Friday, March 11, 2011

Life By A Thousand Runs

About eleven summers ago, I went for my first run. I went about a half mile – one loop of my neighborhood – and stopped. I wasn’t exhausted but I was breathing heavy. I was surprised how difficult it was to run for 5 minutes straight. At the time, I played pick-up basketball frequently and could get up and down the court as fast - or faster - than most. I thrived at diving into a middle of a group of ballers underneath the rim, jabbing my razor sharp elbows into some ribs to clear room, and coming down with a rebound, passing the ball out, then exploding down court for a return pass. Surely a little bit of “jogging” would be easy right?

Turns out, this running thing was a whole lot tougher than I expected.

Over the first several months, those “jogs” were difficult. It was tough to go more than a mile at a time. Eventually I built up to three miles. Still, I always felt awkward and disjointed when I ran. I told Mrs. Nitmos repeatedly that I just wasn’t a natural runner. My breathing felt off. My arms and legs were hopelessly kicking out in strange angles. I thought that I must look like an epileptic having a fit while running. Nothing was smooth. No flow. Certainly it was obvious to others with every step I took that I was a beginner. My knees were chopping too high; my feet slapped too much; my elbows were unnaturally akimbo. I even remember feeling a touch self-conscious when one of those seasoned runners with the hip angular sunglasses and moisture-wicking….everything…would run by me and my cotton t-shirt.

I was 30 years old when I went for my first run. I made a goal to run a 5k in my hometown that I’d been aware of since I was a little kid. I probably would have quit running early on if I didn’t at least want to run this race first. Basketball was my thing. Running was just a short-term affair.

The race came and went. I had fun. Compared to my age group, I did reasonably well finishing in the top 40%. I was surprised that many of the other runners looked just like me…except with less efficient Adam’s apples and not as quick with spontaneous observational humor. That’s when the competitor within took over.

If I shave two more minutes, I can get in the top 20 for my age group.

If I shave three more minutes, top 10!

Maybe I’ll try one more race after a few more months of training.

BOOM. Hooked!

Over time, my running style smoothed out. My breathing is pretty relaxed even at strenuous intervals. I don’t even think about those things anymore. Mrs. Nitmos tells me that she can always spot me coming from far away because of my distinctive high front knee kick when I run. Maybe it's the Vegas showgirl in me. Or maybe it’s the same as it always was….it just feels natural now. Alas, I own a moisture-wicking burial tuxedo.*

I don’t know how many runs I’ve completed over the last ten plus years. For the first few years, I’d stop running completely for 3-4 months over winter to continue playing basketball. I still normally only run three times a week due to time constraints. I would guess I’ve run about a thousand times now, probably more. I’m still searching for PR’s. I haven’t played a single game of pick-up basketball in three years.

The phrase “death by a thousand cuts” is often used metaphorically to describe the gradual destruction of something by repeated minor attacks.** What do you call the gradual construction – in this case, of a RUNNER – over time by a series of minor actions?

I’m on the precipice of age 40. The next time I post, I’ll be on the other side. I’ll let you know how it looks. A new age group to compete within beckons. I’ll officially be called a Master. It’s about time.

I guess this is life by a thousand runs.

Happy trails.

*It’s got to be hot in a coffin right?
** source

28 comments:

GeorgiaSnail said...

Little more than 10 years to get your masters? Sounds about right!?!?! Rock that new AG!

Turi said...

So now we'll have to address you as "young master?" Creepy.

Morgan said...

Wishing you great one Master!!! Oh man, me thinks the posts around here are about to get even more egotistical than they are now with this whole masters thing...

Mamarunsbarefoot said...

I've just entered the Masters zone!!! And yes the ABCs were a lot work!

Al's CL Reviews said...

Good God, we have to call you Master?

BrianFlash said...

Welcome to the Master's division! The only bad thing about this is we're in the same age group for the next 12 months. Luckily for me, I'll graduate out of the group and won't have to directly compete with you for another four years...

Stuart said...

Nice..welcome to the clan!

At least your at the bottom rung...I am a bit higher up!

Jess said...

Great post! Happy birthday!

Irish Cream said...

Happy Birthday, M-M-Ma-Ma-Master. Geez, that was tough to spit out . . . guess I best get used to it, eh? I can't wait to see what kind of wisdom you'll have to share with us all after you make it over the hill ;)

MNW said...

Most excellent post.

The Sean said...

I was always under the impression that Nitmos was synonymous with Master... so it would be redundant to refer to you as Master Nitmos.

May all our Adam's Apples be so efficient-

Jill said...

Welcome to the club!! Ah, but what a mighty fine one it is...you will like it here!

Happy Weekend!!

Aron said...

Happy Birthday Mr. Master :)

B.o.B. said...

Happy birthday old man river! ;)

Vava said...

Happy Birthday Nitmos! Here's wishing your next decade or running is filled with more running and more PRs than your first.

Anne said...

Happy Birthday boy!
Let me tell you what it's like way on the other side...exactly the same ;)

One Crazy Penguin said...

I've written the same thing as you first couple of paragraphs almost word for word. I was a basketball player for so long that it was hard to make the switch. Now I can't imagine life without running! I'm still not a complete convert of drywick everything though. I run in cotton shirts and I'm not ashamed!

PS - This just means that you're one year more awesome :P

Teamarcia said...

Happy Birthday! Welcome to the Masters! But beware: crusty old coots like us have nothing better to do but run fast!

Danielle in Iowa in Seattle said...

Happy Birthday! Do you think that the race officials will actually believe you are in the right AG when you cross the finish line? "Hey! How did that 25 year old sneak into the 40-45 age group!?"

Roisin said...

Oooooooooo Masters man! The man who won the Masters group at a 5K that I watched today ran it in about 20 minutes. You can totally beat that, yes?

Happy birthday and keep on kickin'.

Beth said...

Happy birthday!! Glad you stuck with it and decided to write all about it. Hope your next 1000 runs are the greatest!

Deb said...

Happy birthday!!!

Reluctant Runner said...

Happy 40th!

I was in a 5K yesterday and the top female runner was in the 50-59 age category. So those PRs ain't over yet.

Irene said...

The word "masters" always throws me off because I am anything but masterful.

Being in a new age group you always hope that you'll snag a few top three AG place spots, but, unfortunately, everyone else in your prior age group (who are uber speedy) gets older, too, darn it.

Happy running!

Oh, and welcome to the other side.

Spike said...

I shall only refer to you as Master now. Congrats on getting older and living to tell us about it or something...

Charlotte said...

So interesting!!! I guess I'd always had you pegged as one of those leader-of-the-pack since high school kind of guys! I too picked up running "later" in life - while I've never won anything (not even my age division) I do love the rush and sense of accomplishment too!

Kirstie said...

Congrats on 10 years of running! That's quite an accomplishment. I started running at age 30 too and 3 years later I'm still hooked. Ooooh Masters! Sounds so accomplished! Good luck with your new age group, I'm sure you will kick some Masters butt out there!

Laura said...

Happy belated birthday! Like Charlotte, I too thought you had been running forever.

I like your "shaving the numbers" trick though. If I could have shaved 2 minutes off each marathon I've done, I would currently have a world record... like, an actual one for time, not just the one for youthful craziness. INSPIRATION! :)