Scott Hubbard, November, 2018: What's Your Running Story?
GENESIS. Don't know why but don't think I ever shared events that led me to start organized running in the print-version of Michigan Runner. Everybody has their own story to tell how 'it all began' and I always enjoy hearing those stories. Mine was, in essence, standard for the times as I started on a team - Ann Arbor Huron High in 10th grade. In high school you're part of a program geared to performance from the start, in the case of cross country, to see how fast you could run 2 miles (the distance in the day). The vast majority on the roads now come to running post-school days and for a score of reasons, most linked to better physical health. In time all learn how it improves their lives in other positive ways too.
Two memories stand out as indicators that I might enjoy running a long way prior to high school, liking it for its own sake. At play time one day in 6th grade in San Diego, I'd been acting up and the teacher punished me by making me run as the others played kickball. I knew there was no way I could haul off and run hard and last the whole period so I set off at a steady, slow trot. I trotted and trotted around the 2 playing fields, talking to classmates, never feeling tired. After about 20 minutes the teacher could tell the punishment wasn't working and had me sit next to him. Now, THAT was punishment, sitting and watching the others having fun. I'd never run that long without stopping before. I didn't think much of it.
In the 9th grade in Ann Arbor, one of our phys. ed tests was something called cross country. I'd never heard of it before. It included a hill we ran over and it took me about 4 1/2 minutes, so around 3/4 of a mile. This was in addition to the 600 yard run, a part of the new President's nationwide phys ed program. Our teacher said that anybody wanting to see if they could better their times would get another chance. Out of 25 boys in class, I was one of 2 that ran again. I ran about 5 seconds faster. I was a little disappointed but recall liking the running, it was an activity where I compared well with classmates. But I didn't think beyond that. I'd no idea it was a sport in high school, a year away.
Ann Arbor Huron was just project plans when I was about to enter high school. It eventually opened my senior year along the Huron River. However, to kickstart the sports programs, all those in the new school district could join teams for the '67-'68 school year. Both AA Pioneer and Huron students were in the AAP building for 2 years. I was in the new district and wanted to play baseball, my passion in San Diego. I attended a meeting in spring '67 hosted by the new football coach who outlined how things would work. Then he said something that, in retrospect, I wonderfully misinterpreted. So much was being said that when he mentioned what sounded like, 'All those not playing football in the fall should run cross country,' I took that to mean if I wanted to play baseball in the spring I'd have to run cross country. On my card I listed my name, phone #, baseball and cross country. Then I forgot about it.
After the first day of high school in the over-capacity AAP building, I got a call from somebody who ID'd himself as Des Ryan, coach of the new AAH cross country team and he had my name on a card. Ah, yes, the card! Right away I asked what cross country was. He told me and I showed up the next day in my gym shoes. I got through day one just fine but was curious how the sport worked, how are points scored? After our 2nd day, Mom took me to one of the 2 sporting goods stores in town to get 'running shoes'. They had one, yes one to pick from, Converse, They had a gum rubber bottom, canvas upper, probably less than $10. In about a week we had our first meet. I don't recall much about it other than I ran along at a quick. comfortable pace, paying zero attention to the others. We won our 2nd meet against Tecumseh, the first sports victory ever for the new school!
My times hovered around the 13 minute mark, meaningless to me. About 1/2 mile into our 4th meet I recall feeling very happy I was about to earn my varsity letter. Running varsity in 4 meets was a minimum. What man I was was of little consequence. I was pleased to be on a high school team! 'Man' means what place you finished among your teammates in a race. Gradually got to know the other guys and about the 3/4 mile of the 5th meet, I was running 'my usual'. I looked ahead and saw Ralph. I thought, man, I don't want him beating me again. I sped up, caught him. Instead of easing up, I allowed my momentum to flow. I passed 3 other teammates and caught our #1 guy. 'Wow', I thought, 'He's good, I better just stay here.' So I did, running the last 1/4 mile with Dick. Things would never be the same again.
In a nutshell, I'd finally grasped what we were doing and my competitive spark took over. I'd played a lot of other sports before, most fairly well so had a sense of working toward a goal and the ups/downs along the way. My teammates and coach were very excited afterward, asking me what I was thinking, what was my strategy? Ha, my strategy evolved in a moments time and I never again raced just to finish but to see 'what I could do'. I was hooked. Turns out the latent talent I'd shown earlier and given little thought to surfaced in that one race. A turning point to understate. I played baseball instead of running track in the spring. I'd watch my running friends occasionally that spring, across the field. I played okay but decided I'd go with my better sport in the future. From a skinny kid whose only participation on an organized team had been Little League to representing my high school was mighty cool stuff.
What's your story?