opposite direction. And they had freed the twins. Hallelujah.
- Manchester Field – April 1982. My son, Brian, was born earlier that morning. And after I left the hospital I went to the track where we used to live. And I ran five miles with the high school track team. Yeah. Mary said it was OK.
- Marine Corps Marathon – November 1986. Just a great way to see the city – touring all the monuments and other venues on foot. Almost finished under four hours – but not quite. And let’s face it folks. The Marines know how to organize things.
- Boston – April 1993. Went to Boston with associates from Wyse Advertising to conduct focus groups for a Goodrich advertising campaign. We ran for about two hours through the city and along the Charles River on what was just an absolutely perfect afternoon. And from what I can tell we went a similar route to what the women will run later this month during the Olympic marathon trials. Terrific run. Terrible ad campaign.
- Main Street 10 – My friend Walter and I were training for a marathon, and we would run a few mornings a week 10 miles on Main Street in Akron, starting at around 4 a.m. One day it was raining and a truck turned directly into us. And just missed. I’m sure the nightmares will end soon; it’s been 20 or more years.
- And finally – my run yesterday morning around my neighborhood. Totally quiet – clear sky – no cars. And the best thing about it – I’m still out there almost every morning.
I expect I’ll do OK in Pittsburgh, although I’m fretting about possible thunderstorms. Hey, you have to worry about something. Right? And I can’t swim. So I’m sunk if this thing turns into a triathlon.
And I expect I’ll come back next week and hit the concrete again early a.m. I’m determined to keep running — right to the finish line.