So when did I become so old to be called a ‘veteran?’
As with many runners, I claim I was a good soccer player …. until it came time to start kicking with your left foot (say, 6th grade). All I was really good at was hustling, I suppose. I ran some track in junior high school (mile), but never scored a point.
Come high school, I never made varsity, although to be fair, we would run our JV versus varsities in one of the two leagues were were in. That “Delaware Independent School Conference” league was so bad that I actually finished 7th at the league meet. On the bright side, I’m pretty sure I beat the current senator from Delaware.
I so badly wanted a letter in high school. I ended up barely making varsity baseball, ending up with a stellar .111 average. At least had no errors in my handful of games. So I got my high school letter that way.
When I got to Swarthmore college (Division III), a guy on my freshman dorm convinced me to go out for cross country. It was a fun diversion that became my passion over the years. I probably would average 7 minute miles in races that first year – about 20th fastest (or 10th slowest) on the team. Sophomore year, I did a little better, and I also did track in the spring, making it the first time I ran year-round. After Sophomore year, I would average 40-50 miles/week through the year. I cracked the top 7 on the XC team in Junior year, but it was my enthusiasm (or whatever) got me elected co-captain. By senior year, I was typically ~5th or so on the team, meaning that my performance would affect the score (slightly). I did have one out of my mind race at a big invitational where I finished right behind our number one runner, and that finish propelled us to win the meet. 30 years later, I’m probably the only one that remembers that meet.
During college, I only ran a handful of road races in the summer. But come to think of it, I won trophies at a couple of the smaller 10K’s. But this was the 80’s, and running wasn’t like it is now.
Side commentary – my experience of improving over time is why no cross country coach should cut people for performance. When I hear of coaches cutting kids at the high school or college level, I take it personally. The sports are there for student benefit. …. But I digress.
PR’s from the 80’s (….a long long time ago in a galaxy far away)
1 mile 4:36 (cinder track)
2 miles 9:53
5K 15:43 (rubber track – my usual races were ~16:20)
10K 33:38 (rubber track)
In my first grad school, I ran with my roommate who ran for Purdue. It was humbling – I learned the difference between division 1 and division 3 athletes. That is, division 1 are athletes, and division 3 are …. not quite as good. He had this extra gear where he could just go zoom any time he wanted to.
In my PhD years, I continued to run with professors and other assorted students at lunchtime. It was a great way to get to know people outside of your own field.
In 1991, life happened. My wife was pregnant with our son. She gained weight, I gained weight. She gave birth. She lost all the weight. I didn’t do either of those.
I tried running with a running stroller once. My son screamed. Stroller was returned to store. Not much running after that.
Fast forward to 2009. My doctor tells me to lose some weight, or she will put me on cholesterol pills. So I start writing down everything I eat and literally counting the calories. [I’m an engineer. That’s what we do] Yes I can tell you that ~3500 calories does equal one pound. So if you cut out the 5 100 calorie hard pretzels you eat for snacks every day, you lose a pound in a week. It happens. Over 3 months, I lost 25 pounds. [And as an engineer, of course I graphed the whole thing] Oh yes, I also started running ~2-3 miles a day with my dog.
So my doctor said to me “Your cholesterol numbers look great.” I said “You told me to lose weight.” She said “But nobody ever listens to me.”
So I’ve been running since then, with some of the typical up & downs (injuries, life, bad winters).
I spice up my activities by also participating in Orienteering, which is running off-trail in the woods, looking for ‘controls’, using only a map and a compass. The best raw runners rarely are the best orienteers, because the harder you run, the more likely you are to make bad route choices. See https://roc.us.orienteering.org/ (shameless plug).
I came across Roadkill Racing in early 2015 via a strange set of circumstances that involved LinkedIn and me mistaking someone else’s identity, and then stumbling across the roadkill site via google. I saw that my friend Jim Werven was on the team, so I figured, why not.
My best times of the last quarter century have occurred with me wearing a Roadkill Racing Singlet:
2015 Sunset House 5K: 6th overall of 276, 18:28 and a fun kick at the end to get 1st Master’s. “Better than sex” (tongue in cheek) – If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.