Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Mileage: Looking Back

On the one hand, I’m really super Wham-O excited about this weekend’s Columbus road trip, spending time with very dear friends we don’t get to see nearly enough, and, of course, the Dublin Irish Festival.

But when I hoist that pint of the fest’s special stout, it will come with a tinge of sadness, because it means I’m breaking the streak of six summer races which my brother Adam and I started in 2003, and which marked the beginning of my running journey.

Before that first Pro Football Hall of Fame 2-Mile, I had never run more than a mile, and my “training” that year consisted of going out once, three weeks before the race, and seeing if I could run two miles without puking. Organized sports were never my thing past about the fourth grade, and even then it was just YMCA-league soccer. (In fact, not too long before then, I’d gotten a call from an old friend about playing in a pick-up indoor soccer game one night. About 15 minutes in, I thought I was Going. To. DIE. Or throw up. Maybe both. I spent about three times as long recovering from that game as I did playing in it.)

I enjoyed that first two-mile, though. Not the run itself, really, but the finish, running up the hill in front of the Hall of Fame, and then all the Subway subs and fruit and cookies and water and sports drinks we could eat.

The next year, 2004, we had to run the North Canton Fourth of July 2-Mile because Adam was going to be out of town during the HOF race. I think this time I actually managed to put in two or three practice runs beforehand, and while I knocked a stunning minute-and-a-half off my previous year’s time, I’ve since come to realize that the North Canton’s course is basically a flat square, compared to the HOF course with its two grueling climbs. The thing is, though, I didn’t like the way I finished the North Canton race: The last 100 yards or so I was so beat that I kind of half-assed it across the line, and that stuck with me. Since then, I’ve always tried to make sure I’m pushing as hard as I can at the finish.

In 2005, 2006 and 2007 I started running more in preparation for the races, and it gradually grew into trying to jog two miles once a week or a few times a month. Fall and winters, though, still remained mostly wastelands, running-wise. My race times got a little better, though I never beat my North Canton run (I’m telling you, those hills are bastards), and Adam put it into my head to embrace the final climb and try to pass at least one person during that last stretch every year.

And every year, I grew to enjoy the whole thing, from the race day nerves, even though there was nothing really at stake, to pushing past that inevitable complaining from my inner voice about a minute into every race: “Seriously? You paid for this? This isn’t fun at all – what were you thinking?!?

We stuck to the 2-mile for pretty much one reason: Because, duh, it was mercifully short. And every year, when I was at my worst, my most miserable, when that horrible whisper came into my head and said, “I could grab my knee and limp off to the side and just walk and it would feel soooo muuuch betterrrrr,” then at that point, I knew I only had, what, like five minutes left?

Every summer we sat there post-race munching subs and chips watching the five-milers come in looking like they’d been beaten with sacks of oranges, and we said, “See, now that’s just crazy. Running five miles? Something’s gotta be wrong with your head.”

Last spring, then, something must’ve gone wrong with my head. On March 23, I went for a two-mile run for no other reason than it was sunny and in the mid-40s and I hadn’t run in five months. And around this time, Adam started saying he was thinking of giving the HOF 5-Mile a try.

Add to this that I had also recently gotten back in touch with my friend Keith, a longtime distance runner, who told me outright that there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to handle five miles.

So on March 29, 2008, as I had five years before, I put on my shoes and went out to try something for the first time, hoping only to finish five miles without stopping or throwing up.

Within a couple weeks I was doing 5-milers regularly, and pushing myself out to new frontiers a step at a time. I even got new shoes, having run on the same pair for those first six races.

We did our first HOF 5-Mile in the middle of Adam’s own training for his first marathon, and in the weeks afterward, I ran with him regularly on Saturdays.

I remained, though, pretty much a one- or two-days-per week,  runner, taking on three to seven miles at a time, and rarely running back-to-back days until this June, when I committed to this marathon.

Adam hits the road with me almost every one of my four running days per week. We’ve put in more miles together this summer than we did in those first five years combined, I’m sure, and maybe even counting last year’s pre-race mileage.

But I’m still going to miss those five that end with a charging climb in front of the Football Hall of Fame followed by a pile of sub sandwiches.

July 29, 2009 - Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports, Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Map out a race course with a hill at the end of it in Columbus, get on the phone with your brother, (with headset if possible) and run the thing simultaneously with him! (Is he running it without you?)

    Sure you’re geographically shifted, and the conversation may be sparse, but you could keep the streak “alive?”

    Comment by Kink | July 30, 2009 | Reply

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