Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Looking back...looking ahead

Hi guys - Many, many years ago, when I was in High school, baseball was my game. I loved watching it, but more loved playing it. Unfortuneately, my coach, Coach Hulsey, who as far as I was concerned had a much higher aptitude as a hockey coach, had a differing opinion as to my baseball abilities. Whereas I felt I had talents that could greatly enhance the sorry state of our team, he felt that as a baseball player, I should stick with soccer. So, here I was, in my Senior year, having been cut from the River Dell HS team THREE years in a row (9th - 11th grade), and nothing to show for it. I was somewhat on the soccer squad, but never played enough to earn a school letter, so this letter became an obcession, but Spring of my Senior year put a finish-line pressure on me to earn this elusive symbol of athletic prowess. Enter the track team. Now, you have to realize, I HATED running of all sorts, and to have this be the main object of the sport was totally incomprehensible to me. But, priorites were to be put in order and my teen, peer-presured mind said cut bait & fish or shut-up. I began the season running the 440 (just to give you a tip on my age - there was no 400 yet!) which was hell-on-earth because essentially the 440 was a SPRINT around the whole daggum track. I mean, take the 100 yd dash, go as hard as you can, and then keep it up all the way around. The turn towards home is a feeling in your legs that cannot be described, but it's something like bands of steel surrounding muscles that have gone empty and you only have 100 yards to go. After doing that nonsense for half the season, Coach Babbitt, suggested that (now get this!), I move UP to the 880!!! Had Coach Babbitt lost his mind? As oppossed to Baseball Coach Hulsey, I actually felt like Coach Babbit knew what he was doing. This was 1965, and he was the ONLY person I knew that actually had run the Boston Marathon! Picture the impression this had on a sore legged teenager who thought the MILE runners were endurance athletes. So, I reluctantly moved up to the 880, and found that here, you could actually pace yourself to where you might actually have a "kick" at the end. I could slip in behind the first three or four guys, try to hold on, and usually stagger into a finish in the top 6 or 7. Ok, not exactly a success story, but I found that running was not totally terrible. I did get that letter, gave it on a sweater to some girl, and when we broke up, I asked for the sweater back even before I rememebered she also had my school ring (I got that back too).

This is not meant to be "The History of Al", or how I fell in love with running. Actually, I gave it up for 13 years after High School and only tried it again when I was getting as big as a double-wide. But, I often look back at all the small things that happen that completely change your life, and while visiting my family and grandson in Boston this weekend, I was running in a light rain on Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon course and of all things, Coach Babbitt came to mind. I remember how impressed I was 45 years ago (Yikes! - 45 years!!) to know he had run on this same, famous bump in the road, and what he would say to know I've actually raced Boston 5 times! Heck, he might have moved me up to run the mile if he knew I could do that! I also thought about how lucky I am in so many facets of my life. My competitive running days may be over and my long distances seem to be getting shorter, but with running, I can still "lace 'em up", hit the road, and have the time of my life. My mind wanders all over the place while I'm running, and because of that, once again I say, Thank God I'm a Runner. What other sport can you let your mind wander while you actually do the activity?

So,once again, Coach Al's Chronicles have come from high above the clouds as I fly home (I love my Netbook). I had a great time with my Boston visit, and seeing our grandson grow up is an unexplainable joy. However, as he grows, I see that Grandpa is going to have to stay in shape to keep up. I never liked intervals, but Adam demands constant push, pull, lift, throw, carry, swing, etc, interspersed with periodic rest breaks. Perfect. My fitness was getting a little lax, so, my idea of "Grandpa Bootcamp", may be of mutual benefit.

From somewhere above North Carolina, I hope you all have a good week and I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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