This year, 2022 marks 30 years that I have been running and I have my wife to thank for getting me started all those years ago.
My wife had begun to run on her own sometime before she encouraged me to give it a try. As is often the case when a suggestion is made for me to try something new, I balked. But my wife was persistent and once I recognized the health benefit of getting regular exercise—which for me at the time was doing yard work—I took it up.
It was hard for me when I first started, and I could not understand why anyone would want to run. But I kept at it eventually getting over those early lactic acid burns in my legs as I tried to build up my distance. I set a goal for myself of being able to run in a 5K (3.1 mile) race and so this was the distance I first strived to achieve. But before I got there, a race came up that I really wanted to participate in.
It was in May of 1992 that my daughter, nine at the time, and I first ran in a race. Neither my daughter nor I had ever run that far. We started out OK and made it through the first mile without any problem. But during the second mile, we began to fatigue. We did manage to make it to the 2 and 2.5-mile marks but at that point neither of us thought we could make it the rest of the way without stopping and walking. Not wanting us to give up, I took hold of my daughter’s hand and said we could do this together. We held hands the rest of the way encouraging each other along. Towards the end, tears filled my daughter’s eyes and all I could do was continue to encourage us to finish. We made it to the finish line, most pleased with ourselves that we had endured the whole race without stopping to walk a single time. I still have the t-shirt from that first race as a reminder of us achieving that goal together.
Since then, I have upped my running but have experienced a number of injuries over the years that put my running on hold for a while. Whenever I could not run, it would pain me to see other people running in our neighborhood as I so wanted to get back to it. Fortunately, each time I recovered from my injuries and was able to return to running. Now 30 years hence, this milestone year marked additional challenges for me, but not of a healthcare kind.
If you have read my running posts before, you know I am not a fan of cold weather running and much prefer to run indoors at a gym rather than doubling or tripling clothing layers to stay warm outside. That sadly came to an end when the pandemic began in 2020 and businesses were required to close. While gyms have reopened and we have considered rejoining, the fact that gyms are still one of the top 5 or 6 (depending on your source) most likely places to catch COVID, we have not returned.
So, starting this past January, much like I had done the year before, one of the first things I would do in the morning as soon as I got up would be to check the weather to see if the morning temperatures would get above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, my default lowest temperature for running in shorts, a long-sleeve t-shirt, a hat, and gloves (the extent of cold weather gear I am willing to don). My preferred time to run (and always has been) is first thing in the morning (7-ish now that I am retired) so I can get in my exercise before showering for the day. If I saw that the temperature would get up that warm before noon, then I would eat breakfast, shave, and then do other activities until I could get out and run.
During normal times, I like to run every other day around the lake in our neighborhood, so my goal is to get in three or four runs a week. Looking back at the exercise history on my fitbit app, I can see that my first run was not until January 12th of this year when I went out to run at 11:43 AM. For the next two weeks, I again was only able to get out to run just once a week. But then at the end of January, I was able to run three days in a row, something I would not typically do but given the favorable weather, figured I needed to take advantage of the “relative” warmth.
As our winter weather began to subside in February, I was able to get in two runs most weeks and I faired as well during most of March. Just when morning temperatures were starting to climb in April, I took the first of many trips in the second quarter of the year that precluded me from getting a run in. Then at the beginning of June, something interesting happened.
On June 2nd the weather was finally warm enough for me to run at my normal time and upon my return home when I synced my watch with my phone, I found that my Fitbit had automatically gps-tracked my run and had even logged my split times (you can see I am not a fast runner).
Since then, I have tried to manually get this same tracking but without this original success, only getting it to work a few times. Usually what happened was I would get to a certain spot around the lake and get a notification that my Fitbit had lost the gps signal.
Then starting in July, my weather troubles resurfaced, only this time in the opposite direction. As with most of the US, we had extreme heat during July. And in Memphis, we typically have quite high humidity levels as well. So, in the morning when I got up, I again checked the weather but this time to see if the temperature and heat index at 7 AM was going to be below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I found enough mornings meeting this criterion and so was able to get into a normal routine of getting out at least three times a week. This running consistency also allowed me to get back to a sub-10-minute mile pace, much better than that dismal run at the beginning of June.
Finally, in August we got some relief from the extreme heat which is actually unusual since August is typically our hottest month. After the heat of July, a few mornings of 68-degree temperature even gave the feel of a bit of chill in the air. It was a welcome relief, and it was on one of these cool mornings that my Fitbit worked again confirming for me that I had improved my times.
Now that the heat of summer is behind us, I can enjoy the cooler morning temperatures for my run. Through the rest of the fall, I should have good running weather to keep up my exercise. But I know come January, I will start the process all over again. Or maybe, we’ll have a milder winter. I can only hope!