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Dr. J. on Running

A Century in Perspective

A Look at the First 100 Columns

Published March 22, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Two years ago, I wrote my first running column. Today, I look back at the first hundred columns, divide them into ten decades, and select my favorite column from each decade.

In the beginning, there was Samantha, the dog down the road. She was my worst fear on my morning runs. By bribing her with biscuits, we developed an accommodating arrangement. In the months that followed, she continued to chase cars and bicycles, but yielded the roads to pedestrians. Sadly, Samantha eventually caught a car.

In my teens, I borrowed Gibran's poetry to describe running and racing. Just as running is life for the runner, then racing is death for the racer. A race takes us through the stages of life, and doesn't every race end at the finish just as every life ends in death? When we race, we live life to the fullest, and bring death to our inhibitions and fears. It is in racing that we witness the rebirth of our soul.

Running my first marathon dominated the twenties. I wrote about my training plans, discussed tapering, recommended a cautious recovery and relived the marathon. The last steps around the Iwo Jima monument felt like an all-out sprint when it was a shuffle for survival. The finish-line clock read 3:52:10.

In mid-thirties, I shared the dream of a running library. Six months later, the dream came true with the dedication of the Ed Stabler Syracuse Chargers National Distance Running Collection at the Syracuse University Library. Housed in Bird Library, the Collection has over 600 books and thousands of periodicals.

Another dream ushered the forties, this time of an early morning run with Elle. With the lack of gravity in my sub-conscience, I reached many PRs that eluded me when awake. Alas, unlike the running library, my run with Elle remained just a fantasy.

In article 56, I offered an ode to my running partners, attorneys Dave and Bobb. An academic study in contrasts, they brought consistency to my running, a sounding board for ideas, relentless commentary, painless criticism, unsolicited opinions, and deaf ears to my pleas.

In the summer of 98, we celebrated the young life of Megan Patterson. Sadly, her life and contagious free spirit reached an untimely finish line in the Saranac River near the SUNY-Plattsburgh campus, her home for the summer. In her words, Megan had gone MIA with many races left un-run.

The seventies started with finding treasures on the run, including an abandoned newborn puppy. Seven-month old today, Java is a grateful, mixed-breed, multi-talented black dog who entertains us with flakiness and song.

My eightieth column coincided with the eightieth birthday of Dr. George Sheehan, and the celebration of the fifth anniversary of his death. While I never met Sheehan, he has had a lasting influence on my running and my writing. He gave me the courage to share those inner feelings that made every runner an experiment of one.

The nineties brought cold, silence, numbness, euphoria, and an ode to winter running. With temperatures near zero and a northern breeze, the fresh snow squeaked under my feet. Before I could write "Dear Diary", I shivered my way to a hot shower to thaw my frozen eyelids, numb toes and stiff fingers.

As I turn a page on the first century and look forward to the future, I wonder at the beauty of runners and the gift of running. An endless source of joy and sadness, highs and lows, pee-ares and pee-wees, running is not just fitness or sport.

Running is our way of life, a prayer of thanksgiving for our health, and a song of praise to the glory of creation.

Kamal Jabbour's first hundred columns are archived at http://running.syr.edu/column. Future columns appear in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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