Running Sucks!

So many things in our life involve a love hate relationship.

One example that comes to mind was my stint as a firefighter. It was a three year stint with an on call fire department in the far north metro area. Being a part of the organization was fun, and generated a sense of pride. My sons thought it was pretty cool too.

We will get back to them.

Going to school, and getting formal training was educational and fun. Shuttling water back and forth between a real fire call and the fire hydrant, not so much fun. Fighting a practice fire in an old trailer house, terrifying, but exhilarating. Spending two hours dumping water on an ancient barn that burned down hours before we got there, not so much fun. Fighting a grass fire in ninety degree heat, well that just plain sucked.

Being a firefighter was a love hate relationship.

This was brought to my attention by one of the younger members of the team when I took my sons to go see the fire station. He was sitting at the large table we used for small meetings and paper work. I think he was doing homework or something like that.

“How do you like being a dad?” He asked me as I finished up the firehouse tour.

“Oh, it has its ups and downs.” I replied, thinking of the moments I was proud of them, and the moments, not so much.

“So your saying it is a love hate relationship.” He asked in reply.

I looked at him, weighing my response, not really wanting to tag fatherhood with the “hate” moniker. “Something like that, maybe hate is to strong, but yes, something like that.” I finally said.

This young man paused a second, then said. “Kind of like firefighting.”

I smiled as the correlation instantly clicked into my head. “Yes, kind of like firefighting.”

Parenthood is a love hate relationship. I never hated my kids, don’t even make that connection. But there were times, where I hated being a parent. Those times were always when my kids screwed up, and I needed to punish them. My sons were good kids, so when they did screw up bad enough for me to really punish them, I hated it.

Grounding them, or taking away something they really liked was one of the hardest things I did in my life. Hell, having them stand before me while I lectured them was no picnic either. Seeing disappointment on their face came in a close second, to punishing them. I hated falling short when it came to delivering something I promised.

Then there is exercising. Running to be precise.

Rare is the occasion that I love running, but frequent are the occasions throughout my life, I hate it.

It is hard to love running when you are a smoker. Something I did for half my life. I started when I was twelve, quit when I was twenty-two, and resumed again at twenty-seven, and finally quit once and for all when I was about thirty-seven.

My first real experience as a runner came in my junior year phyed class. It was early in the spring, and some of those first runs were cold. But before long, even us smokers were running a couple miles or more, and I was in the best shape of my young life. Early on, I hated it, but as we progress, I actually enjoyed it.

Then we moved onto dodge ball or something like that, and any self motivation to keep up the running quickly died.

I tried to get into some kind of shape before enlisting in the Army, but it’s hard to motivate yourself to run, when you always feel like you have an elephant sitting on your chest. The smoker thing.

At no point during my stint in the Army did I like running. Well except one time. I was the guidon. At first, I was extremely nervous about the prospect. Under no circumstances can the guidon fall out of the formation during the morning run. Something I never did…well except one time, and it was very early in flight school. I had to pee.

But my concern with being the guidon was that your were carrying the company colors. Therefore, your arms could not pump, and your usual running style was compromised. I was concerned that the extra burden, or the inability to pump my arms would increase my fatigue. For the most part, I was always at the edge of my limits during any run, on any day.

What I discovered was, being out in front of the formation, bearing the company colors, was exhilarating! It was the single best run of my military career. The whole time I was amazed at the ease in which I maintained my pace. At times I had to check my speed, I was pulling away.

In the moment, I didn’t give it any thought, just enjoyed feeling like superman. After the fact, I gave the feeling considerable thought. Running in formation sucked, always did. I wondered if it was because, as you exhaled your CO2, you breathed in others. The more people you have in front of you, the less oxygen each breath draws in for starving muscles.

Looking at the back of some guys shaved head isn’t very motivational either.

Most runs in the Army left me feeling like I needed to throw up afterwards. Aside from that one single run as a the platoon guidon, I hated running.

Shortly after getting out of the Army, I found myself in a Milwaukee suburb. I also found myself getting fat. My vanity far outweighed my hate for running, and before long, I was running five miles. This, while still puffing on a cigarette every now and again.

Truck driving put a temporary stop to my running. That is until I quit smoking. It is amazing how much extra energy a person develops once you quit trying to kill yourself. Within weeks of giving the habit up, I was craving the run.

For two years, as I trucked across the country, making delivery schedules, and looking for the occasional good time, I was always planning out where my next run would be. But it wasn’t the love of running that motivated me. Most days I hated it. It was too hot, too windy, too cold, too much traffic, or too hilly. Yet, two or three days a week, I managed to get my run in, because I felt better…after the fact.

One day I came running into one of the lots at the home terminal. It was a beautiful day, and I just finished a shirtless run. One of the drivers with whom I conversed regularly was walking from his truck to the shop. He spotted me, and changed direction to intercept me.

“Why do you do all that running.” He asked.

“I am trying to stave off the harmful effects of truck driving.” I replied almost automatically.

He looked at me like I was an idiot before saying. “When you get to be my age, you won’t be doing all that running around.”

“If I keep it up, I will.” I shot back.

“No you won’t. I am 41, have bad knees, kidney trouble, diabetes…you will see.”

I stared at him a moment, knowing there was no argument that would change his mind. Most truck drivers knew it all.

“Well, I will just keep running, and we will see what happens.” I replied, and walked off.

Resuming my smoking habit a year or so later killed my ambition for running. Hell, it killed my ambition.

I smoked for another ten years. But when I quit, I once again found the energy to start running again. But this time, there were way more obstacles to overcome.

An asthma diagnosis spurred my need to give up the coffin nails. That same diagnosis, made it a little scary to start running.  But I did, and the asthma was the least of my concerns.

At first, I could not afford new running shoes, so I dug the old Nike Air’s out of a box in the basement. They made it about one hundred yards before the dry brittle foam came apart, and I was left with the rubber sole flapping against the ground and my shoe.

I had my first ever blow out.

Within six months of starting my running program, I abandoned it because my calves would cramp up. After getting out of the truck, I tried one more time. Soon after, there was swelling and pain along the inner part of my knee. A hip thing followed that. Then I tweaked my groin at some point while at work.

But after every setback, I allowed the proper time to heal, then climbed back into the saddle. But not because I loved running…running still sucked.

All this struggling to get back into running form was just about the age of the truck driver who told me I wouldn’t be doing it once I reached his age.

As ailment upon ailment sidelined me, I was starting to thing he was right.

I never have, nor will I ever run a marathon. Even now, when I am running almost pain free, I do it for the benefit, not because I love to run. I have never experienced a runners high. I have come to the conclusion that I have no endorphins. No matter how far I run, or how hard, I never get to the point of the runners high. For me, the only time I love running, is when I cannot.

There was many a time, when I was sitting on my fat ass, that I would see some fit person, man or woman, running along a trail, and think, that should be me.

Well, after over a decade of on again, off again running. I can call myself a runner. It still sucks. Rare is the day when I finish a run and go, “What a great run!” But at least when it is over, I can feel good about myself, and know in my mind, I proved that truck driver from days gone by wrong.

But running still sucks!

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