I have only taken first place in one running race in my life. It was my last day of first grade, June 1982. I lived in Bend, Oregon, and my school–Juniper Elementary–hosted an end of the year “field day.” It was an affair of Olympic proportions. Every student, K-6, got to choose one event to take part in. The options were numerous—the long jump, the high jump, an obstacle course, a balance beam, etc. The Holy Grail though, the event to which only the hardened athletes need apply, was the halfish-mile undulating dirt-path cross-country run. It was that single race that made me a runner. To this day I still recall standing at its start line, poised in an awkward tilt, donning my Toughskin jeans, a two sizes too small polo with a half-popped collar, and my Puma Cabana Racers. My competition was fierce; pitted against me were about a hundred fire-breathing first and second graders, each spewing vengeance from their round, angelic faces. My heart pounded with adrenaline, but I was still steady—tactical even. When the pistol blew, I was off in a fury. I made it ten feet, at least, before tripping over a wayward girl and crashing down on all fours. Calamitous injuries aside, I still bounced up and ran. I ran my heart out; and, about five minutes later my concave little chest broke the yellow tape at the finish line. It was an absolutely phenomenal day.
Sadly, in the school years that followed first grade, my athletic talents seemed to wane. My high school cross-country career was, for the most part, an endeavor into discomfiture. I finished many races in the bottom half. I was easily the slowest runner on my team. Still though, I carried the flame of my seven-year-old self within. I was a runner, and I loved being one. Never mind whether I was any good.
In the roughly twenty years since I have graduated from high school, I have run more races than I can count–5ks, 10ks, marathons, etc. I have had a few fairly quick events during which I averaged sub six-minute miles; for the most part though I have been a “bottom of the top third” racer. While it would be nice to take a first place title again, it seems probable that it will not happen—and, I am okay with it. I love to run for the sake of running. The endorphin-fueled high attained after pounding down a couple of miles is nothing less than intoxicating.
Running is tremendous exercise. You can easily burn anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 calories per hour depending on your pace. Beyond its obvious benefit to the cardio-pulmonary, muscular, and skeletal systems of the body, it is also good for the mind. There have been several studies that show running lowers depression, and that it has an overall tonic effect on the brain. I urge everyone who can safely do so to run. Ability and speed is non-consequential. Whether you take a laggard jog up the street, or you go for an all out sprint on a track, just go out and put the wind to your face.
Following is an ever-growing section entitled “Articles on Running.” Every week on Mondays I will post within it an intriguing entry. Some articles I will write; others I will link to. My goal is to simply post pieces that inspire us all to “tune into our inner first grade running champions.” Queue up Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire.
If you wish to share a story or article on running, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full author credit and linking will be given.
Articles on Running
- Avoid the Dreaded Black Toenail [links to external site] (added Monday, 5/21/12)
- Trade LSD for Speed [links to external site] (added Monday, 4/30/12)
- 9 Ways to Fartlek [links to external site] (added Monday, 4/23/12)
- Should you be Running Barefoot [links to external site] (added Monday, 4/16/12)
- 9 Race-Day Tips for First-Timers [links to external site] (added Monday, 4/9/12)
- Build Power for Better Form [links to external site] (added Monday, 4/2/12)
- The Best Dog Breeds for Runners (added Monday, 3/26/12)
- 200 Running Songs (added Monday, 3/19/12)
- 40 Random Facts You Did Not Know About Running (added Monday, 3/12/12)