Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Young Self, You Made a Monster

Al's note: I have been having trouble sending RWA to those of you that subscribe by email, so I'm trying some tricks using paperclips and gum and see if that works. I apologize if you get this post twice - Al D.

"Where'd all the days go, when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn't stress at all, just run and jump into a harmless fall" - Paolo Nutini

One day recently while having one of my solo run-arounds, my mind, as it usually does, started to wander. Here I am, a runner for 35 years and numerous marathons and ultramarathons, a runner who still likes to just get out there in the rain, heat, cold (ok, not so much the cold), and all kinds of conditions just to get in my fix. I was wondering on this run, how did I get in this way? I don't mean how did I start running, but what formed me to want to live part of my life outside, running up and down hills, on the roads, on the trail, sometimes for hours at a time.

Have you ever wondered about how the experiences you have as a child form what type of adult you become? Me neither, until this run where it just popped into my noggin. As I grow older, I begin to sound and act just like the stereotypical grandfather...I don't mean complaining about everything in site and passing gas all the time, but having some strong opinions about the world that surrounds me. I keep having the thought that the youth of today is going to hell in a wheelbarrow. I know it's not true, or even 50% true, but for goodness sake, so many kids today are so reluctant to get off their butts to do something physical. On top of that, we live in a world that protects kids from doing anything dangerous or allowing them to get themselves into situations that they have to figure out how to get out of. They can't play with anything sharper than a ping-pong ball or anything smaller than their foot!

What I remember of my young childhood, or what I perceive I remember, was playing all the time outside. In the summer, or on Saturdays, I would go out early in the morning, meet friends, and "mess around" all day until it was time to get home for dinner. Some days, we would play baseball, football, or soccer, but most days were spent playing games we made up as we went along. Games that would begin as tag would evolve into some form of tackling each other until you got your friend in a hold that he couldn't escape. Bike riding would become this mad dash down a hill on a road until you made a hard right into the woods at full speed and see how far you could get before you smacked into a tree. The further you got, the more adoration you got from your friends. I can recall jumping off this 100 foot cliff (probably 20-30 ft) onto the soft dirt below. The object was to see who could jump the furthest from the point at the top of the cliff you took off from. Probably explains a lot about the ankle problems I have today - can't even jump a log on the trail. And races...we always had races - bike races, running races, tree climbing races. No rules, just "I'll race you to the ____". Of course, this usually began when you were already running someplace, so the guy who called the race usually got a head start, which was ok because things always evened out and you got left in the dust just as many times as you were the first to kick up the dust.

So, how does this tie into my running self? Does the type of play you have as a youngster smolder until one day it becomes the type of play you have as a full-fledged grownup? I'm 67 years old and my play is to lace up my shoes and go for a run for a couple of hours down the road or through the woods. Sometimes I run down a singletrack and smack into a tree. Sometimes I jump over streams to see if I can get to the other side dry. Sometimes I "race" myself or my fellow runner, though you'd be hard pressed to actually say I was racing. If I didn't play as a child, would I be playing now? If it wasn't fun then, where would I be now? What kind of future are today's kids being pigeon-holed into with more video games, more social media relationships, more homework, and year-round organized sports. Oh, I know these kids will turn out fine. They'll learn that sharp things cut and hot things burn. My world was different from my child's world, and his is different from his child's. But, don't you think that so many aspects of your childhood mold your adult self? I do, and I think one of the biggest reasons running and me have this bond now is because we had this bond a long, long time ago. Yeah, it was different. Yeah, it was the same.

Maybe I shouldn't write RWA sitting on my deck on a hot summer day with a good, cold beer by my side, but this idea spawned in my head on a run, not from the heat or the beer. I've said many times in these blogs that running is a part of me. I used to think it was because I had nurtured it in all these years that I have been running, sorta like a good habit. But, now I think that fire was sparked many years ago when I was running a block, not a mile. Jumping over a cliff and not a log. Running with friends and...well, thank goodness, I'm still doing that.

I'll see you on the roads and trails - AL


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