Finding my stride when nature calls

A funny thing happened on the way to the Cleveland Marathon, during the drive from Westlake to Browns Stadium that morning: I realized I had completely lost my desire to run anymore. Some serious soul-searching commenced after stinking up the half-marathon field a couple of weeks ago (and yes, I mean "stinking" both figuratively AND literally, which I'll explain later) I have figured out the reason. Anyway, let's start at the beginning...

Well over a year ago, in my quest to become some form of – in my estimation, anyway – a "super runner," I began a crazy marathon training schedule which included running on consecutive days two or three days a week. For me it triggered a level of pain in my left shin comparable to, say, water-boarding. Finally I had X-rays taken, revealing a stress fracture. 

Additionally, this past September, I finally relented to my doctor's wishes and began taking prescription medication for high blood pressure along with meds for high cholesterol. You know, seeing how I never got high grades in school, I guess it only fair that I have high-something somewhere. Didn't realize it at the time, but health was part of my motivation for running, and the drugs changed my outlook.

As some of my loyal reader(s) may recall, when my stress fracture was healed sufficiently to resume running in January, I mentioned on these pages that I had joined a fitness club. The idea behind this little nugget of brilliance was to avoid the elements of a typical Cleveland winter. Big, big mistake. Having already fallen into the habit of compensating for the pain with a shorter stride, the treadmill actually compounded the problem because I shortened my stride even further at higher speeds to counteract my fear of wiping out on the treadmill. 

I didn't recognize these problems immediately; all I know was that I didn't enjoy any aspect of running anymore. So in mid-March, after the St. Malachi 5-miler, fully frustrated since I wasn't progressing as I felt I should, I just stopped training. I still continued to run the races I had registered for: the Cleveland 10-miler, the Pittsburgh half marathon, and the Cleveland, which I downsized from full to half, mostly because my daughter Nicole was running the Pittsburgh and Cleveland half. I was in the race, but I really wasn't.

So there I was at the marathon: plodding along about mile seven, totally gassed, wondering what I was even there for. I looked over to my right and saw what I considered to be a sorry excuse for a human being, when I realize it was MY reflection in a storefront window. I hoped no one had witnessed what had just transpired, but at the rate I was traveling, it was pretty much just me and some occasional tumbleweed. I had long since told my daughter to go on without me, as I guess she had some crazy notion about finishing while there was still daylight.

It was right about this time that I believe the marathon gods spoke to me – in a rather unusual fashion. Right before the race, Nicole and I saw a guy passing out free samples of an energy drink, and decided to give it a try. I don't know if it was because this stuff was grape flavored or what, but suddenly, two hours later and out of the blue, I found myself making a mad dash for the nearest port-a-pot. I ran what was no doubt the fastest hundred or so yards in my life. I had no problem rudely cutting in front of a couple of women in line at the throne; there simply wasn't time to exchange pleasantries.

After my system – ahem – cleared out, I realized I had been running the way I used to: full stride. I emerged onto the street and proclaimed (which I think, technically, makes me a "potty-mouth") in my best "Rocky IV" Ivan Drago voice: "Glastest nyuk. Nyuk!" Translated from Dragian, that means, "I fight to win for me! FOR ME!" (For future reference, I also speak fluent Amish, Mexican and Manganese).

Since the marathon, I've resumed training diligently, and I'm running like I used to. This time, no treadmills, no fitness clubs, no excuses. I again run in the rain, and I will run in the snow and cold, like I used to. And as far as next year's marathon? The gods have indeed spoken, and the message is as clear as hand sanitizer:

Run, Drago, run.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits.

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Volume 4, Issue 11, Posted 10:03 AM, 05.30.2012