Ron Marinucci, June 2014 Column: "Musings"

Ron Marinucci, June 2014 Column: "Musings"

I awoke at my usual predawn hour so I could get in my daily run. But, not only was it raining heavily with stiff winds (maybe causes in themselves to forgo my run, but usually not), there were also frequent blasts of thunder and lightning. Those are no-nos.

Very cold temperatures, heat, rain or snow, and wind are all factors for whether or not I run, but rarely, very rarely, do I cancel because of them. Despite the extremes of last winter, I only missed one day of running other than scheduled off-days. I did change routes and shorten other runs, but only canceled once.

Lightning is a different story altogether. I stay away. In our area, over the years, several people have been hit by lightning, with the expected disastrous results, while engaged in athletic events. So, Mother Nature’s light and sound show kept me inside this morning.

I waited for a short time for the skies to clear and, when they didn’t, set out to take care of the day’s business before it was time to pick up the kids from their schools. I figured this day would be a rest day. I tried to rationalize that I could use one, but I wasn’t very convincing to myself. Oh, well…. But then a nifty thing happened, actually several of them.

The weather broke; at least the lightning and thunder stopped. There were some “sprinkles,” as my late mother used to call light rain, but they weren’t a big deal. And, my errands went smoothly, with none of the hold-ups that can usually be counted on like clockwork. Hey, I had a little time, decent-enough weather, soooo…. Yep, I got in a five or six mile run.

I’m not one who thinks that running has saved my life or even pulled me through tough times, family tragedies, personal troubles, or work stress. If running has helped others in these matters, great! I’m happy for them and hope it can continue to help. I value running, appreciate what it has brought to and for me, but mostly run for its enjoyment. But, that said, this retrieved run was something special to me. It was like getting a bonus and I ate up this short run. And, I found the rest of the day seemed to go just a little better, too.

Finally, spring is here--maybe. After the record-breaking winter--amounts of snow, consecutive snow-covered days, low temperatures--many runners eagerly anticipated spring. But the warmer weather has been slow to arrive or, when it did, it came in fits and starts. I remember writing in my running log, “Ran in shorts and tee shirt” on a couple of April days. But then it was back to the warmer clothes—sweat pants, long-sleeved shirts

Just a couple of weeks ago, I e-mailed friends all over the country, “I ran in low-70-degree temperatures this AM.” At last! Not so fast there, Buckaroo. Two days later, I sent another e-mail, “Today there was heavy frost. Temperatures dropped to the mid-30s.” And that last two mornings.

It seems we’re there now. At least it looks like it. Last Saturday morning, out running with my blind buddy Michael Holmes, we came across at least a dozen other runners, the most we’ve seen in a long while.

One of my college roommates and teammates insists I’m a “Luddite.” The Luddites were 19th Century British workers who protested, sometimes violently, the coming of machinery in factories. I’m that way toward much of today’s technology, protesting much of the deleterious effects of it. I don’t text, don’t tweet, don’t twitter. I don’t even have a cell phone. OK, maybe I’m closer to what Karen calls me, a “Neanderthal” or even a “dinosaur” when it comes to the new-fangled gadgetry. The number of times I’ve almost been hit by drivers who are texting or tweeting or dialing or whatever people do on those cell phones while running or biking does nothing to endear me to the technology.

I know technology has entered and, in many ways, improved running and racing, from shoes and clothing to nutrition, treatment of injuries, and theories of training. Mostly, though, I shun the new-fangled stuff, even preferring to run in cotton tee shirts and socks.

But one piece of high-tech equipment I’ve bought into is my GPS watch. Some years back, Karen bought me one of them. It was a bit cumbersome, not like today’s much slimmer models, and, frankly, remained in its box for more than a few months. I’m not sure what led me to finally give it a try, but I did. And I liked it! Almost exclusively, though, I use it to track my miles and sometimes my pace, especially mid-run. That is, I use it to see more precisely how far I’ve run. (And I will admit to sometimes wearing it when I mow the yard to gauge how much I’ve walked.) I know there are other functions on the watch, but remember, I’m a “dinosaur.” It’s especially helpful when I run in other places, such as when I’m visiting Matt in Las Vegas or returning to campus in Massachusetts.

A couple of weeks ago my GPS went dead. It won’t hold its charge. And, for two weeks I’ve been, well not devastated, but at least not my ebullient self. I know just about how far my different running routes are around here—I’ve been running them for 30 years. We’ve been to Las Vegas enough so I know distances up and down the Strip, too. I can add and subtract distances when I vary routes. That’s not too difficult. And that was good enough for me. What did I care if I was a tenth of a mile or two or even three off on exact distance? That is, who cared until I started using my GPS.

Now I feel lost, well almost. I don’t know when I became such a stickler for exact mileage, although my GPS isn’t 100% accurate. Until I get this one repaired to purchase a new one, I just go back to adding and subtracting mileage, estimating my distances. But I won’t be as happy about it.

I’m helping to coach my three grandkids’ youth ball teams this spring: Michael’s 13-14 year olds’ baseball team, Ashley’s 7-8 year olds’ softball team, and Cody’s tee ball team. Among the great enjoyment I get out of this is one disturbing aspect. I see it with our teams and other teams, too. It seems many kids don’t like to run, not when they don’t have to, not when it means running hard. They seem content to walk on and off the field, unless hectored by a coach, who can’t be everywhere. Again, I see this in all of the teams, not just ours.

Twenty or thirty years ago, when I was coaching my kids, they seemed more eager to run. Especially at the younger ages, for instance, a good number of their teammates could always be found running all over the outfield, chasing, if not batted balls, butterflies, grasshoppers, and even themselves before being reined in.

Today, even when kids hit the ball, many don’t sprint. A jog or gallop is what is seen from many of them. In fact, the hardest the two younger teams run is often when I challenge them to race on and off of the fields between innings. They seem to like that, not the running I guess, but beating their old coach—every time. But to get them to run like that by themselves is hard to do.

As I said, I see this in other teams, in all age-divisions. Even when I watch other people’s kids play, including some soccer, many kids don’t run except when prodded. Is this the case all over, that kids just don’t or won’t run any more? If so, why won’t they? Is it due to television, computers, and video games? Is it a product of the schools’ cutbacks in physical education, especially on the elementary levels? (After all, physical fitness and its benefits aren’t on the myriad tests conjured up by so-called “education reformers” and profit-seekers. No, please don’t get me started on the Common Core!)

No, I didn’t just run to run as a kid. Nor did my friends. But we always seemed to be running after or with some sort of ball, a baseball, a football, or a basketball. That doesn’t seem to be the case today.

I hope my perceptions are aberrations.