Counting the miles -- 01/02/02
Yesterday I mentioned buying a weekly journal ... the one I was pleased to be able to pick up for only $1.35... gee, that's about ten francs... but francs are going away, the Euro became legal tender in France yesterday and in just two months the franc will be withdrawn as legal tender... ah, but I digress... that notebook... that's going to be my running log for 2002, a book where I will keep track of my runs. I tend to write down more than just the mileage, sometimes a note about the course I ran, the weather, perhaps a comment about how I felt... Yeah, in a sense my running logs have been a kind of journal I've been keeping for years... Please don't think that I write little essays in these books (yesterday, for example, my entry merely said "3.5 mile run -- bike path -- bright & sunny -- mid 20's") but looking back at old entries can sometimes bring back definite memories of that particular run...

Sometimes even the lack of a run can spark recall... For example, Wednesday, April 23, 1986 has a notation that I did not run that day (I was working for a university and would run on campus at lunchtime) because of taking my daughter to lunch and to see the circus animals ("no run Wed -- take Jennifer to lunch & see circus animals")... she was just a couple weeks short of three years old... Ringling Bros. circus was arriving in town and parading the animals from the railroad freight yard to the county arena... a cold and blustery day in late April, snow flurries... waiting for so long in the cold was a bit too much for her so we headed off to a McDonald's for lunch (and warmth and shelter from the wind) and then came back to catch the end of the parade and then to wander around the tents and cages set up outside of the arena, looking at the elephants and the lions and the horses and all of the workers and the excitement.

That 1986 book is my oldest running log... I had started running nineteen years and a few months ago... back in 1983... Adam, my eldest, a high schol student at the time, was running cross-country and track and sometimes 5k and 10k road races and he persuaded me to try running a mile run. He had told me that he had entered me in the race... so I figured I'd give it a try... after all, I'd quit smoking a few years earlier and I'd been a pretty fast runner when I was a kid... went down to the university track and started running as fast as I could... naturally I quickly ran out of steam... kind of collapsed gasping for breath before finishing even three laps... After that I got a little smarter and concentrated on running slower but actually finishing the distance... and when race day came (this was the one mile fun run that went along with a 5k and a 10k) I ran the mile much faster than I had in practice and enjoyed it so much that I decided that I wanted to try a 5k... over the next two months I gradually extended the distances I ran and on a hot Labor Day weekend I ran the Health Spirit Run 5k -- 25:57 -- not exactly blindingly fast but I was hooked on running and that was the first of many 5k races I've run over the years since. In fact, I ran two more 5k races that fall -- in 25:16 and 24:48.

I didn't really keep a running log at first, just a record of race results... then in the middle of 1985 I decided that it would be helpful if I kept track of how many miles I actually ran each week (the answer, of course, was not really very many) and so I started writing miles on a calendar in my office (thus I know that I ran three miles on Monday, June 17, 1985, and four miles on Wednesday and two miles on Friday) and then at some point I bought a little forty-nine cent five inch by three inch pocket memo book and copied those calendar notes over into it and began keeping a running log... thus this first little book covers 1986 from mid-June onward plus all of 1986. I also set myself two goals for 1986 -- one was to run 250 miles by my birthday (April 29th) and the other was to run the Vestal XX (a very hilly 20k run -- that's about twelve and a half miles). I succeeded in both -- 3.5 miles on April 28th brought my total for the year-to-date to half a mile over the 250 target -- and on June 21st I stumbled across the finish line at the Vestal XX -- it took me almost two hours -- 1:54:45 -- but I did it and I was very happy. (I would run it faster in later years, but would never label any of those runs as being fast.)

So I know that on New Year's Day in 1986 I ran two and a quarter miles, that my legs were tired (having run in a 5k the day before) and that I slipped and fell on Leroy Street. In comparison, yesterday I ran three and a half miles (not having raced the day before). However, I also know that I ran on seventeen days that month for a total of fifty-five miles. I wonder if I could still manage to do that now... I keep thinking it would be tough due to lack of time but in 1986 Jennifer was a toddler and Sean was an infant (and Adam was in his senior year of high school) and certainly required much more time and attention than they do now that Jennifer is in college and Sean is a high school junior and although I no longer have the luxury of working at a university I do have a treadmill in the basement.

Of course I entertain thoughts every January about how many miles I would like to run in that new year... theoretical future miles are always so easy to run... the ones where you have to pull on running shoes and head out into the dark and cold when you are really tired, those are the difficult ones... Still, it would be interesting to compete with my 1986 running log...

Counting the miles...

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