Monday, March 12, 2007

Roots Running

If I'd hauled the camera this past Sunday, you'd see a lot more mud and
warmer runners.


I started running in high school because I was tired of soccer practice. I'd played soccer through youth league, middle school, and a year of high school, and was done. I fell in with a few other free-thinking, skateboarding vagrants, who said, "We're going to run cross country. You chill out, run through the hills, and have a blast. You in?"

I was the new kid at school in Hagerstown. Sounded interesting, and I'd be set for lacrosse in the spring. Our home course was hilly and wooded and fun. 3.1 miles became a breeze, and our coach would frequently load us into the school van and turn us loose on the C&O Canal tow path or a trail around the Antietam battlefield. I consistently placed between 3rd and 5th for our team at meets (in the 20:00s for 5K, it was a small school) and we traveled into West Virginia, Delaware, and western Maryland and ran in the woods. I was 15 and 16 at the time.

Running didn't find me again until I was 22 and hell-bent on joining the Army. I got into the routine of running almost every day, and occasionally ran from Oxford to Easton, where I would bum a ride back down Route 333 from a friend. My self-inflicted boot camp, and a chance meeting with my now-wife (we became the couple who ran 2 or 3 miles together before hitting the dock bar at Schooners Landing at night), provided me with the discipline I needed to finish college, while working, and then find a real job, whatever that may mean.

Entering races through that time meant 5Ks and 10Ks. It was the group-think of a friend that got us signed up for the Annapolis 10-miler 6 years ago (incidentally, that friend was too hung-over on race day to make the trip to the western shore). I suffered through the hills, but ran well enough for me, and enjoyed the longer distance among the other runners.

Two daughters and a daytime desk job caught up to me coming up on Christmas time a few years back, and I made a commitment to get back running. My goal was the Oxford Day 10K in April--a race from my roots, that I had never done. Training for that race, I began picking up Runners World and Running Times magazines and read about a nut named Dean Karnazes who was trying to run 300 miles without sleeping. I picked up his running autobiography and other magazines and books, kept running, and decided I was going to run the Baltimore Marathon that fall.

Distance is what has made it stick. I enjoy the time on the road or (even better) the trails. I enjoy pushing myself. I enjoy going to work on a Friday after a 4:45am 15-mile run. I've found a training partner equally nutty who enjoys the long runs, and the goal races of increasing distances--26.2 miles, 34 miles, 50 miles.

Roots running hits on a couple levels for me. It is a return to my roots--of my first runs in the hills and the C&O canal 17 years ago; it is a return and refocus on the things that keep me rooted--family, friends, being outside, writing; and it is nurturing and growing solid roots for life ahead.

Three of us put in a great 11-ish mile run this past Sunday at Tuckahoe, mud-happy in stellar weather. Stephen talked about running marathons with his father and how his own son ran the last couple hundred yards of the B&A Trail Marathon with him the weekend before. Mike's two girls each won their age group in a 3-mile race in Easton the day before. And my 5-year old ran her first 1-mile race the day before as well, with her sister (in a stroller) and me behind her. I was overfilled when she told our friends that night at dinner, "I ran 1 mile in a race today!"

That's my roots running story, or at least part of it. What's yours?

1 comment:

Stephen G. Bardsley said...

Flattered to get a mention in this entry. enjoyed meeting the two of you, and having some company on the trails that are starting to feel like my "home" turf.I'm looking forward to many more miles there and wherever our wet muddy shoes carry us!