My life has been a series of obsessions. The first was tennis, back in the late seventies when the sport was in its heyday. I grew up across the street from a set of courts and my brother and I would be there everyday honing our skills and taking on all comers. The only breaks we took during the summer were to watch Wimbledon on TV.
I was a huge Bjorn Borg fan and probably the only kid in my little western Pennsylvania town that had Fila clothes, Diadora shoes and a Donnay racket. Borg would forego shaving during the tournament and would look so cool by the time he reached the finals. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to shave, so then I could NOT shave during Wimbledon.
My brother and I are only 13 months apart and extremely competitive. This intense rivalry pushed our games to new levels and it wasn’t until he started beating me regularly that I began to lose interest. However, his love of tennis has continued and now he’s one of the head teaching pros at Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina.
After tennis, my obsessions continued one after another through the years: Kurt Vonnegut, golf, Jack Kerouac, the Grateful Dead, snowboarding, Tom Waits, mountain climbing, Haruki Murakami, travel writing, and then for the last several years, running. This parade of random obsessions has been a great source of fun. Life is never boring while you’re in the grip of an all-consuming activity.
I didn’t consciously choose any of these obsessions. They chose me and would eventually pass just as mysteriously as they appeared. I never used to worry when my interest in one of these activities started to wane because I knew that something else would soon appear to take its place.
At the end of last year, without any sort of warning, running started to lose its appeal. It made me sad to think that this thing which has given me so much pleasure may no longer be a part of my life.
Looking back on 2014, I think of all the places running has taken me. There were races in Texas hill country and in the mountains of Oregon and Washington. While traveling I was able to do training runs though Sabino Canyon in southern Arizona, along the River Walk in San Antonio, around Central Park in New York, through O’Keeffe Country outside of Santa Fe and over a seven mile bridge linking the Florida Keys.
One day I saw a bald eagle scoop a fish out of the Willamette during a morning run along the river and another day watched the sun rise and then set while circumnavigating Mount St. Helens. I feel so lucky to have had these experiences and know that they wouldn’t have been possible without running being such a big part of my life.
So for the first time I decided to not sit back and let an obsession pass. I tried instead to come up with a plan so running could remain my focus. Initially the plan involved taking some time off and only running when the mood struck. For a few months I only ran 2-3 times a week and some weeks not at all. As time went on, I wanted to run less and less.
Running, they say, is addictive, but you want to know what else is addictive? Not running. As my fitness level decreased, running became harder and less enjoyable. I understood for the first time why most people think of running as a chore, as something to be endured.
So I started 2015 with a new plan. Instead of running only when I felt like it, I would now run everyday, no excuses. It doesn’t matter if it is cold, dark, or windy, I’ll be out there putting in the miles.
It really sucked at first, but then slowly my fitness level started to improve and it started to suck a bit less. As it got less difficult, it became more enjoyable (funny how that works). It was a solution so obvious I’m still shocked it actually worked.
Now that March has arrived and the days are getting brighter, I find myself obsessing about running again. I’ve starting checking all my favorite websites and am now planning my summer racing schedule. Recently I had a dream come true by having my photo appear in two different running magazines.
The first was in an issue of Ultrarunning and is somewhat embarrassing.
The photographer caught me at a low point in the race and while the woman next to me appears to be out on a Sunday stroll, I look like a broken down old man with a walking stick. Luckily in this photo from Trail Runner magazine, I’m looking a little more determined.
These pictures appearing one after the other felt like fate. I now know that it’s too soon for me to give up and move on to something new. There’s still so much I want to see and do in this sport. And even though this old man may sometimes need a walking stick to get up the hill, I’m going to keep plugging away no matter what.