My earliest Island 10K tee shirt is from 1991, although I seem to recall running it before that as a spontaneous, unregistered insurgent during a visit.
As most first-timers would attest, one’s debut circumnavigation of the Island is an unforgettable jaunt. Of course that was many years ago when the act of running was almost effortless.
I started running in the mid-‘70s and put on thousands of miles in modest distances, a bunch of half-marathons and one New York Marathon. The only rival to the Island 10K in prettiness was a run I would take from our home in Alexandria, Virginia to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate on the Potomac.
The days of effortless running are completely and utterly over. Not too long ago I could get away with virtually no training and still plod through the Island 10K in a dispiriting walk/run format that made me feel unworthy of wearing the bib number. And last year, the unimaginable happened: I bailed out and walked the 5K (and sort of ran the last mile). In my shame, I vowed to make a comeback this year and eventually developed a training schedule that would empower me to run the 10K on June 21 with, I hoped, just a handful of stops along the route.
The plan was to stop drinking and start running (and stationary biking) on April 1. This was a radical idea at both ends. I like drinking and dislike running. (I still like biking.) But there was something alluring about the challenge because of its degree of difficulty.
Not surprisingly, as April 1 crept closer, my brain began working its diabolical mischief. Starting training April 1 for a June 21 run seemed needlessly ambitious and, at my age, possibly detrimental. I have only a finite number of miles left in my legs, so why carelessly waste them on training? Save them for the 10K! This argument exploded in my brain as though implanted by an exterior force. I was helpless against its persuasive brilliance.
April 1 blew by as I recalibrated my plan and settled on May 1 as the start of my training regimen. I was overjoyed at the extra month of drinking and non-running. Reason had won the day.
The eve of May 1 was on me in a heartbeat and I was panicking big time. I awaited more brain tricks and I was, thankfully, rewarded at the last second. The exterior force (I’m just the victim here!) decided that I should head to Central Park and do a test run to measure my body’s fitness to train.
Based on the test results, I would either commence training as planned or step back and reconsider my options. I approached the running lane that circles the park — one I had run countless times in the good old days — with something akin to doom. So akin to doom, let’s just call it doom. I began to run and it was as though I had never run before. I had to concentrate all my mental power on moving my legs in running-like motions. My left leg and knee had been barking at me occasionally over the last six months and they were not pleased with this test run. They let me know about it. I made it about 50 yards and then with an unexpected surge of euphoria I stopped. It felt so good not to be running.
On the way home, the exterior force (not me!) calculated that a hard and fast June 1 start date was probably the most prudent plan. It would be cutting it close but why risk foolish injury? My relief nearly brought me to tears. But having blown two deadlines and all too aware of the insidiousness of the exterior force, I decided to begin journal entries in order to keep me on track.
May 31: I should have thought this through. June 1 is a Sunday, a day of rest. My labors should more appropriately start on a Monday, the beginning of the work week, joining the millions of my brother and sister worker ants teeming on the streets below. We’re in this together.
June 2: This morning I got word that I needed to join a conference call at 2 p.m. on a project I’m working on. It would only take 20 minutes or so but I should probably stake out some time to prepare for the call. My traditional best time to exercise is mid-morning so the prep time and call pretty much wipe out that part of the day. Tough break, but it is what it is.
June 3: Showers are forecast and it certainly looks like rain. There was a time that running in the rain was almost amusing.
Those days are a couple of decades ago. For a man my age, running in the rain would seem so goofy. Look at that geezer in the too-short running shorts, they would say. Please don’t let me become like him, they would say. We’re staying dry and inside today.
June 4: The Monday conference call might produce some work to do today. Might as well stay near the computer to jump on it if it arrives.
June 5: Rain in the forecast.
June 6: Took a good look at my running shoes. Pathetic. Dirty, heels run down, no neon color anywhere. They could be 10 years old. The aches in my left leg could be attributable to these crummy shoes. Time to get new ones. Regrettably, shoe-buying time coincides with “best-time-to-exercise” period.
June 7: Rain is not in the forecast but who trusts forecasts these days?
June 8: Bright sun. Out of sun block. I will buy some tomorrow.
June 9: Drug store is out of my preferred sun block brand.
June 10: I’m no doctor, but this leg pain could be the first sign of something far more dire, possibly life-threatening. Why play around with that? There’s always next year.
It’s all about prudence.