Ron Marinucci's August Column

Ron Marinucci's August Column

Provided by RMDC

Have you seen those decals runners are putting on their cars, on the back bumpers or rear windows? Some read “26.2,” signifying that the driver/runner has finished a marathon, some “13.1,” a half marathon, and even “10K” and “5K.” Not many, but I’ve seen “50K” and “100K,” too. Last week I saw my favorite, though. It read “0.0.” I “lol”ed out loud.

The most recent spate of hot, humid weather led me to some thinking, which is often dangerous. On some of those muggy mornings, it was a real challenge to get out there and run and, if I did, to run very far or long.

Yet, other than the couple of days I had built in to my running schedule for rest and recovery, I took no off days. I admit to running shorter on a couple of AMs, but only a couple. So then, with such uncomfortable conditions (Toss in the deer flies!), why did I get out there to run?

Why not take another off-day? Why not just skip a run or two? A few missed days wouldn’t have affected my training or condition in any way. Why was I motivated to run?

That was what led me to thinking, this time about motivation to run, to run any time. I know I’ve written about this before, about my motivation and that of others, too. But I think the reasons why I run have changed over the years. This thinking was reinforced by questions from a few other folks, mostly non-runners, who asked why I run, specifically, in this sticky weather.

Why do I run—so much? so frequently? so consistently? so far? in all four seasons and all the varieties of weather they bring? Generally, I run six, sometimes seven, days each week. The past couple of years, “to challenge my old body” I’ve explained to my physician, I normally average about 50 miles a week. It’s not a surprise, though, if I tally up my weekly mileage and discover I’ve run 60 or even 70 miles.

As I’ve discovered from writing about this in the past, surely the answers will differ with different runners. We all have our own plans, schedules, goals, and motivations. But here are a few that I came up with that work or have worked for me.

After all these years, 42 plus, I still vividly recall my first real run. I don’t count the running I had to do in physical education classes or the running I did to condition for the ball sports.

It was about half a year after Karen and I were married. I had pretty much stopped playing the ball sports and weighed 40 or more pounds more than my college playing weight. I decided to do something about that. (Giving up eating was not and is not now an option!) Karen always came home from work an hour or two later than I did. One afternoon, with some time to kill before she arrived, I put on a pair of basketball sneakers (the old Bata Bullets, red ones!), grabbed the Davy Crockett wrist watch from my childhood (Don’t ask why I still had it.), and head out back, into a wooded area behind our apartment building. I found some trails and ran for eleven minutes, by design, turned around, and headed back home. Twenty-two minutes. I don’t remember stopping at all, but I’d guess with my slow pace and my condition/weight, I ran about two miles.

So my initial motivation to run was to lose weight and get back in to some kind of decent shape. I knew nothing about real running, not yet.

Over the years, I’ve mostly maintained a steady weight, thanks to running. That’s really remarkable given my fondness for food and drink. Karen has said, many times, “If he didn’t run, he’d weigh 400 pounds.” That might not be too much of an exaggeration.

Weight management is not longer a primary motivation for me, although I always seem to want to lose five more pounds. It’s a residual effect and I certainly appreciate it. But I’m not sure I’d still run if that was the only or even the major goal.

Now, I love to run alone. Occasionally people, especially those who don’t run, say, “Running, it’s so boring!” I chuckle at that, if only to myself. First, I never use the word “boring” to describe any aspect of my life. I don’t because it’s not a boring life. Second, how can one be “bored” while running out there with one’s own thoughts? That is, unless…… I enjoy running alone on the trails, particularly at a couple of nearby state parks. There are rivers and lakes and animals and trees. And the four Michigan seasons offer differing views four times a year.

But I love to run with others, well at least several times a week. My three running partners, Bob Drapal, Michael Holmes, and Carrie Farnum, offer different perspectives on each run. Bob and I have been running together for nearly 25 years. We live about five miles apart, but know each other’s routine so well we run from different directions to meet up and almost always arrive within 100 yards of the same place every time. Bob, like me, is a senior runner. Although we occasionally like to test ourselves with a race here and there, mostly we run just slogging miles. And I don’t write “slogging” disparagingly, not at all. While talking sports or whatever topic, we aren’t adverse to just stopping to walk when we feel like it.

Michael is a blind runner and is very motivated. I’ve been a guide runner for him for almost twenty years. He loves physical activity. “A body is a terrible thing to waste” and “Use it or lose it” have been two of his mantras. And he likes to mix it up, running hill repeats or on soft wood chips or, like Bob and me, just slogging.

Carrie is a relatively new runner, having started a little over a year ago. “Walking just isn’t doing it for me any more,” she said. “Will you run with me?” Yep. Our runs are different and so are our conversations. She is very competitive, with herself. She has run a couple of races already, but even more so, loves to run tough training courses. We joke, but it’s true, she never walks up a hill and only sometimes down it. She’s very tough on herself, even after my assurances she’s doing just fine.

Years ago I raced a lot. Most of the time, I aimed at one race per month and often more. Races ranged from 5Ks up to marathons. In fact, my first race was a half marathon in West Bloomfield (“First race?” What did I know about real running?) and my second was an 18-miler two weeks later. And soon I became competitive, if only with myself. I wanted to see how fast I could run. (“Fast” is a relative term and, in my case, might be just a little misleading.) Motivation came from goals. Races were chosen and training plans and workouts were set.

I enjoyed racing and racing quite a bit. I liked the challenges and the other runners I met at races. But after 11-12 years, racing lost its appeal, at least much of it. I still run a handful each year just to test myself or for the social activity. (Runners are good people to be around.) I don’t at all miss the long runs for marathons or the fartleks to build speed for shorter races, although I still do some hill repeats with Michael Holmes and Carrie always seems to find the hilliest trails.

All of these have been great reasons for me to run—in the past and presently. If you want to lose weight and get in shape, you must run. If you want to run a marathon, you must put in the miles. If you want to break a six-minute pace in a race you must do the speed work. And I did, even in the lousiest of weather. Michigan runners who’ve trained for the April Boston Marathon or any spring marathon can’t wimp out on the miles because of bad weather. January, February, and March are almost always “bad.” (Just last week, Matt, visiting for a week from Las Vegas, and Karen recalled some of my winter marathon long runs, coming in with goatees of ice!)

At the same time, a little snow or high temperatures and humidity can’t keep you home when others are out there meeting for a run. Wimpy excuses like, “It’s too hot,” don’t hold much water or even garner any sympathy from other runners who have been stood up.

As noted, people often ask me why I still run, especially as I’ve become older. “How long do you plan to stick with running?” My reply is usually, “Forever!” Mostly I run now just to get outside and do something in the outdoors. I don’t enjoy being cooped up inside. Although I read a lot and write quite a bit, I don’t watch much television, not even sports, or do many other indoor things. I like to be outside.

In the summer, my Michael and I take turns cutting the front and back yards. Each takes the better part of an hour. We walk with our mower, no tractor for us. In the winter, I love to shovel snow, too. I even enter them in my training log as cross-training of sorts. (Yes, I suppose that’s weird.) From April to November, weather permitting, I ride my bike, often 50-60 miles each week. After running, sometimes I join Karen for a two- or three-mile walk.

But I prefer running. It is its own motivation. It lets me be outside, doing something. The extremes don’t matter, at least not much. Last winter, Karen and I went Up North with another couple and the temperature on the thermometer outside our room one morning was 15 degrees below zero; that was the actual temperature, not wind chill. I had to get out there and Karen knew it. In Las Vegas, while visiting Matt, I have run in temperatures well over 100 degrees, at 6 or 7 in the morning. (“But it’s a dry heat!”) I never thought of not running.

My relatively newbie running friend, Carrie, probably said it best, about herself, but it applies to me as well. After just a few months of pretty good running, she told me, “I just have to run. It doesn’t feel right if I don’t.” Yep!