Ron Marinucci July Column

Ron Marinucci July Column

I wonder how many runners remember their first day of running.  Those who started to run in high school or college likely recall that first day of practice.  Others, who began to run on their own, I’m not so sure they remember. 

I recently returned from a 45th college reunion at Amherst.  Wow!  Forty-five years seem like such a long time.  So do 40 years.  Last year, Karen and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. 

In fact, 2015 is another 40th anniversary for me, too.  It was in 1975 that I began running, that is, the running that I do and treasure now.  And I remember that very first run I had, pretty clearly. 

Oh, I had always run before, as a kid, through high school and college, and even into adulthood.  But almost all of it, running, was chasing, carrying, or having something other to do with a ball—a baseball, football, basketball, rugby ball……  Even running without a ball at hand involved these sports, mostly to get in shape for them.  Running was done merely for conditioning, not for enjoyment, at least not for me. 

Sprints were for baseball, football, and basketball.  But I did longer runs, with the team, to condition for rugby.  They were a couple of miles long, through the college bird sanctuary, to prepare for the 45-minute halves of the game.  (If I recall, we weren’t allowed substitutions or maybe we just carried 15, the number of players on the field.) 

But running, just running like I do now and enjoy so much?  Nope, I never did it and had no desire to do it.  I wanted nothing to do with it.  In school physical education classes, my least favorite unit was the one on track and field, especially track.  I couldn’t wait for it to end and we could get on with the ball sports. 

Then came graduation, work, and the first months of marriage.  I was always thin, skinny even; my college playing weight was about 155 pounds.  But by 1975, I had added 40 or more pounds to that until then always thin frame.  It was time to try to lose them; hence my first run. 

For whatever reason, I’ve always remembered that first run.  At the time Karen arrived home from work quite a bit after I did, especially when I wasn’t in coaching seasons.  One July afternoon, with a couple of hours to kill before she came home, I laced up my red Bata Bullets, my basketball shoes, grabbed a Davy Crockett wrist watch that had been given to me in the 1950s, and went out the door.  I don’t remember a conscious decision to run that day in particular, but that was the day I started to run.  And, yes, it was a July afternoon, sunny and warm.  What did I know about running? 

I ran out through the parking lot of our apartment complex, into an adjacent wooded area.  There were a couple of trails, maybe more footpaths than trails, that I followed for eleven minutes.  Yes, I remember it was eleven minutes; I had my Davy Crockett watch to verify it.  Then it was return to the apartment.  Twenty-two minutes; that was it.  I don’t remember any particular pain or discomfort, but I’ve been running regularly ever since. 

Although I’ve never quite returned to my college weight, I’m still down about 20 pounds from 1975.  More important, running has become an important part of my life or, at least, my lifestyle.  Many of my friends, runners and non-runners alike, characterize me with my running. 

For many years, I ran before work out of necessity.  I was coaching high school football and baseball in the fall and spring.  The winter months always seemed to bring other things that needed to be done at the school.  That left little or no time for running after work and, by now, running each day was a habit.  Then Mike and Matt came along, doubling the necessity for 5:30 AM running.  I found another coach, Larry Bittinger, to get up and run then, too.  We did that for many years. 

Later, after I left high school coaching and my kids started school themselves, I could run in the afternoon.  I’m not sure, but, although I preferred morning workouts, I think I decided I needed more sleep.  I never really enjoyed the afternoon runs as much as those in the morning and once I retired I quickly returned to early running. 

Karen and our friends Carrie Farnum and Michelle Mendez have been walking for quite a few years.  Last spring, Carrie asked if I’d run a few afternoons with her, when she finished teaching her first grade class.  She still enjoys walking, for the socializing as well as the exercise, but she told me, “Walking just isn’t enough [anymore].  I’m ready to move on….”  And she has.  We now run two or three afternoons each week.  And, what is the saying?  “What goes around comes around?”  When Karen gets off work for the summer, we are looking forward to switching our runs to the morning. 

I’m still quite a ways from the 40th anniversary of my first road race, though.  It took about eleven years for me to enter one, in 1986.  I remember which race it was—the old West Bloomfield Half Marathon—but no details specific to that day.  My first race, a half marathon?  What did I know about racing? 

A week or two later I ran the nearby Chai Run, also in West Bloomfield.  There were several distances and I chose the 18-miler.  Again, what did I know?  I hadn’t trained specifically for either race; I wasn’t training for a marathon and never contemplated running one.  I just ran and, as Carrie said of adding some runs to her walking, just running wasn’t “enough anymore.”  I was “ready to move on.”  Odd, though, that I recall all the details of my first run, but not of my first races, not even my times. 

In the same vein, Dave Foley, former editor of Michigan Runner, gave me my first running writing assignment in 1987.  I covered the Harvest Run 10K in Dearborn.  It was great because I grew up just a few miles from there near Detroit’s West Side.  I was very familiar with the area and, therefore, the race route.  But, alas, I don’t remember the next race I covered. 

Interesting what memories a single anniversary/reunion can trigger. 


After this cold winter, what seemed like a wet spring followed.  All that rain didn’t have much of an effect on my running; I’ll run in all but the hardest rains and certainly not in thunderstorms.  But it did limit some of my biking. 

I don’t know if all that rain caused the early appearance of the deer flies around here, but they are out there already.  Mosquitos are to be expected with all that wetness and, especially in the evening, they are out in force.  But the deerflies came out a couple of weeks early, mid-June.  Usually I am not too bothered by them until the 4th of July.  Not this year. 

If I’m not out there on the trails right around dawn, they find me and find me in droves.  I have already started wearing my protective hat, with dryer sheets pinned to it.  But I’m out of the TredNot Deerfly Patches.  I’ve checked two of my usual stores for them, but other runners have beaten me to the punch and the stores are sold out for now. 

I hope the early appearance of those dratted pests means an early disappearance, too.