Wednesday, September 30, 2015

15 Years On

One of the things I regret is the fact that I didn't routinely keep a running log until 1985.  That's when the late, great Tom Dowling insisted that keeping one was an important part of a training program.  Tom started coaching me in December of 1985 and would routinely check my log and write observations and words of encouragement in it. 

Through high school and college I never kept track of my mileage or workouts.  I kept a list of my in season high school races and much to my regret, did not keep a list of the dozens of summer races I ran which included road races and track meets.  I only remember a handful of those summer races.  Remarkably, I can remember something about every race I ever ran for Lawrence High.  I guess they had more meaning than the out of season races.

Over the last month or so I started digging through all of my logs that I've kept over the last 30 years to create a database of all the races I ran.  I don't know why I'm doing it, except it's interesting to come across races that I have absolutely no memories of running.  I'm not sure I was a prolific racer.  Tom Dowling was not a big believer of racing a lot.  Over the 30 years I ran as many as 17 races in a year and as few as zero, which happened in 2005, a year in which I was dealing with a serious health issue which left me wondering if I would ever race again.

The one thing that stood out to me was the fact that the last time I broke 40 minutes for a 10000 meter road race was in 2000.  The 15th anniversary of that race is coming up in a couple of weeks.  It was in Fargo, North Dakota at a hospital charity race named for baseball great Roger Maris.  I wasn't in very good shape and was pleased that I ran 39:34, but if you would have told me that this would be the last time under 40 I would have laughed.

The following year I was training for a marathon and couldn't get below that 40 minute barrier.  I was 45 years old and still running 5K's in the low 19's which would translate to being able to break 40 but alas, it wasn't to be.  It was downhill from there.

I can remember a couple of years later it was a struggle to try and break 20 minutes.  A number of leg injuries, the illness I suffered and age was taking its toll.  But I think the biggest problem was my training.  I no longer had the desire to do long runs.  In my 30's the long run was a 21 mile Sunday ritual.  By my 40's it was a 16 mile ritual.  After my illness, concerns about dehydration made runs of more than two hours a dicey proposition.

Even if I were to somehow reinvigorate my training regiment, lose 20 pounds and devote myself to breaking 40 as a goal, I know that ship has sailed.  I think I could still run 5 kilometers under 7 minute pace but I have to ask myself, is it worth the work?  I'm still reasonably competitive in my age group.  Yet being a 60 year old cock of the block holds to luster for me. 

I train now because I still enjoy running.  I race because I love the feeling of effort that racing brings.  Times mean little anymore.  The test of self means much more.  And I'm thankful that I have those logs that Tom Dowling insisted that I keep to remind me of those tests.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Run Florida

I'm a little late to my own anniversary.  Technically, I purchased a run specialty shop on September 1, 2014.  I didn't start working there full time until the third week of September.  So somewhere in the midst of this small business madness I'm celebrating one year as owner of Run Florida On McGregor.

While it may have been a long, strange trip for the Grateful Dead, for me it's been a short, educational one.  I had wanted to get into the run shop business for the better part of the last 20 years.  Mike and Candy Pemberton decided I was the one they could trust to not mess it up.  They had created a homey, old school, slice of running nirvana that they really didn't want to see turned inside out.  Outside of a picture of me running the St. George Marathon in 1990 behind the counter and a poster of this year's Prefontaine Classic overlooking the showroom, little has changed.

Oh sure, we carry a few more shoes, maybe too many more shoes, but I hate it when a customer comes in and we don't have the size they're looking for.  And that's probably the biggest lesson I've learned, inventory control.  The shoe companies don't make it easy.  They create too many shoes in too  many awful colors, a few of which are way over-priced and they obviously have a pack mentality.

The minimalist movement reared its ugly head about a half dozen when Born to Run hit book shelves.  Now thanks in large part to Hoka One One, the pendulum has swung 180 degrees.  Maximal cushioning with a minimal heel drop is the hot new trend.  And then there are the tried and true shoes that fall in between, but that's really not what this blog is all about.

It's about people.  95 percent of the people that walk into my store are incredible.  They are looking for guidance and direction and we bust our hump trying to find the perfect shoe from them.  There are the four percent that come in and try out shoes, never to return because you know they're going online to order them and save all of five dollars.  I'm okay with that because at least they know we exist and a time will come when they're in a pinch and they'll come back.

And then there's the one percent, unhappy, confused and just awful people in general.  They hate all the colorful styles.  You show them every conceivable style and color in every catalog and they're outraged that the shoe companies don't make old-fashioned black or white shoes.  They order shoes and never come in to pick them up.  Or they come six months later after you've called them three times and become angry when you've sold them after waiting for three months.  Then they have the nerve to ask you to order more shoes for them.  I asked them if I have a sign hanging around my neck that says I'm stupid.  Needless to say they aren't my customer anymore.

Yet it's really about the new runner who walks into the door looking to enter a world that you've lived for the last 40 years.  They want to run.  Maybe they want to lose a few pounds, challenge themselves with a 5K or a half marathon.  What they find, rather quickly, is a huge community that is ready to open their arms up to them.  Southwest Florida has some many running groups that support every type of runner imaginable that it's easy to find a place that fits for you.

So here's to another year of Run Florida On McGregor, where we celebrate good shoes, a good run and the good men and women, who grace our store, all in search of the best run experience possible.