By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
In the tradition of New Year's Day, about 30 runners gathered for the annual Rooster Inn Run-Eat Biathlon. The weather was similar to last year's: very cold - the temperature was zero, with bright sunshine and 3 feet of fresh snow on the ground.
Shortly after 9 a.m., we started the five-mile run. We chattered cheerfully about our new-year resolutions, as the pack slowly spread out. While no 4-minute milers were among us - the snowstorm stranded him in Hershey - the wide range of talent was representative of our running community. The youngest runner was 13 years old, the oldest 68.
The five-mile event consisted of four segments, resembling the four seasons of the year. The first segment is flat and easy, similar to the slow pace of winter. The second segment is a short steep uphill, reminiscent of the start of spring racing season. The third segment is a steady long uphill, reminiscent of a long summer racing season. The fourth segment is a downhill back home, as the racing season winds down into the pleasant running of fall.
Battling slippery footing and variable winds, the leaders finished in under 40 minutes and came back for the rest of us. Everyone was back by the fire within an hour, for the second stage of the biathlon, an all-you-can-eat, pot-luck brunch. With bagels, muffins and cakes on our plates, and soup and coffee in our cups, we gathered around the fireplace to share our expectations and dreams. With the aroma of burning hardwoods scenting the air, we replaced the calories burned on the run.
The new-year resolutions of this running crowd were mostly optimistic, and some were even realistic. Many hoped for a year free of injuries. Several set goals for specific races: sub-6:30 mile, sub-6 mile, sub-5:15 mile, sub-5 mile, sub-4:15 1,500 meters, sub-13 3K, sub-10:20 3K, sub-9:20 2-miles, sub 19 5K and a 22:30 5K.
Some expectations remained qualitative: run three miles without stopping, run a marathon, finish a 50-mile race, run a long run every two weeks, run 70 miles per week or find five new running partners. A few runners resolved to lose weight: 15 pounds seemed to be the magic target. One runner had this goal: "running at least once this year a monthly mileage total equal to my weight in pounds" (that's a lot of miles).
Some of these runners had more than running on their minds. The variety bunch included finishing a Ph.D., succeeding in college and retaining (or was it regaining) a sense of humor.
While our new-year resolutions and goals were personal, the positive outlook of this running party was contagious. Usually, whenever two or more runners get together, the conversation quickly drifts to bad races and injuries, medication and courses of treatment. Today, the tone of the gathering was different.
There was talk of successes and goals, resolutions and expectations. Those who ran a mile in 7 minutes last year resolved to run it in 6 minutes this year. Those who could not train for a marathon last year resolved to run one this year. Those who ran a marathon resolved to run another marathon, just a bit faster this year. Those who ran a 50K ultramarathon resolved to run a 50-miler.
In this season of holy days and holidays, gifts and thanksgiving, there was little talk of presents that runners receive. Instead, there was much talk of sharing the joy of running. Resolving to meet new runners, to find new running partners or to help with a running program for children, all aim to spread the joy of running. So this year, as you review your goals and resolutions, look around you for ways to give someone the gift of running.
Kamal Jabbour resolved to run 1,998 miles in 1998. He is two pounds heavier after the Run-Eat Biathlon, and has 1,993 miles to go. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.