Tag Archives: runners

Up, Up and Away

Yesterday was a special day for several reasons. For one, I got to run a race with my favorite running partner and best bud, Mary Ann Ring. It was our first race together since a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in 2009. In the intervening time, injuries and a major health issue prevented us from competing together.

But hey, as runners know, these setbacks merely serve to remind us that we are not invincible and we just have to work to get back to the road. So anyway, yesterday we got to run the Up, Up and Away 5k at the Flag City BalloonFest in Findlay. The race, the 9th Up, Up and Away5k organized by the Findlay Striders, benefited the Hancock County Special Olympics.

Competing together is different than competing against each other. She’s younger than me, so we’re never in the same age group. So our plan is usually just to stick together in our race against “The Others”.

Award made by Special Olympics Athlete

But here’s the thing. She announced to me the night before that she wanted to beat :25:00. Inwardly I groaned. See, I beat that mark a long time ago, but now that I’m older, my times keep getting slower. But who am I to stand in the way of her goal? Rather than wimping out and sending her on her merry little way, my brain simply informed my legs that it was going to be up to them to stick to her side…or at least within a stride or two away.

Besides, I had my own reasons for wanting to do well — thanks to my recent birthday, I’d moved up to the next age group. I’d made the mistake of checking out last year’s age group results, and I knew if I wanted to be competitive, I’d have to stick to Mary’s goal.

It was a perfect day for a race – temp about 63, bearable humidity, lots of cheerful runners, and a bunch of hot air balloons overhead to keep us entertained along the out and back route. This is actually the best kind of route, because you can keep an eye on who’s ahead of you at the turnaround. The one guy we both had our eye on was Mary’s husband, Greg, who had his own goal, so he was flying up ahead of us.

Thanks to Mary’s determination, we met both of our goals — we ended the finish line almost side by side in :24:48, which is an 8-minute pace. Not bad for two old ladies, eh?

But that really wasn’t the best part of the day. That came a little later when together we watched a 15-year-old disabled boy — who had popped out of his wheelchair to participate in the 0ne-mile fun run — complete the race running his heart out. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight.

In the 30 plus years I’ve been running, I’ve been lucky to earn a lot of trophies, most of which are in the attic, gathering dust. But the award I earned yesterday was by far the most meaningful one. It’s a small wooden star pin, adorned with the number “1” and embellished with jewels. What makes it so special?  It was made by a Special Olympics Athlete.

Doc says stop running; feet say “WHAT”?

Runners are a strange breed. This I know for sure. I’ve been one for more than 30 years. Most people eye us with distrust, give us nasty looks as if we’ve ruined their day by just being there. Oddly, there are those who try to run us off the road. I’ve never understood this animosity.

For example, it was a frigid, snowy day. A day when no vehicles should be on the road. Feet are okay, if they’re clad in spikes. So there I was heading south on Main Street/Dixie Highway toward the bowling alley, my turnaround. A large truck approached me from the south. A dad and son. No seatbelts from my visual. But hey, if they want to take chances. I raised my hand to wave, when the driver raised his own hand in an angry fist-waving rampage. Ummmm…okay. Gee, did I do something wrong? I puzzled over that one all day.

So anyway, running. It’s been my thing since sophomore year of college. The first time I tried, one college roommate convinced the other two of us to trot around the old cinder track behind Hirschy Hall on the Bluffton College (excuse me, University) campus. My memory is that Emily informed Vicki and I that we would slowly traverse a lap at a time. When I developed a sideache, Em, the veteran, told me to run bent over. I’m sure this looked pretty stupid, but fortunately it was dark.

That was it until about six months later when I decided to try again. Somehow it got easier and I discovered it was kind of fun. Over the years, it became habit. From somewhere within me, a competitive urge popped up and I began races. I actually won a few. In fact, I’d have won one more except they somehow registered me as male. I actually got the trophy 20 years later. I don’t know if it took that long to compute, or if Dick Boehr just felt sorry for me and had one specially designed.

So…here it is almost 34 years later. Miles and miles behind me. Assorted injuries, temporary layoffs (i.e. two pregnancies and one knee surgery, two sacral stress fractures)…and even a few months of thinking I’d never run again. But oh…minutes at a time, we idiots build back up to some semblance of running.

So recently, thanks to an ongoing health problem, my doc looks at me suspiciously and says, “Are you still running.” Guiltily, I peek at my husband, who is glaring at me. Ulp. “Um…yesterday.” How far, says he, the expert? Um….3? How fast? Um…oh about, 28-29 minutes, maybe.

Stop now — you can start again when you’re stronger. Okay, this is not the order I wanted to hear. I wanted to think I could keep up my usual routine — that piece of me that has become as natural as brushing my teeth. But okay, for the sake of saving my energy for some tough times, I agree. Walk, he says. That’s okay.

The next day I find myself enjoying an early morning walk with a friend, who says she is more of a walker than a runner these days. In fact, she explains to me why runners don’t want to be known as walkers. There’s something, she says, about being known as a “runner”. It sets us apart, lets us continue to be the oddballs we like to be. It also allows us to eat just about anything we want…well, at least those who don’t have genetically high cholesterol.

As my walking feet fight my running brain, I remind myself that I’m doing this for a good reason. It’s all about energy. Saving it. Somehow, though, my brain hasn’t quite accepted that. It will. Someday. I hope.