Thursday, February 12, 2009

5 years of running

i am presently reading the book “running through the wall: personal encounters with the ultramarathon”. the book contains stories from a variety of runners, and for each runner it notes how many years they have been running. this book has prompted me to calculate my own running history. i thought it would be fun to write up some of the highlights of this processing and share it. in retrospect, i have had three distinct running chapters: robby the tween runner, rob the teen runner, and rob the adult runner. these three chapters land me at 5 years of running.

robby the tween runner: 10 - 12

robby the tween runner was launched via my participation in a fourth grade running of the presidential physical fitness 600 meter run. that was a very memorable day in my life. i was not the fastest playground sprinter (i believe that honor went to julie elam and cally jewett), but in a distance race i was able to perform at a level that was noteworthy.

soon after my fourth grade 600 meter performance, my physical education teacher put me in contact with the local high school distance running coach: rick kleyman. coach kleyman introduced me to the world of junior olympic’s track and field and i joined a running team called “the overland express runners”.

my most memorable race events during this time as a runner took place on the track. three races are very vivid in my memory. one was the elementary regional district track and field meet in fifth grade. i had qualified in both the mile and the soccer punt events and was required to make a choice. i chose the mile. this race gave me the opportunity to race in front of the cheers of my classmates and teachers. after leading the first two laps, i was passed by another fifth grader. i was doubtful that this boy could maintain his pace. as we entered the bell lap the boy pulled to the side and stopped. apparently he had miscalculated the laps required for the mile distance. i took the blue ribbon and was a pretty pumped up kid that day.

in sixth grade the regional district meet included a mile race with coach kleyman’s son dave. dave and i both were on the “overland express” team and had run a few races together. i don’t ever recall finishing ahead of dave as a tween runner, though we had some photo finishes at junior olympic events that had me within two-tenths of a second behind him. i still recall a few of my classmates informing me that they had made bets that i would win this race. dave and i raced side-by-side for the entire event. the crowd was loud. to this day, i sometimes hear the chants of “horton” reverberate from my memory when i step onto a track. dave took first and i took second. i think we put on an excellent display of running that day, though i let down my gambling classmates, i do recall being pleased with running a personal best time.

the next summer, dave and i qualified for the regional junior olympics 800 meter race in stevens point, wisconsin. it was pretty exciting to travel for a track meet. this was another race that dave and i ran side-by-side. on a few occasions i tucked in behind him and came up on his left side. i think i was even considering an attempt to pass him on his left. i didn’t pass him and again my time was two-tenths of a second behind his. as we were catching our breath, i was informed that i had been disqualified and would not be receiving a medal. during the moments when i had come up on dave’s left side i was stepping in the gutter of the track. i learned a tear-filled lesson about tracks that day: they have something called a gutter and running in the gutter equals grounds for disqualification. from that day forward, i became a big fan of gutter railings that clearly identify what portion of a track is legal to run on.

in junior high my athletic attention shifted from running to basketball and skateboarding, and thus came the end of that chapter as a runner.

rob the teen runner: 16-19

i returned to running at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. my athletic passion at the time was skateboarding and i was in training to become a professional street style skateboarder. my friend jeff baechler convinced me to join the team by emphasizing the opportunity to expand my social network. i quickly settled into the position as the number two sophomore runner, right behind my former “overland express” teammate dave kleyman. a highlight of that cross country season was at the junior olympic state meet where i ran fast enough to qualify for the regional junior olympic meet in iowa. my parents generously took me to that meet where i encountered some phenomenal distance runners.

when spring weather arrived, i opted to continue my skateboarding pursuits and did not participate in my high school’s track program. that spring and summer was the peak of my skateboarding career and i earned third place in the minneapolis aquatennial skateboard jam in the street skating category.

i remember starting my junior year of cross country with a very fast time at an invitational meeting in mankato, minnesota. for the first mile i ran with the number one runner from mankato and had a split of 4:52. i started to struggle during the second mile and regretted my first mile pace. i got a second wind during the last mile and finished strong enough to earn one of the top varsity positions on my school’s team.

my varsity position was short lived. the skateboarders at our high school were invited to put on a demonstration as part of the school’s homecoming festivities. the school even floated us the resources to build a couple of launch ramps. at the demonstration i was very pumped up. students were hanging out the windows cheering us on. i really wanted to give them an impressive showing of my skateboarding skills. i launched high off one of the ramps and tweaked a move beyond my normal boundaries. i was not able to properly return to a safe landing position and landed with my back foot behind my back. that was it. i tried to launch again, but the pain in my broken foot would not subside.

that evening i decided to let competitive skateboarding go. i was able to participate in a couple more meets later in the cross country season, but my foot was tender and my pace was not competitive.

following a very encouraging cross country ski season, i was ready to find my place on the school track and field team. my most memorable event was the mile race at the regional meet. i was doubling that year in both the two mile and the mile. the two mile took place on friday evening and the one mile took place on saturday. i experienced the two mile to be very tough and it was the only race in my history as a runner that i actually vomited immediately after crossing the finish line. saturday morning i was feeling revived and ready to aim for a personal record time in the mile. during the first lap i committed to running my own race as it was obvious to me that the leaders were taking out the pace too quick. i came through the first lap back in about twelfth place. i kept a good rhythm for lap two and maybe moved up a place or two. during the third lap runners were dropping off fast and i came into the bell lap in about sixth place. after the bell i really picked up the tempo. i moved into third with two hundred yards to go and was gaining quickly on the runners in position one and two. with about 75 yards to go, i actually passed runner number two and was gaining on runner number one. it came into my mind that i was actually going to qualify for the minnesota state meet (the first two runners qualify). with twenty five yards remaining, the runner i had passed in order to move into second place dug deep and found enough burst to pass me before the finish. i was not going to state. but i was encouraged by taking nearly ten seconds off of my personal best.

my senior year of cross country was not that great with regards to my individual performance. i was very pleased with our team’s performance and a highlight was participating in the state cross country meet as a team. in retrospect i don’t believe i was incorporating appropriate rest and recovery time into my training. i attempted to squeeze in a bunch of miles in august to earn the 500 mile award that was offered for logging that many miles during the summer. i think that my late start on this goal contributed some to the fatigue i experienced throughout that season.

my senior year of track was almost identical to my junior year. my performance in the mile at the regional meet included me moving into second place in the last 100 yards and being passed back before the finish line. the two runners ahead of me went on to get first and second at the state meet. a highlight for me was shaving another second off of my personal best and having the fifth fastest mile time of the year for a minnesota high school runner.

following high school i only participated in two more racing events. one was a 10,000 meter road race in south carolina. i got first in my age group and sixth over all. the other event was a college track and field meet at the university of wisconsin – eau clarie. i participated as an unattached runner in both the 1500 and the 800. in both events i finished in second place behind former high school teammates. i was pleased with my times in relation to the stage of training i was in.

i let go off running a couple mouths after that meet in eau claire and never officially participated in college athletics.

rob the adult runner: 37 –

a couple months before my 37th birthday i started reconnecting with old high school friends via facebook. i found myself getting inspired by friends that continued with running, especially by those who were participating in marathons. as a teen runner i had envisioned myself participating in marathons and the achievements of my friends rekindled something inside me.

three days before my birthday i ventured out for a walk-run session. at that point i was 100 pounds heavier than my glory days as a teen runner. i was committed to getting my fitness to a level where i would be able to enjoy running.

i am now back into the realm of enjoyable running. i am registered to run my first marathon on may 3rd, 2009. my pace is dropping down on a consistent basis and i have shed 50 pounds.

i have more appreciation for running fitness than i ever did during my former chapters as a runner. i am presently attracted to ultramarathoning. i am hoping to participate in a 50k event in july, 2009 and a 100 mile event in february, 2010.

event-reports from this chapter:
(1) 11.27.2008 turkey trot 5k
(2) 12.20.2008 christmas mile
(3) 12.28.2008 run for the ranch 10k


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