I began my second running career – after a five year hiatus following graduation from college – 27 years ago. A sprinter in high school and college, I transitioned to distance running primarily to get in shape for a cross-county team reunion run, but also to lose the nearly thirty pounds I had gained during those five years. I remember well the feeling of struggling through those three miles each day the first two weeks, and recall even more clearly the satisfaction and elation I felt in the weeks and months thereafter as I worked my way back into shape.
I do not claim to remember the details of each and every workout or race run during the nearly three decades past, but there are many that stand out in my mind.
I ran my first marathon 24 years ago and, despite accumulating evidence that my recollection facilities are not what they once were, I can easily see in my mind’s eye almost every step of those 26.2 miles. I have no difficulty at all cerebrally reliving the ecstatic feeling that seemed to envelop every fiber of my body in the minutes, hours, and days after crossing the finish line.
I have no trouble whatsoever remembering the details of just about every race in which I set a PR, from 5k to the marathon, though those achievements occurred more than a few years ago. And while some feelings may not have been pleasant ones, I can also recall those races that at the time might have seemed disappointments, but in retrospect became learning experiences that I still value.
I remember in detail probably hundreds of training runs, for the wonderful feeling of fitness and good health; for the social camaraderie; for the scenery passed en route; for the sheer pleasure of feeling the elements with all my senses; and for the exhilaration that is gained from giving a full effort.
I have completed 35 marathons over the years and I can honestly say that I could recount at least one significant, distinctive experience from each of those races. Not all of these memories can be termed pleasant, but each and every one is clear and firm nonetheless. I have no doubt they will remain that way for years to come, if not for the rest of my life.
During my nearly three-decade running “career” I have suffered two separate injuries serious enough to force me to cease all running for six weeks each time.
Those 12 weeks comprise a minuscule, insignificant fraction of the time I have spent running. About a half second out of every minute. I’m sure that at the time I was disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t run, but now …
I barely remember it ever happened.