Sunday, March 3, 2013

Growing up running -- a partial reminiscence

Not sure what has started me reminiscing on this recently.

Sometime around age 6 my mother started dropping me off downtown at lunch-time.  Dad cut out of work and we'd run together.  I think the reason was a combination of my being the first-born-son; my being a sensitive kid without an athletic bone in my body; and Dad's needing to get back in shape.  Dad, bless him, never missed a chance to tell me I was "a natural runner."  He could not have been more wrong, but the idea became part of my self-identity.

Sometime in that first year I ran my first 10K.  Back in those days, in Anchorage, it was 10K or nothing.  Nobody was running shorter and if anybody was running longer I didn't know about it.  Within a year or two my brother S__ and sister S__ started joining us.  In contrast with me they were naturally athletic.  Among other trivial statistics, sister S__ was faster over the 10K distance, at that age, than had been a family friend who went on to become a four-time Olympic skier, and brother S__ had one race written up in Runner's World as a notable effort for a six-year-old.  (53' and change, if I remember correctly.)  In contrast, I was just a skinny kid who was able to run but not able to run fast.

We raced the Pepsi 10K every year.  There were others, but I don't recall their names.  It seems as if we ran about three 10Ks every summer or thereabouts.  One time the local high school, Robert Service (which we all attended several years later), hosted a race.  It started at the school, proceeded down the bike trail along Abbott Road, turned right -- North -- to follow Lake Otis, and ended at Campbell Creek Park.  I crossed the line in 43' and change.  Wow, was I disappointed to learn that the course had been badly measured, and the race was actually about 5 1/2 miles.  I don't clearly recall how fast I actually was and the internet, which knows everything else about me, does not reach back that far.  Something around 48' sounds about right.  Sister S__, I know, was at least a couple of minutes faster.

Dad succeeded in getting his fitness back.  I was about 11, and he 41, when he took me along the Powerline Trail all the way to Powerline Pass and back, approximately a 16-miler in Chugach State Park.  I have not done that run since.  I really should when I go home this summer.

Life proceeded to get in the way.  I never really quit running; I would guess not a year of my life has gone by that I did not run at least a few times.  I was on my school cross country and track teams, but I found it easier to be a goofball and to lose than to try hard and nonetheless to lose.  But I did not quit even after my parents stopped having any say.  I remember, for example, getting home from watching Forrest Gump with my buddy P__ one summer in college and going out for a late-evening six-miler.  (In an Anchorage summer it is not at all unpleasant to be on the blacktop at 11 p.m.)  I remember more than once drinking too much and running myself sober.

In college and law school I seemed to run primarily when I was unhappy.  I ran while clerking in Boise because I was lonely.  After moving to DC I ran to be social; my house-mate J__ talked me in to my first marathon, my first ironman, and my first 50-miler.  Other people chat well over beer.  I chat much better over sweat.

Off shortly to see if I can replicate Ted's 18-miler.  It's a little chilly and windy and the flurries are coming down occasionally, which is probably ideal.

UPDATE:  Oh my goodness.  No specifics, but I do find lists of races being run in Anchorage in those days.  The Clinkerdagger 10K was another regular one.  (Clinkerdagger, Bickerstaff and Pett's -- or Clink's for short -- was a local restaurant of some note.


  1. Nice!! I started running because it seemed like the one team sport I could participate where my lack of athletic ability would not interfere with the team's results. :-)

  2. Nice indeed. I never ran regularly as a kid because I was playing tennis and most of my time was spent in practices, matches, tournaments, and taking public transport to same when parents were not available to drive. First time I ran regularly was in the 20s as a young lawyer to impress a fellow lawyer at the Justice Department. But I then rolled my ankle in a pothole around Kalorama Circle and never went back to it and ended up on crutches. Never went back to it until my 40s.

  3. That was nice, Max! I was a distance swimmer when wee (from a very young age, all us military kids swam on base) but the 1976 Olympics and heatwave in the UK for some reason got me hooked on think about it at least, as I was 11! I started running loops of playgrounds at lunch just for the freedom. I lied about my age to enter my first marathon at 15, in Nike All Courts, which were blood red at the end. At 16 I ran a 3.25 which was my PB for years and years. At university I got hit by a car badly and broke my tib fib and was on crutches for two years. Once better, I got running again and managed one sub40 10k but could never get back up to marathons without some leg bit breaking down...that is what atrophy will do to you. Then, bizarrely switched to rugby in law school in the back row of course on the wing. Then came a good ten years or so of not much at all, don't know what happened, work, kids, whatever, and thus I missed likely my best years....nuts. Once I started a mid career PhD in Oxford I laced up again, so I guess I was 32 or so, and then began a slew of 10k, halfs, 20s, and marathons. Pure joy running in Oxford, all year round! I have had to take two blocks of time off, one four year period with ankle issues and the more recent PF problem I have bored you all with. I love the freedom of running in the early mornings, I get a lot of my best ideas running, my mood is better on days I run, and I think it is a hoot to plan Antitrust Marathons in cool places. I would so much like to go sub3 before Nov 2015 when I will be 50, indeed sub3 has been a goal of mine for years but the closest I ever got was 3.16. Whether I hit it or not though I know I will always run, as nothing gives me the same kind of joy as a muddy hilly six in the ridges above Oxford. Then again, nothing makes me so blue as being injured and not running, so I need to rest, crosstrain, and just enjoy the freedom. Can't wait to see you guys in Rome, and Max if you get over here sometime there are some joyous misty routes amid the spires I'd love to show you.

  4. My gads, we should have shared our personal histories years ago. I think I knew Spencer was a tennis player; somewhere I had learned Ted started running sometime around the first American running craze (am I getting my dates right?), but I had no idea Philip was a marathon bandit from that far back.