Not that we’ve all haven’t had enough already! But since its consuming so much of our waking moments these days, please allow me to have a little fun here. The only reason I started writing these articles back in 1996 was to make light of our situation, no matter what it was. Usually, the “situation” was the ridiculousness of what we do as runners. And I’m talking about serious runners. Back then (up until not too long ago…) I was among the most serious in town. I could and would click off a marathon ON PACE in the Fieldhouse – back when the 200 meter track was more open to “recreational” runners. It was obsessive, yes. I would join the MSU distance men’s workouts on their track – with Coach Dale Kennedy’s blessing. As I slowed through the years, he’d welcome me to the track to do my own workout so long as I didn’t cut off any of his runners (I of course never passed anyone – it was more a question of not throwing his runners off balance as they zoomed by). I was an equally obsessive distance running coach at a NCAA Div III school in Illinois. I lived in a world of personal statistics and how to make sure they always got better (faster times, PR’s) year after year after year.
Back to today’s world. Has anyone found that the current general malaise of having to “stay-at-home” and do “social distancing” has only inceased the efficiency and diligence of your daily workouts? We long distance runners (walkers, okay?) have the luxury of being accustomed to going out on the trail/road alone. It suits us fine. While obeying all the rules of the lockdown, how fortunate we’ve been given the green light to do what we love most to do! Miraculously, we’re one of the 3 big exceptions to staying at home….getting food, meeting medical needs, and EXERCISE. How about that? Stacy and I have loved ones in NYC where they pretty much have to stay inside. Our population density is so low here, we can roam the great outdoors at will. We are SO fortunate.
This has allowed me the ability to go through my yearly rite-of-passage – which entails giving up the freedom of skate skiing and transitioning to the more gravity-bound activity of moving across the surface of the planet on my own power without the aid of gliding across snow. Sadly, the Crosscut Nordic Center just closed for passholders April 19th. The door swung shut, but the virus didn’t notice. Nor did it notice my pilgrimage to the High School track. And the virus didn’t notice how painful it was for my body. The track workout (mind you, I’m talking about for really Mature Runners only) – is much less of a full-body workout like skate skiing, so I have to compensate with the dreaded trifecta: pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups. UGH. I keep thinking the winter hours of poling up and down hills will keep me strong, no - stronger. HA! My 1stvisit to the peeling blue hexagonal metal pull-up contraption at the end of the high school track found me unable to ONE single pull-up. That’s not fair. Besides, there I was, having finished a decent 12:40 walking mile, exhausted, and having to wait 6 feet away from the hexagonal machine while 2 high school show-offs took turns trying to one-up each other – endless pull-ups. They finally moved away from the blue torture contraption, so I could have my turn at what? Almost ½ a pull-up. At least they didn’t laugh out loud. Yes, I was jealous – they probably saw me stare. It brought up from some deep place in a memory bank that “I used to do that”….was it this lifetime? And another thing, as a former coach, every workout HAS to show some kind of progress – any kind will do. The curve has to keep going up, on any level. So, 2 days later – at the track of course, I did a full ½ pull-up. Now that is measurable progress!
And what really motivates me to keep doing this endless dance of workouts? Here’s the very frank truth – its called Frank Newman. At the end of winter, and we’re talking about many decades of doing this, I HAVE to be physically able to complete the Frank Newman Marathon the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. That’s the only reason. The only logical explanation is….I’m obsessive. I’ve written each year about this event. For a long time it used to be the only relaxing marathon when I was ticking them off all the time. Now, it’s the ONLY marathon I dare do each year. And also because Kathy Brown and Bob Wade let me do it. On my own terms (we start our own watches, and self-support ourselves with hidden food/drink along the way). Then I read that it’s been cancelled. What? Not on your life. I will toe the line (hopefully with Stacy at my side again) around 5am May 23rd. We’ll leave a car at Bozeman Pass, that’s where Stacy waves good-bye, and will meet me at Sacajawea Park around whenever I finish. Now, that’s a decent excuse to go to the track and up the mileage bit by bit over 5 or so weeks, wouldn’t you say? And that, folks, keeps my own obsessive mind off the world-wide obsession. And today? I’m off to the track in hopes of getting a full pull-up. If not, I’ll find someway to notch an improvement in some category….I have so many of them up-my-sleeve! - David Summerfield