Thursday, June 11, 2009

Days Like This . . .

. . . can fool you. The forecast high for Houston is 96, and the humidity will be brutal, too. But when you go outside at 7:30 A. M., you think, "Hey, this isn't too bad." You can feel a little bit of seabreeze drifting up from the south, and you're standing in the shade, and you think, "I can do this."

So you start to run. You can even kid yourself along for the first half mile or so. You stick to the shade, you don't try to break the four-minute mile, you think cool thoughts.

But then you start to sweat. After which you start to sweat a lot. Pretty soon, your socks weigh as much as your shoes did when you started out, but not as much as your shoes do now. They're soaked, and they're as heavy as concrete blocks.

Before long, you start thinking about how good some cold water would taste, how good a cold shower would feel. When you look at your watch, you see you're not even halfway done.

You sweat some more. When you swing your arms, drops of sweat fly off your fingertips. If you weren't wearing a headband, your eyes would be stinging with sweat. A little bit gets in them even as it is.

Eventually you get home. You don't even bother to go inside. You just take off your shirt and shoes and hose yourself down in the driveway. Feels good.

After an hour or so, you've almost forgotten what it was like.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Being an Old Guy

Sometimes when I'm speeding* along the sidewalks and streets of Alvin, I wonder what people think of me.  Maybe they don't even see me, as I've found I'm practically invisible in restaurants when I need a server or in a mega-store when I need help finding something.  

Assuming they do see me, though, what do they think?  Do they think an old guy shouldn't be out there running?  That I should be inside sitting quietly with a shawl over my shoulders?  Do they worry that I might fall and break something?  Would they care if I did?

Let's face it: I didn't plan to be old, and I never dreamed that I'd still be running this long after that first attempt way back in 1971.**  In the years since then I've seen other old guys -- some of them as old as I am now, some even older -- out on the run.  I never identified with them.  I just admired them for keeping on.  Now I see there's nothing particularly admirable in it.  You just keep doing it because you've been at it for so long that you're afraid to quit.  Or at least it's that way for me.  I'm scared of what would happen to my body, which by now must be used to the almost daily pounding of the pavement.

Somewhere there's a picture of me in the early '70s, all decked out in new running gear.   New shoes, new shorts, new top.  All blue.  The shoes were Saucony, I think.  Maybe I can find that picture somewhere.  If I do, I'll post it here.  Young guy.  Skinny.  Black hair, and plenty of it.  Those were the days.

Now?  Gray hair, thin on top and almost gone in back.  Not so skinny, and definitely not young.  I don't have any recent photos of me in running gear, nor are there likely ever to be any.  Who'd want to look at them?  Certainly I wouldn't.

The funny thing is, I don't feel much different from the skinny guy in the photo.  On the inside, I'm still young, which I'm sure is true of all old guys.  I still think of myself as the dark-haired kid in the new running togs, ready for anything.

I can remember the routes I used to run, even some the exact quirks of the pavement, the rocks beside the road.  I could go there tomorrow and feel not a thing had changed in 35 years.  

I don't think I will, though.

*By my definition.  Probably not by yours.
**More about that later.  If I get around to it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Not Athletic

When I was a youngster long ago, people didn't tell us kids that we could be anything we wanted to be if we just tried hard enough, which was just as well. We'd have known they were lying, or we'd have figured it out pretty quickly.

I was a skinny kid, and I wanted to run fast. That was about the extent of my ambition for a while. Later on, though I wanted to be Roger Bannister. How likely was that? For me, not likely at all, not even within the realm of possibility. Why? Because I was slow. I was once beaten in a grade-school race by a desk. You can learn to be a lot of things, I guess, but fast isn't one of them.

I also loved baseball. After I gave up on the four-minute mile, my plan was to go the the major leagues as a second baseman, but I was a terrible player. I didn't know at the time that I could barely see out of my left eye and that I had the coordination of a puppet with broken strings. I just knew I couldn't run and I couldn't hit no matter how hard I tried. Very disappointing.

Of course my reflexes might have had something to do with it. Turtles are quicker than I am.

And I'm not built for athletics, especially running. I'm bowlegged. I'm not sure that my early life had anything to do with that, though my father did want me to be a cowboy, and I learned early to ride a horse. The cowboy thing didn't take, but I do have the legs for it. If I stand with my ankles together, a large dog can walk between my legs and not touch either one of them.

So my becoming a runner and staying one for many years was a big surprise to me. As you might guess, I'm not a good runner. I'm slow, and I'm awkward, but I'm persistent. I wasn't sure I could be, but it turned out I could. I've been persisting now since 1971. That's almost thirty-seven years now, no matter what the title of this blog is.