New Shoes

Other than a single pair of Adidas that I once used for Trail Running, I have only run in NIKE shoes. In fact, I currently have three pairs of Nike Free Run all with varying mileage on them. They have all served me well.

But in recognition of my running restart, I jumped off the NIKE bandwagon and purchased a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 680s. My first run with the New Balance shoes was today, a short test run of 3 miles. If the wind hadn’t been approaching gale force (a bit of exaggeration but still pretty strong), I would have run farther. The shoes felt so good on my run that for a short time all memories of my NIKE experience vanished, not reappearing until I returned home.

If this keeps up, I may have to say goodbye to NIKE forever.

At the End of October

Here I am at the end of October. At my age and with my starting over at running, I have made many considerable changes to how I go about things. One of those is that I am not running every day. Even more shocking, there will be times when I skip two days without running.

And that’s okay!

Just like embracing a slower pace, there is no need for me to run every day, or at least six days a week to accomplish what it is I want to accomplish. And there is no need to push myself, risking injury. Besides, old bones need more time to recover than they used to.

So here we are on October 31, Halloween, and no running today. As I have now officially closed my first month of running after more than a dozen years, I can look back on what I have accomplished and feel pretty good about it. Yes, I am slow. No, there is nothing about my running that resembles anything that a great runner looks like as they spring their way down the road.

And that’s okay, too!

As John Bingham once wrote, “I am a runner because I run.”

My goal was eight miles for my last run of the month, yesterday, heading a couple of hours after church on a Sunday afternoon. I felt good. There was no lingering pain, and I felt rested. The longest run of my first month back at running was 7.2 miles, so 8 seemed reasonable.

The area that I ran pushed me to the edge of town, up against the desert. It was quiet and comfortable, and with my iPod and playlist, I was waddling (or Penguining) along just fine to REM, The Cars, Wang Chung, Duran Duran, and others. I was, following the advice of Wang Chung, having fun (as in Everybody Have Fun Tonight), though my run was a party of one.

I thought for a time that I might be getting some company on my run. There is nothing like a sign warning about rattlesnakes to get your eyes scouring the ground and your mind consumed with them.

Fortunately, the party remained a party of one. No rattlesnakes or coyotes this day.

But eight miles never happened in October (and that’s okay, too.) Though the temperature was comfortable, as the sun fell in the west and began to beat me again on the side of my face, and shoulder, I began to sap whatever endurance, and stamina, I had left, and my run ended at six miles. Switching my Garmin to a walking exercise, I lumbered my way home the rest of the way, grabbing bottled water at a corner market on the way.

So while there has been nothing pretty or awesome about my restarted running experience, I ran. And my total for my first month back in October, was a smidgen over 46 miles. When you add in that my first run back from the brink was on October 6, I’d say, “Not too bad for an old fat man.”

Starting Again

It is obvious by the title of this post that I have been here before.

I was a late bloomer when it came to running. I was 53 years old, and in less than great health, though at the time I didn’t realize just how poor my health was. I was carrying around 320 pounds of hamburgers and hotdogs of which 100 pounds rapidly disappeared over the course of the first year as I hibernated in the athletic club and soon after took up running.

I really didn’t know anything about running and fitness, putting myself on a rather strict caloric diet (eating just about anything, but much of it processed and not good for me) and becoming friends with the stair-climber, stationary bike, and the treadmill.

The Life Fitness 95T (This was the panel I stared at for countless hours until I finally got the courage to get outside and start running.)

A great treadmill, but boy was I glad to get out into the fresh air. I never looked back.

But in spite of my ignorance of all things fitness-related, results began to show. As the weight loss resisted but eventually fell, my running time and distance, first on the treadmill and then the great outdoors began to climb. Even today, though it has been a dozen years or so ago, I can still remember the feeling of elation and accomplishment I felt as mileage markers fell by the wayside. The first times that I ran one mile, two miles, three miles, and so on were just as thrilling as when I first ran ten, twelve, and twenty miles. As the total miles ran began to stack up, I really fell in love with running.

But it couldn’t last.

The impact of the economy in 2010 and the loss of my job, forced us to look elsewhere, to look north. Our move to Oregon came at the encouragement of my sister and soon, we were out of the Las Vegas desert and into the plush green farmland of the Willamette Valley. There we remained for the better part of a year before making our move to the coast. My running continued to thrive in the farmland. The addition of the farmland, the cows and goats, as well as all of the trees, pushed me on. My running, quickly acclimated to the new surroundings, and once again, I felt the love of running.

But then a leg injury occurred and a move to the coast. The narrow highways, the strong winds, and the nearly constant horizontal rain dampened my running desires. Getting laid off again also weighed heavily as I was forced to enter an entirely new field, requiring more and more of my time.

The running stopped.

The pounds came back with a vengeance.

A discovery was made in the process. I was a diabetic. Great.

Jump ahead a dozen years or so, and I find myself starting again. Though I am a dozen years older, I realize that I am a bit wiser than when I was running before. I am better equipped to handle my nutrition and keep all my numbers in check, literally driving my diabetes into oblivion.

Looking back into the past, I read magazine articles, and books, and watched all sorts of movies and videos when it came to running. I did it for inspiration, I did it for motivation. One of those early books was, “The Courage to Start,” by John “The Penguin” Bingham. It was such a great help and I embraced it fully, becoming an early penguin runner myself.

Now, at 65, I am also even more comfortable now running a pace that is my pace. So I embrace my penguin-hood, less interested in my pace (though I know that as time goes on, it will improve, at least somewhat), focusing instead on the joy of the run and my goals of running farther than have ever run before.

My restart has included rowing as a staple of my exercise and I am slowly bringing in dumbbells and kettlebells into the mix. I am exploring leg and body strengthening exercises to help with my endurance, cadence, and speed. But mostly, I am enjoying the run, thankful that at my age, and after all these years, I have already penguined my way through more than forty miles in my first month. I thank God for it.