Ron Marinucci: March, 2015 Column

Ron Marinucci: March, 2015 Column

Recent revelations of the lies of a particular television news anchor (That I can never remember his name says a lot about how little I watch television.) sparked a couple of questions in me.

First, and briefly, why do people fabricate stories to make themselves look better, braver, smarter, faster, more athletic, etc.? Even though others might believe the lies, deep down don’t the misspeakers and misstaters (Heh Heh!) really know? At least Rosie Ruiz might have won money and other prizes by cheating. I’m not just talking here about famous people or even politicians, but there seems to be more of that among common folks than one might imagine. What pleasure or satisfaction can I gain from falsely telling others I ran a 35-minute 10K when I know I’ve never been close to it? Why do some people feel the need to be somebody? I remember one of my college professors insisting upon the nobility of leading a conscientious life of raising a family and contributing to the local community. Amen!

Related, I suppose, is something I’ve questioned for quite a while. It involves our recent Presidents who have been runners. Fully allowing for politicians’ penchant for misspeaking or misstating, do they really run as fast as they or others claim? Do they actually go off on their daily runs at 7:00- or 7:30 per minute paces? Times like that would win a lot of age-group hardware at many races—and these are supposedly just-out- for-a-jog paces.

We’ve had some pretty athletic Presidents. George Washington was a good horseback rider and an avid swimmer and hiker. And it’s said the ladies never left him with an unfilled dance card. John Quincy Adams swam daily in the Potomac River, often au natural as the story goes. Abraham Lincoln could split rails and had a reputation as a good wrestler. Theodore Roosevelt loved the outdoors and a variety of sports, although he probably enjoyed them more than he was good at them. Dwight Eisenhower played baseball and football. While at US Military Academy at West Point, he even tried to tackle the great Jim Thorpe. Unfortunately, a blown out knee ended Ike’s athletic career. Despite all the buffoonish caricatures of Gerald Ford, he might well have been our most athletic President. He was an All-American football player at the University of Michigan and coached football and boxing while studying law at Yale. Even while President and after he was a good skier and tennis player, although his golf game could have used a little work.

More recently, Jimmy Carter, George Bush (Daddy), Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were known, at least in small part, for running.

Carter ran cross country at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He started running again a year or two into his Presidency. His usual training, it was claimed, was five miles a day at 7:30 pace, about 30 miles each week. Sometimes Carter cranked up his mileage to 40 or even 50 miles a week. Of course, there is that famous photograph of him collapsing from heat exhaustion in a 10K race in Maryland in 1979. (I know he was “attacked” by a rabbit, too, but that was while he was in a boat.) I don’t know how long 
Carter kept running upon leaving the White House, but shortly afterward he made headlines again when he was mildly injured while out for a jog and tripping over a curb near his Plains, GA home.

George H.W. Bush played first base at Yale, even becoming the baseball team’s captain. He was said to have jogged daily while President. And I think the claims were, again, of a 7:00- to 7:30-pace. Later, when speaking of a life-long commitment to exercise and fitness, he said, “Just because you’re an old guy you don’t have to sit around drooling in the corner. Get out and do something.” He sky dived on his 90th birthday. Sadly, today Bush has limited use of his legs due to Parkinson’s Disease.

In 1993, a four-foot wide running track was installed on the South Lawn of the White House so Bill Clinton could run. The quarter-mile track cost $30,000 and was paid for with private donations. But Clinton didn’t care for it and likely his Secret Service guard detail didn’t either. He preferred to run the streets of Washington, DC, which I’m sure the Secret Service liked even less than the track. He also used the exercise room in the White House. Clinton ran three days a week for a little more than half an hour at a time. His pace was a bit slower, at least by Presidential standards (or claims), maybe 7:30- or 8-minutes a mile. But his press secretary Dee Dee Myers once said, “He’s deceptively fast.” No, I won’t touch that one!

George W. Bush ran “every day,” he said, or at least six days a week. He said of the White House, “With all these opportunities to exercise within 45 seconds, there’s no reason not to stay in shape.” Before reaching the Presidency, he finished the Houston Marathon in 3:44, running the first mile in 8:30 and the 26th also in 8:30. Bush used the White House track some, but also liked the roads. At Camp David he liked to run three miles, finishing it was claimed, somewhere between 20 and 21 minutes. He was known to use a treadmill on Air Force One or in his room when he traveled. Bush’s most famous run was with US Army veteran Mike McNaughton, who ran with a prosthetic after losing a leg to a land mine while serving in Afghanistan.

It’s good to see Presidents who run. I wonder if they inspire others to get out there on the roads or trails or tracks. I have my doubts. Those who join them, other than the Secret Service agents, are likely not runners, but folks seeking photo opportunities. Still, serving as role models can’t hurt. But I still wonder about the paces Presidents are claimed to have run.

My running buddy, Bob Drapal, and I agree. This winter has been harder on our running than last year, even with all of the snow records that were broken in 2014.

The culprit, of course, has been the cold. No, it hasn’t been too cold to run. That’s not it. Even with the many below zero overnight temperatures, I’ve managed to run every day but one, other than my predetermined off/rest days. The day I didn’t run was the culmination of the 18”-dumping we received on Super Bowl Sunday.

No, I wasn’t being a wimp. I had shoveled three times on Sunday, 3-4” a pop, when Karen and I finally left to attend a Super Bowl party. Upon our return, another half foot of fluffy stuff greeted us. I shoveled again, until well after midnight. The next day I didn’t run.

We woke to another 3-4”, so I shoveled the driveway a fifth time. But we weren’t going anywhere, not yet. Our street was impassable, even more so than the night before when we had become stuck turning on to it. So, to get out to go pick up Michael from his own overnight Super Bowl party (School had been called off the previous afternoon.), I started shoveling the street. A neighbor joined in and we managed to clear a passable path to get out. Shoveling that morning took 2 ½ hours. I opted to forgo my run.

Runners and non-runners alike have questioned my wisdom (my sanity?) when I run in the bitter cold. I’m surprised at other runners’ reactions, but not those of the non-runners.

I know the dangers of running in such low temperatures, that is, if precautions aren’t taken. But I layer my clothes, on the coldest mornings with five or six polypropylene shirts and a Gore-Tex windbreaker. I wear two masks in addition to my stocking cap, leaving a mere slit for my eyes—and I mean mere. I put on two pairs of insulated gloves, but only my normal socks and shoes.

Many find it hard to believe, but I never get cold—never. I’m not lying. My right thumb (right thumb?) twice, only twice, began to chill, so I withdrew it into my fist. Within a couple of minutes it warmed and I continued without any other hint of cold. No, the bitter cold temperatures, per se, have not been the problem.

It’s the bitter cold temperatures that have been the problem, namely their effects on footing. For the most part, the shoulders of the roads and the side streets are packed with several inches of snow. Cars rolling over the snow, followed by the extreme overnight temperatures, have created solid ice in many areas. It’s like running on a frozen pond. Staying off to the sides of the streets can avoid most of the slickest of patches, but leads to another problem. Ruts and ridges caused by the somewhat fewer car passes have frozen solid, turning and twisting ankles. Some days my ankles feel like what ground chuck must feel like. And due to my class schedules and family and other commitments, I usually still run in the dark. That compounds matters, unable to see the ice and ruts and ridges.

But I’ve been out there anyway, sometimes a bit shorter than usual, even when the thermometer dropped to 24 degrees below zero. Karen knew. “I had to run.” It was like setting a PR. I counted my running blessings when a buddy who lives 11-12 miles away sent a photo of the thermometer at his house—30 degrees below zero. I did cut that run a bit short, about five miles, but not because I was cold. My eyelashes began to freeze together, making visibility tougher.

Another tough thing for me has been getting dressed and undressed for running. With all of the layers and getting the masks just right, sometimes it takes 15 or 20 minutes to get ready. And they are heavy, wet with “schweat” or not. Then, with all of the layers, my laundry load is heavier each week, too.

All that said, winter remains my favorite running season.

Years ago, while running I was stopped by a lady in an SUV when temperatures were below zero. She rolled down her window and asked me if I knew how cold it was. I said I did. Before rolling up her window she said, “You are the epitome of dedication” and drove off. Hmmm…… I wonder if she’d have said that last week.