"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Runners and "The Little Engine that Could"

I remember writing about Micah Grafenstein when the young man from Hancock ran the Boston Marathon.
It's sort of like the Masters in golf. Golf tournaments are frequent but there's only one Masters. When a runner talks about Boston, there is a special air that makes that distinct. The aim of running Boston means the runner is aiming for the highest height.
I covered Grafenstein for the print media. There were a number of Morris area runners who also got my attention. They always told a story like climbing a mountain. You could also compare it to "The Little Engine that Could."
You might also want to play that original "Rocky" theme song in your head. These souls get out on the roads and trails on their own. They do it in rain, sleet and snow just like the mailman. We thought the sight of a mailman on Saturday might be gone with the wind. But there's a reprieve. The Postal Service and the government are in a tug of war that has gotten tiresome. Saturday delivery is proving as resilient as the mail carriers themselves.
I remember writing about a couple of Morris mail carriers who ran a marathon. You'd think those guys would need some rest. I hope the 26.2 miles had the effect of building up those guys' legs instead of wearing them down.
Running took off as a pastime in the mid-1970s. It had a fad quality for a while. We had that best-selling book with the red cover. Frank Shorter winning the Olympics marathon gave a push.
Boomers were attuned to self-improvement. They could also get a little obsessed or distracted. It was an element of this generation - that's my generation - that decided it wasn't good enough to call yourself a Christian, you had to be a "born again" Christian. Didn't Bob Dylan go through a phase like this? Ah, us boomers and our "phases."
Didn't we inspire the "yuppie" term? We're always inspiring something. Our parents went to church and considered themselves Christians. Many of my vintage would point fingers and say "that's not good enough." You had to "accept Christ as your personal savior."
I don't know, I think the "greatest generation" folks probably felt they had done that. The greatest generation spent their formative years just thinking about getting by, thus they would have found marathon running a totally peculiar pastime. Why would you want to torture yourself like this? To what end?
Is there some psychological explanation that the running practitioners would find disturbing if they learned it? I suspect there is. It's like self-flagellation.
We have conflicted feelings about our self-image. Somehow we feel some self-inflicted punishment is called for. Our parents survived the Great Depression and World War II. Those episodes of adversity were quite enough. They were real world challenges, not challenges of our own creating.
I write all this as someone who engaged in running himself. The fad drew me in for a time. This was between 1983 and about 1994. I scaled back when I began feeling pain in my right foot. Today there's no pain if I'm just walking for ordinary purposes. If I "dabble" in jogging again, the pain will return - not always, but often enough to become an impediment.
Runners tend to develop injury-related excuses. The pastime involves too few muscles and joints, therefore those points that get engaged get worn down and the injuries crop up.
I ran the Twin Cities Marathon three times, the first time well and the next two times with some injury excuses. I remember finishing the first one, in 1984, feeling triumphant and having a volunteer look me over and say "you look a little dry." While I had gotten very well-hydrated before that run, I hadn't taken in any fluids along the way. That is certainly not recommended.
My time in that marathon: three hours, one minute and eleven seconds. You can look it up. It's a very good time for someone with my relatively large body. I kept my weight around 170 pounds in those days - light considering my frame. My weight today? Let's use the words of Chris Berman when the ESPN guy once reported Kent Hrbek's weight: "200-plus pounds, and we won't say how much the plus is."
Many people around Morris thought I was a little excessive with my commitment. Tom Swenson reported this to me once. Was I? All I can say is, having kept my weight so low over a period of about eleven years was probably very healthy for me in the long term. Had I carried "200-plus" throughout, who knows?
I remember when the executive of the Minnesota Beef Council visited Morris once, he murmured something about me that he thought I couldn't hear. Someone had just told him I enjoyed the meal. He chirped: "It looks like he could use it." The guy's last name was Eustice. He thought I looked anemic.
If you have known me for only a few years, you might be unbelieving anyone could say this about me. Remember I'm a boomer and I go through phases just like all my peers. What's next? Well, we're going to conquer aging of course.
I am writing about running today because of what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon. My information network in Morris informs me there were Morris people there. I have been told Jen Lund ran the marathon and finished just nine minutes before the explosion. She reportedly had two "cheerleaders" there: Sharon Martin (one of my favorite people) and Dorothy "Dot" Vick.
Apparently the three were spared any harm. Why the Boston Marathon? Of all things, why would a terrorist choose this storied event? It's a tragedy, as is any terrorist event. Bill O'Reilly might not like the word "tragedy" but I'll use it.
Shall I congratulate Lund on her accomplishment? I'm not sure I wish to congratulate anyone who runs this distance. It's excessive. The distance by itself proves nothing. If you were to train for, and run, three or four 10K races during the summer, and to try to run them hard, that's plenty! You might even say 5K is enough.
10K is 6.2 miles, 5K is 3.1.
At my age now, 58, an occasional brisk walk is quite sufficient. Our belated spring is an unfortunate impediment for this. Ride bike. But most important, eat a sound diet. Cut out the high-fructose corn syrup. There's no need to even belong to the RFC. Just live sensibly. That was sure good enough for "the greatest generation."
Do I miss running? It's a memory worth having. Do I miss writing for the newspaper? I miss having an income and I miss having health insurance coverage. But the end came for that, just as with running.
The workplace environment and demands became unacceptable - they were sucking all the life out of me. I will elaborate more on this at some time. I have waited because it's painful. I will quote from a document that was presented to me in the "boardroom." It called on me to do things that the paper never even carried out. It was immensely sad.
True, our communications environment has been turned upside down since I started. So it wouldn't be the same. But I still miss it. I miss just having a normal friendly relationship with some former co-workers. But I was crushed at the end.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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