(This is 50th anniversary of my first article in Runner’s World magazine. All year I post excerpts from my book, This Runner’s World.)
March 1997. It comes with age. The older we get, the greater the shift in proportions from life ahead of us to the living behind us, the more we look back and the less ahead.
These days writing sometimes overflows with backward thinking... No, that doesn’t sound right. Make it nostalgia.
You might think from reading these pieces that I’m ready to take up residence on a bar stool, and from there to bore people with how great things used to be and how they’ve gone to hell since then. But I haven’t sunk that low quite yet.
Blame some of what you see on these pages on my chosen profession. Journalists mainly write about the past. It’s the nature of our work to review what already has happened rather than anticipate what’s to come.
But runners can’t live in the past. Once we quit looking ahead, we become ex-runners. So let me count the ways that I still look forward:
Waking up to the first two hours of each day, which usually are my best two in every 24… Starting the day by writing a new diary page (where this piece began)… Greeting the first light of day with a run – or on rest days, with a walk.
Running in outlandish weather – be it windy, rainy, snowy, cold or hot… Running in the sunshine in the normally wet Oregon winter… Running in a downpour in the normally dry Oregon summer.
Running with my dog, the best training partner I’ve ever had… Running long on the trail that honors Steve Prefontaine in the best possible way… Running fast on the track at Hayward Field, the “Carnegie Hall” of our sport.
Going out for one hour, my favorite length of run… Taking one-minute walking breaks on long runs… Picking up speed while timing a single mile, my favorite distance to go fast.
Buying freshly baked bagels on the way home from a morning run.. Eating breakfast, my favorite meal, while reading the morning paper after a run… Shaving and showering after the post-run breakfast, while listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Taking a day off after earning it with a good run… Returning to running, hungry for it again after a good day off… Getting over an injury and getting back to normal running.
Going on the road to talk with runners at a race… Coming home from a road trip with a fresh set of memories.
Racing a 5K, my shortest distance now… Racing a half-marathon, my longest without needing and taking special training.
Planning and training for the next marathon… Surviving the latest marathon with no serious after-effects.
Visiting the Drake Relays, my ancestral home in this sport… Watching high school and college cross-country meets… Watching any track meet at Hayward Field.
Reading anything by my favorite running writers, Kenny Moore and Don Kardong… Reading Track & Field News, the purists’ publication… Reading the online Race Results Weekly, my quickest sources of news… Receiving letters, calls and emails from runners and readers
The list of joys-to-come could run much longer. But it’s long enough already to show that I don’t spend all my time looking backward. The past is a nice place to visit, but we can’t live there.
2018 Update. Twenty-one years further along, I have that much more to see behind and still more to anticipate ahead.
[Many books of mine, old and recent, are now available in two different formats: in print and as ebooks from Amazon.com. The titles: Going Far, Home Runs, Joe’s Team, Learning to Walk, Long Run Solution, Long Slow Distance, Miles to Go, Pacesetters, Run Right Now, Run Right Now Training Log, See How We Run, Starting Lines, and This Runner’s World, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe.]