Monday, April 11, 2011

The Seasoned Runner

There is something in the air these days, and I'm not talking about the pollen that makes running very difficult for allergy-sufferers this time of year. You see, it was in April, 1982, that I first committed to running, and logged my first mile. Not miles. Well, not even a full mile, really. It was closer to 9/10ths of a mile, but at least it was a start. Who would have known at that time that 29 years later, I would have logged close to 25,000 miles beyond that first 9/10ths, and I'd still be counting? 
When I first decided to give running a try as an adult, I still remember how I sheepishly poked my head out the door to make sure that none of my neighbors were out before I was willing to give it a try. I didn't want to be seen trying something as risky as running, since I didn't know how successful I would be. And sure enough, I wasn't more than a quarter mile in to the run when my right foot caught the edge of the sidewalk and I twisted my ankle a little, but not badly enough to cut the run short. Thank goodness I didn't take that "twist of fate" as a sign to give up on running before I even started. If I had, my life would not be so full today.   
Physically, that run did not make me feel good. When I was done, I felt nauseous, overheated, and I clearly remember staggering back in the house, and laying down in the middle of the living room floor, almost unable to breathe or move. I was only 26 years old, but at that moment, I felt much, much older.   
Memories of that, and other early runs of April 1982, come back strongly to me this time of year, and those memories really help me understand why something as simple as left-right-repeat can hold one's attention for a lifetime. The run is about so much more than just the run. The run is about the brushing of the wind in your face, and the smells of Wisteria in bloom, and the damp earthy smell of the air just after an April shower. The run is really about everything surrounding it and everything you internalize while you are doing it.   
Thanks to a mixture of ingredients, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) seasonings of Mother Nature, each run becomes unique. And from one year to the next, seasonal runs evolve us into "seasoned runners" and bring back memories of the same time last year, and the year before that, and so on. It happens every season, but for me, Spring is the most special, because it is in the Spring that running first started for me.   And I'm reliving that era once again lately. 
I started running in April, 29 years ago. And now that it's April once again, my mind's eye has been taking me back to that very first run, around my neighborhood in Massapequa Park, New York. As I lay there on the living room floor shortly after I returned from that run, after managing less than a mile, staring at the ceiling, I could feel each heartbeat pulsating throughout my entire body. Although I can still remember everything about that run and its aftermath as if it happened only yesterday, I had no idea at that time how different my life was to become as a result of building blocks I continued to add to that very first cornerstone run.   
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Spring running, and more specifically, April running, holds such a special place in my heart. The right mix of warmer air, longer hours of daylight, the singing birds, the bright colors and sweet aromas of the flowers and the blooms all take me right back to the beginning of time as a runner, when everything was new and exciting.   
I'm sure other runners must get the same feelings of recognition as they approach the same time of year when they first started running many years earlier. Whatever season it is, it stands as a reminder of the newness of running athleticism, and self-discovery as you constantly met, then exceeded your own expectations. Your season is a reminder of why you are a runner.   
I'm a seasoned runner, and my season is Spring. What's yours?

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