Forty years of running

I began distance running in 1980. That made 2019 my fortieth year as a jogger.

Though I began running in Montague, it wasn’t until 2018 that I ran by this namesake corner.

I’ve logged tens of thousands of miles in what I estimate to be more than 5,000 outings—nowadays sometimes running the entire route, occasionally walking it, and often with a bit of walking mixed in with the running.

As a kid, I always loved running. In baseball, roaming the outfield was my passion. In football, wide receiver and I were a perfect fit. Living a mile from high school, most afternoons I ran all the way home.

When I got married in December 1979, Kim and I made our first home across from Montague’s high school. I had taken up tennis, and the school’s tennis court had a concrete wall. When I had no partner, I beat the ball against the wall.

One summer-of-1980 day, as I was once again waging a battle royale against the wall, I paused to catch my breath. I gazed through the pine trees and past the baseball field, observing the track on which I had run in school. I put my tennis gear in the car. I walked over to the track.

I began to run.

I came back a few days later and ran some more. Soon, I was bored with the track. I hit the road.

I never stopped.

In the early years, I typically ran only two or three miles. In the 1990s, when at seminary, I got to know a guy who was a distance runner, who told me that to burn fat I needed to run longer. More like five miles per run.

So, that’s what I did.

Living most of my life in Michigan and Iowa, snow and cold kept my jogging to spring through autumn. For years, I didn’t do any exercise in the winter. Then, we got a treadmill. Finally, we bought an elliptical.

I survived the treadmill and elliptical by watching TV. Even the best of shows never gave me the level of enjoyment that running provides. Not only do I like the movement of running, I love being outdoors.

The second year we were in Indianapolis, three things happened to propel me toward year-round running. First, we had a mild winter, with little snow, which allowed me to get out often. Second, I started to use a running app, which made it fun to track my progress. Third, the elliptical broke.

Julie fixed the elliptical.

I kept running.

I have to run over a mile to get to this trail, the Fall Creek Greenway. It’s worth every drop of sweat.

I’ve always loved statistics, so I began recording my miles on my computer, wiping my app clean with each new year. 2016 was my first year as a twelve-month runner, so it was a no-brainer that I set personal bests in total miles and number of outings. That year, I achieved 799 miles on 171 outings, a 4.67 average.

In 2017, I had surgeries in January, April, and November. After my April surgery, I could hardly walk, much less run. Fifteen days post-surgery, I was able to walk 1.5 miles. I restarted using the app. In three weeks, I was back to walking five miles. After my surgeon allowed me to run, three weeks later I was back to five miles.

I was hoping to hit 1,000 miles for the year. The November surgery got in the way. Still, I was mighty pleased to log 987 miles on 201 outings, a 4.91 average.

Last year, I was determined to get that 1,000. I was on pace when, late in the summer, I experienced pain in my joints and loss of strength in my muscles. By autumn, I could barely run above a walk. I finally had to stop, altogether.

I learned that my hormone levels were too low. In November, I restarted hormone injections. In a few weeks, my bones and muscles rallied. I completed the year with 839 miles on 180 outings, a 4.66 average.

As 2019 began, I was in good health. I had to negotiate some pretty lousy spring weather—recall all the rain that kept the farmers from planting—and then in June I hurt my back. I made up for it with a personal best August, getting out 28 days for 177 miles, smashing my previous best month’s record by 26 miles.

The first week of November, I hit the magic 1,000. I set my sights on 1,200, hoping to average 100 miles a month for the year.

As I type this on December 15, I am on track to get it, at 1,142 miles.

If the weather holds out.

It’s supposed to snow like crazy this week and then be cold.


Whether or not I beat the weather or not, I am delighted that in my fortieth year of running, at age 62, I’ve achieved personal bests in miles, outings (209 at the moment), and average (5.46).

I began running because I loved it. I continue running because I love it and because of the health benefits, which are many, especially for my heart. Last week was my annual trip to my cardiologist. I showed him my app. He was as impressed with my knees holding out as he was with my miles.

I hope to run as long as I’m able. I’d like to make it to age eighty. And, if I do, to keep going.

After forty years at this, there is one thing of which am most pleased. Despite running against some high winds, in some hard rain, and staving off approaching lightning—despite pulling muscles, falling five times, and once breaking a toe with more than a mile left to get home—despite the new dangers Indianapolis has brought: dogs chasing me and cars nearly hitting me—

On every one of the more than 5,000 times I left the house on foot, I came home under my own steam.

Every. Single. Time.

When I twice had large dogs chase me in 2019, I took to wearing this horn. If a dog chases me into the street, he gets the horn, no matter his size. I’ve already used it six times.

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