TITLE: Got To Begin Again
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: March 22, 2009 2:30 PM
I spent this morning with what seems like an old
When we first moved here in 1992, we heard a lot
about the 60 miles of recreational trails in the
area, and what they meant for the quality of life
we could have here. The system now spans more
than 80 miles, and I have spent a lot of hours
on most of them. I've walked and biked with my
family there, but I've spent far more hours on
the trails alone, running. Sometimes, I'm training
for a race. Then, the trail is a work partner.
Other times, I'm simply running, and the trail
is more like a friend I share the quiet time with.
Many of my favorite routes, including a 12-miler
north of town and a 16-miler south, are run partly
or entirely on trails.
My most frequent trail segment is a simple loop,
6.2 miles in length -- a cosmic accident of 10K
for runners, to whom that distance has special
significance. It was within a 1.5 miles of my
old house, so I used it all the time. Being off
my game since last May, though, I haven't had
many opportunities to run it, because I either
wasn't running or wasn't running enough to get
me to the loop, around it, and back home. As I
wrote last month,
my mileage has been way down since November,
while I struggled to get healthy. Not much call
for a 6-mile loop when I was happy just to run
three miles twice in a week!
Well, a couple of weeks back, I worked my way up
to a 17-mile week capped with a 5-mile "long
run". After a hiccup last week, I finished off
an 18-mile week with a 6-mile run around my old
friend. The curves and trees and water all seemed
old and new at the same time. It was cloudy and
cool, with an occasional remnant of an icy winter.
My senses drank it in. A good day.
As much as I enjoyed running an old route today,
over the last few weeks I have also been enjoying
building new routes from our new house. One
advantage of my recent bad health is that I have
had to start with 3-mile and 3.5-mile runs. Were
I in marathon shape, I wouldn't want to waste my
time mapping out such short routes. Yet they are
the foundation I need for my training. Even at
the peak of preparing for a marathon, I like to
do easy 3-milers on Monday, the day after my long
runs. When I'm not training for a big race, I
like to have a full complement of routes of all
distances, so that I can run whatever I feel like
on a given morning.
-- is hard. It is different from starting the first
time. When I began training for my
I didn't know what I was getting myself into, really.
Each new long distance run was a challenge, but I
just kept plugging away. This time, I know what it
feels like to be in top shape, ready to run fast or
long on demand. Ready to take on anything. To
run a mere six easy miles and feel like I am working
hard -- not struggling, yet not quite comfortable --
well, in a way the challenge seems all the more
daunting. Having conquered it once, can I do it
I think a lot about a couple of friends who are or
were training for their first marathons. It is
hard for them! They usually don't have the 10-15
miles/week foundation that I had when I started,
so every step can feel like a chore. The fatigue
and soreness are new and can feel insurmountable.
When the first deep cold spell settled over us in
December, one buddy set aside his ambition. He
wasn't ready to face two opponents at once. All
one can do is persevere. Eventually, everything
comes together, and you feel like a runner.
I know that I don't face their challenge, but having
already been there... This gives me a glimpse of
what it must be like for an accomplished athlete who
has to return from a debilitating injury. I know
it's just a glimpse; I've never accomplished much as
a runner other than to finish a few races and have
some fun. But it is an interesting new challenge to
struggle on a 3-, 5-, or 6-mile run, knowing what
it's like not to struggle at that distance,
or at any distance. Do I have what it takes?
I think so. Old friends and new will help me through.