Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tracking My Obsession - Part 1 - Telephone Poles and Trails

I realize that to many of my friends, my obsession with running may have come as a surprise. And even looking over the first few entries from last spring, I see that I show no sign of the single-mindedness that was about to spring forth.

But I have been running for 14 years now, since 1996, and fell in love with it immediately.

I don’t know why I started, though it was probably to lose weight and because I didn’t have easy access to a gym nor money for a bike. I started by running to one telephone pole, then walking to the next, then running again, and so on, until I could string a decent number of telephone poles together. And then there was no stopping me, especially once I realized that I could possibly run forever if I ran slowly enough.

I had two favorite routes, one on the road heading out of town where I could run on the broad shoulder with little fear of traffic, passing farmland. I loved to run this at night and in the winter, with the moon and stars above me, watching my breath in the dark.

In the day, and when the trails weren't made treacherous by ice, I ran into the woods and along old train tracks, passing the backs of farms with a view of the nearby hills, golden in the sun.

Most of my running was completely solitary, with no one around, and never any other runners. I didn't think of myself as part of the running community, being too slow and too fat, and not interested in road races. But even then, I dreamed of running long distances, of being a "real runner," of doing marathons and maybe even an ultra someday.

After a year or so of this I moved to my old college town where I had access to the track and cross-country trails at my alma mater. More rolling hills through farmland, more tree-shaded paths. Glorious. And now too, more runners - sometimes from the college, sometimes from the town - and even occasionally a local cross-country race, with wiry old men in singlets and young women in shorts and middle school kids all mixed in together, dogs barking furiously from the sidelines.

I still didn't think of myself as a runner, though I seriously considered training for a marathon through the Team in Training program. I even went to an information session for it, but in the end the fundraising involved scared me too much, as did the prospect of hours spent slogging around the track. No, my racing days were still to come.

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