I haven't written much about 1986. It wasn't my best year.
It began well enough. On the very first weekend I finished fourth in a 15K race with a large, talented field. The next two weeks, I ran every day, sometimes twice, and averaged nearly 80 miles a week, high mileage for me.
On Jan. 19, I ran four miles to get to a local five-mile race, cruised along to win the race in 27:42, and then ran back home for a total of 13 miles. But if you look at the notes in my log that day, you'll see two prophetic words — knee sore.
By the end of March, the knee pain was worst and I was taking short breaks. By summer, I wasn't running at all.
In the midst of all of this, I started a new job. It wasn't that I didn't like what I was doing before; I loved working at the local running store, Fleet Feet, which was named before the franchise was formed. But I didn't think my job provided opportunity for someone who hoped to support a family some day, and so I began a challenging new career in sales.
A few months later, my young marriage ended, and life devolved into a painful, confused mess.
Months of physical therapy did nothing to help my knee, and I eventually learned that surgery was necessary. Diagnostics weren't as sophisticated back then, and so there was some mystery around what the surgeon would find during the operation. But whether with or without his blessing, I began doing short runs in October.
On the day before the surgery, I ran to the McDaniel College track. Then I stopped and sat down on the outside lane.
I consider this low point of my life. I was lonely, failing at work, and about to lose running indefinitely.
And so I got up and started running hard around the track.
No challenge since has been as difficult as those I faced in 1986, but my days haven't all been easy. You know life as well as I do, so elaboration isn't necessary. In all of my years, running has been the most effective remedy to any worry, stress or pain.
But running has been more than that, because things which we persist in doing leave an imprint upon our deepest self.
I need only one word to describe myself: runner.
I'm proud of that definition. It conjures up images of discipline and effort. And yet, I'm in a process of evolution, and a part of me doesn't want to keep pace.
My younger self presides over my emotions too many times. He wants to run fast with the leaders. He refuses to remember the year on the calendar, pulling my aspirations back decades, and I can't seem to satisfy him.