I finally got sick and tired of getting colds and sinus infections. I was also constantly ridiculed for being out of shape. I remember playing outdoor games and running 50 yards and being winded and sucking wind. I had quit many times, only to pick it up again when life got tough.
I finally kicked the habit mostly for good in my later years of college. I started running to get myself in shape. I also did a life overhaul and fixed up my diet -- going from Oreo's and Cokes to stuff you'd find only at Whole Foods. I started to lift weights and soon was running 3 - 8 miles in a shot.
I didn't know jack about running and I was on the hook for my own shoes. Being a poor college student I probably put a 1000 miles on a pair before getting injured. I got a bad case of runner's knee and even after a month of rest, if I went out for a run I'd get debilitating knee pain. I remember looking at the Nike's and seeing how worn and lopsided they were and I couldn't believe I had run in them for as long as I had. One thing I've learned about running: keep your shoes fresh!
I do like the fit of Nike's but anytime I wear them I get knee pain. I am a New Balance guy or a Brooks guy these days.
I took a several year hiatus from running and picked up smoking again. Again, I'd smoke for a few months and then get sick again. I'd quit for a while and then another life event would happen and I'd buddy up to the Marlboro man. It wasn't until 1997 that I finally put the smokes down for good.
I had been dabbling with the smokes again then and life was getting complicated: I was getting married and coming on board with 2 step-children, I was buying a house and I had just started a new job. Talk about a bunch of big life events coming together all at once.
So one night while sitting in my Palatine Illinois apartment, I decided to go out for a run. Maybe my knee was better. That one night I did about 2 miles without any problems. No knee pain, and best of all, I felt fantastic.
That started the addiction....
From 1997 - 2004 I ran recreationally. Every few days I'd log a few miles. Sometimes, when the mood struck me, I ran long. I remember running 18 miles once (from McHenry Illinois to Woodstock via Bull Valley Road). I never raced, although I fantasized about running a marathon... but I didn't know much about it.
In 2004 a chance conversation in the locker room with a friend of mine led me to my first race. He wanted me to run the Lake In The Hills "Run Thru the Hills Race" I wasn't terribly interested but I humored him and said, "sure I'll do it" figuring to blow him off. A few days later he handed me a race entry and said "see ya there" Ugh, I had to do something social....
I figured since I ran a lot that I could easily "win" a 10K. Nobody ran as much as me (famous last words).
As the name of the race indicates that race is a hilly race. I wound up running it in about 49-51 minutes. I had no idea about pacing and I dragged my sorry butt to the finish line -- completely gassed. It was amazing to see all the different types of runners. There were 100s of other runners there and I got a t-shirt, a pancake breakfast. I was bummed I didn't win anything, but I suddenly realized there was more to running than just going out and jogging X miles. Needless to say my interest was piqued.
My next race was another 5K in Crystal Lake that I decided to do on a whim. I am pretty sure it was the Crystal Lake Health Bridge 5K. I wound up running it in the low 22's. What made this race memorable was that I placed in my age group and won something. There's nothing like standing in a crowd after a race wondering if you won anything and to hear your name as winning in your age division. Now I was really hooked.
Throughout 2004 and on I have raced. Up until about 2008 I was racing way more than I should and often placing in my age division, winning some sort of swag. It wasn't unusual for me to be doing a 5K or 10K nearly every weekend. I've literally raced in hundreds of races. You can see many of them on my Athlinks page. I want to say that Athlinks has recorded about 85% of my races, so there are many out there unaccounted for.
In 2009 when I turned 40, though, the age group wins started to dry up. For some reason, in Illinois, the 40 year old age division is one of the toughest. At this point, I did switch over to running distance events -- I became a half marathon junkie just as that race type exploded. I also started running 1 - 2 marathons a year... I still thoroughly enjoy the half marathon, as it is still an accomplishment yet far less demanding physically.
I think I hit my peak in 2007 and after that point, my times took a turn for the worse. It sucks to get older and while I never amounted to a huge threat to winning races, I always made a good showing for myself. I've come in second overall in a few races, but never first.
I do think my best times are behind me, but you never know. I put in WAY more miles than I did when I first started (probably twice as much) and I now have some structure to my training, but you really can't outrun Father Time.
Roughly speaking here are my PRs:
- 5K - 20:10
- 10K - 41:20
- 5M - 33:20
- 10M - 1:11
- Half Marathon: 1:31
- Marathon: 3:38
I still jump into races, but these days I don't race nearly as much as I used to. If the race is fairly cheap, fits into my training regime, and close by, I'll do it on a whim. I am not a big fan of "entertainment" races. Color runs, Electric Runs and Undie Runs are great introductions to people new to running, but for me, I prefer a solid road race. I do like to go to destination races though. And if there is a race in Nevada, I am game.
To commemorate 10 years of racing and nearly two decades of running, I've taken pictures of all the swag I've won. Each one has a story and a memory associated with it. Even some of the medals from 2004 I can clearly remember the course, the people there and roughly what time I got. Some are age group awards and some are simply finishers medals. But I still treasure each one of them. Hopefully someone remembers to bury me with them when my days are over....
Enjoy the photos:
|Some plaques from the Wauconda-fest races|
|We started to put the medals in a display case....|
|The red / black ribbon is a 3rd place age group award at the Rockford Illinois Half Marathon. Quite a feat considering the size and depth of that race.|
|I always like the "Bear" race and I miss the Tyranena Race (they don't have many beer runs in Utah)|
|Long Beach Half Marathon medal and the Green Bay Half Marathon (2009)|
|The Woodstock Illinois race always had good awards|
|I came in 3rd overall (left trophy) at the Coto de Caza Half Marathon. Tough race.|
|The Utah Midnight Run have strobe lights.|
|One of my favorites. The Summerlin Half Marathon finisher's medal|
|The DinoHalf Stegosaurus Half Marathon Finisher medal.|
|Age group award for the Handcart Half Marathon. It is a belt buckle. High-quality too.|