First, lets get one thing straight; running is stupid and boring and nobody cares.
This is how I feel when I hear other people talking about running. My eyes glaze over and I try to shift the subject. If people persist in asking me about my running, they get various half-truths depending on what I think they can handle.
“How much do you run?” (Normal people are told one number so I appear normal, runners are told the real numbers — sometimes.) “Do you run everyday?” (Mmmm… Yes.) “Have you run a marathon?” (No. “but you could right?” Ya, sure.) Or the cringe inducing, “What are your personal bests?” (Lets just say the older I get the faster I was – especially in a bar.)
Now, despite the inherent contradiction about my feelings about YOUR running, I will now proceed to tell you why you should care about MY running.
I started running in High School because I was an aspiring baseball player and a somewhat promising pitcher. I had heard my heroes like Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine all ran to improve their strength and stamina. I joined the Cross Country team figuring it was a good way to “get in shape for baseball.” I soon discovered I was a terrible runner. But I didn’t care. The saps who took running seriously weren’t real athletes. I went on to run Winter Track and by the time spring rolled around I was fit as a fiddle and ready to WOW Salem High School with my pitching prowess. Truth be told, I did all right. I became a key player in the Freshman rotation – everything was on track. Then something happened – or rather something did not happen – everyone around me started to grow facial hair and real biceps.
I kept running. Ran all summer. And when Cross Country season rolled around in the fall I discovered that I was a lot better. I kept running and kept improving. By the time I was a Junior I was winning some races- and it felt good! While my running was rapidly improving my right arm seemed to be in a noodley, amorphous state of arrested development.
My senior year I made the biggest decision in the history of the world – I decided to run Track in the spring instead of play baseball. I did pretty well that year. Won some big-ish races, made States and was eventually inducted into the Salem High Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, this isn’t). I figured that I would see a constant trajectory of improvement as long as I kept running. The rest is history – that is a history filled with nagging injuries and varying disappointments.
The next step was college and I was convinced that I would keep improving so long as I kept running more. I worked my way onto the Northeastern Cross Country and Track teams and soon discovered that there are two kinds of Division I athletes: Thoroughbreds and Work Horses. On my best days I was a Mid-Pack Work Horse. But I will go to my grave being proud that I was an NCAA Division I Varsity Athlete.
I do think it was all worth it in the end. I travelled to some exotic locations (Orono, ME, Albany NY, Stamford CT, Secaucus NJ, Providence RI, Franklin Park in Roxbury MA!), got a chance to beat Harvard kids at something, met my best of friends and learned a ton about myself along the way.
After college running took on a whole new meaning and purpose – this is why YOU should care:
Inspiration – Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of just get to work.” Inspiration only comes when I dedicate my mind to getting inspired. My running time is a sacred time that I use to inspire myself – then I “get to work.”
Nature – I hate computers, yet I spend 50ish hours a week in front of one. I would love to spend all day frolicking outdoors. I find I can mollify my inner Thoreau with a daily intense immersion in nature. The best way to sit my ass down in front of a computer is to run my ass off first. If I don’t get my morning fix of running through nature – I just don’t work well the rest of the day.
Color – In New England it’s all about the seasons, baby. The New England pallet never ceases to amaze and fuel my creative endeavors.
Discipline –Nobody structures my day for me so I must structure it myself. Establishing a routine that invigorates mind and body is essential for a productive and creative day.
Routine – I think we all seek routine. I look forward to seeing my usual cast of dog walkers, joggers and the burly dude who drives his pick-up to the end of the harbor to watch the sun rise (we signal hello with the universal hand gesture for “Rock-n-Roll Man!”).
OCD – OCD, 1,23, OCD, 123… I always thought if I were to hire a runner vs. a non-runner, I would go with the runner. Why? They will drive themselves into the ground to get it done and get it done as perfectly as possible. Runners are quite incapable of being lazy or being able to relax until the job is done, done, DONE.
Meditation – Running is a moving meditation. On the rare occasions when I’m not writhing in pain or battling a sore Plantar, Achilles, Groin, Indigestion etc. etc…. a great calm descends. Sure I’ve tried other outlets: walking (too slow – makes me melancholy), Biking (takes too long to feel like I’ve got anything done and I always think I’m going to get killed), Yoga (too much work yet very unsatisfying). So running it is. Namaste!
BEER – As high-brow as the above reasons may seem, I would be remiss not to mention BEER. The proliferation of craft beer has taken on a “somewhat” central role in my joyous existence. So, by adding the word “craft” and combining that with a rigorous running routine, I can justify that not only do I EARN my BEER, it is actually GOOD for me too. It’s true! It’s true! High quality carbohydrates, easily digestible calories, re-hydrating and anti-inflammatory… Please say its true.
So now you can see why running still plays a central part in my life as creative professional.
I’m still training for my dream career – a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.