Wednesday, April 30, 2008
It was May 1988. Ronald Reagan was president. INXS had the top song, but Michael Jackson was still a top dog in the music industry. Beetlejuice was playing at the movies. The Seoul Olympics were being anticipated. I was a mom with 4 young children, including an 8 month old baby. For the most part, I loved my life, but I did daydream a lot. I was also a very busy person, but one who made exercise almost a daily priority.
I walked quite often, and oftentimes brought the kids, not only to get them out the door but because I couldn't leave them home alone. We lived out in the country, where the speed limit on our road was unmarked, and while it should have been no faster than 45 mph, the little bit of traffic we had usually had cars speeding by at 60 mph or higher. So I also didn't feel comfortable letting the kids ride their bikes alone. They could ride their bikes when we walked. And it was only a short walk to the subdivision around the lake.
But taking 4 kids for a walk didn't mean power walking. The girls would run or skip ahead; Aaron, the 4 year old wanted to look at everything or sit down on the road and take a break; and of course I pushed Justin in the stroller. It was a fun family outing, but I needed to do more.
It was May 1988. I had this thought one day then that maybe if I ran instead of walked, it would take me less time and I could go by myself.
But the evolution process started before that. As a kid, I was either on the go constantly or reading. None of my brothers and sisters were that active, although as kids back then we only had outdoor play or indoor play to fill our time, but for me it was riding bikes all over the area, jumping rope, playing kickball, swimming, or walking everywhere it seemed. I even did a very crude, modified form of aerobic exercise in high school, along with calisthenics, the only thing we knew. Girls organized sports had yet to come on the scene, and the only thing I was good at was volley ball anyway.
Then sometime in the '70s, I got my good friend at the time to consider doing some form of exercise class through the school system, although neither of us had the money to spend on organized classes. The only gym was the Y, which I hadn't ever heard of yet, and there were no gyms or fitness centers anywhere. But another thought occurred to me. I had been "walking" a new puppy I had gotten around that time, who actually only ran anytime she had a leash on, so I had to run to keep her from strangling herself. So I said to my friend, "We should just run." Where that thought came from, I have no idea. If the running boom had hit our area at the time, I wasn't aware of it. And yet, there it was, the beginning of an era? We ran alright. We didn't jog. We ran. Hard. For about 2 blocks at a time. For about 2 weeks. And then? Shin splints so bad neither of us could hardly walk. That was the end of that plan.
Fast forward into the late '70s. My younger sister who was in high school at the time had taken up running, both cross country and track, and she ran regularly otherwise with a good friend, who went on to win many school titles, and for years after won road races in the area. Something struck a chord within me, or maybe I was feeling some pull of the sisterhood of early running women pioneers, and I just wanted to run too. Again, for about a week, I would get up at 6 am and go out and run around a couple of blocks and call it good. Did I have running shoes? Oh no. In fact, I didn't even wear athletic shoes, just some leather wedgy type shoe that was popular at the time. For one reason or another, that didn't last either, and then I had my second child and took up bowling in the winter and biking in the summer, going about 5 miles each time, and later, with 3 kids, I took up walking.
And then it was May 1988. Spring came early that year. It was hot in fact. My oldest was almost 12, my youngest 8 months. I needed to get out of the house BY MYSELF. So, when my oldest daughter came home from school at 3 pm, and the baby was sleeping, I figured again, if I went out and ran (with the dog of course!), I could be back in 20 minutes. She would be okay for that long, and I would just go down the road and come back.
So off I went, with the dog, the same dog who was a puppy 12 years before, but she was just as eager and frisky as she had been as a pup. And as expected, once the leash was on, she wanted to run. And of course, being in a rural farming community, the thought of anyone running for exercise was absurd. So I felt less self-conscious with the dog too. And my outfit this time? A pink sweatsuit and old aerobic shoes, with holes in the soles.
Once I got going, I decided to go out one mile (I guessed) and back. I don't remember stopping. And I ran as hard as the dog pulled me. When I got back, I was beet red in the face and totally sweating, and I felt exhilirated! I couldn't wait to do it again. So run I did, the next day and the next and the next, and the rest is history. Every day in the mid afternoon heat. In my pink sweatsuit and worn out aerobic shoes.
I couldn't let May 2008 start without commemorating my 20th year of running and remembering back on all the good times that started from that one month in time. I've had my ups and downs, forwards, and backwards, but I hope to celebrate another 20 years in this sport!