“Hey, A Runner Lives Here…”

As parents were taking their children through our neighborhood on Halloween night, I heard one father say to another as they came up our driveway, “Hey, a runner lives here.” I don’t know if it was the 13.1 sticker on my car or the jack-o-lantern that I had carved this year with a figure of a running man and 13.1 on its face, but my first thought was “are they talking about me?” For a moment, I thought not. Then I smiled and realized that yeah, a runner does live here.

Even though I’ve been running races almost every 2 weeks for a year and a half, I still don’t think of myself as a runner. Runners are gazelles. I’m a plodder. I struggle through the first mile, and then get into a rhythm where I just move along at my 10:00 pace until I see the finish line. Then I “kick” just to try to beat my last 5K or 10K time. I think of myself as a rhino: determined, strong, built for distance, never for speed.

What I have become is a race junkie. I always show up early and relax before a race, while the gazelles run around, warming up. I do my stretching, I walk for a while, and my warm up is done. I settle in the back around the 10 minute per mile banner, take off my hat for the national anthem and get excited watching the lead groups bob up and down as they cross the start line.

Looking at my log over the last year, I think about the races I’ve had the opportunity to run. My first was the 2010 Big House, Big Heart race. To see all the runners at the start down the Kipke Street hill is still a thrill for me, and I think running into the Big House got me hooked. I saw the sun rise over the Detroit River as I ran for cystic fibrosis on Grosse Ile, I struggled with my first trail run at Silver Lake, but was able to encourage another runner who was struggling more than I was. My best run was with my friend Craig. We ran the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco with 43,000 new friends, some in costume, some naked, some drunk.

I’ve run two half-marathons, one was agony and one was bliss, and the difference was that I ran with a friend. He is a gazelle, but ran at my pace so we could finish together. When I told him to go ahead, he said, “Scott, I can go for a personal best anytime, I can only run with you today.” I smile when I see the photo of us crossing the line together. My best runs are always with friends, regardless of the finishes, because we get to share the experience. One friend I run with, we talk the whole run. We talk about our families, our troubles, our successes. It’s an hour of shared therapy. I used to see people running and think, “Why would you do that?” I get it now. For me, it’s about the connections, about seeing familiar faces, old neighbors, folks I’ve had running classes with, running coaches who smile and say, “I’m glad you are still at it.”

I have a few pre-race superstitions. I always wear my salt-stained John Deere green baseball cap that I won in a drawing. I smile because the back says “Nothing runs like a Deere” and I know that I don’t, but I am out there running anyway. I always eat a banana, drink a glass of water and have one slice of buttered toast at least 2 hours before the race. I listen to the same stuff on my iPhone every race. I now wear my Apple Tech shirt at every cool-weather race. I double knot my shoes.

Yeah, I read every word of Runner’s World, Michigan Runner, and Outdoor Athlete and dream of what seems to be insurmountable: completing a marathon. I then remember that I am 51, only started 18 months ago and still have weight to lose and a lot to learn. I’ve taken running classes and my form is much better, I’ve been fitted for real running shoes and have purchased cold weather gear. I’ve run in intense heat and in blizzard conditions with three others from my running class, probably because we didn’t want to let each other down and didn’t want to be the one who said, “Maybe not tonight.” As we finished, cold, wet and covered with snow, we all just smiled at each other, knowing that together, we did it.

By: Scott Brodie

From the December 2011/January 2012 Outdoor Athlete

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