Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running


The Slow Sibling of Running

Published November 12, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

My father did not own a car. He walked to work every morning, and walked back home in the evening. He walked to the bank and to the stores. He walked to church and to visit his elderly relatives. He rode the bus only to reach destinations more than a few villages away.

I grew up in the city, but often visited relatives in my village of Shimlan, a good 20 kilometers southeast of Beirut. My dad and I often caught a morning ride to the village, spent a half-day in the clean air of pine and oak trees, ate a light lunch, then walked back home. We often achieved our goal of getting home before sunset.

Dad also owned a small vineyard deep in the mountain. Throughout the summer, we left home at dawn, walked two hours on narrow trails to get there, filled two large baskets with grapes and figs, and walked back home before it got too hot. Shotgun around my father's shoulder to protect us from snakes, he and I took turns carrying our harvest.

Walking became an integral part of my life. After finishing high school, I lived at home and walked to college. For my graduate studies in England, I lived near campus and walked to school every day. When my family immigrated to America, I lived on campus and walked to work. It took a Syracuse winter to convince me to earn my driver's license and buy a car.

As a runner, walking retained a special place in my training. During the racing season, I ran six days, and walked on the seventh. Walking gave me a mental break from pounding, cleansed my muscles from the waste of hard workouts, and allowed me to rebut my partner's monologues of the preceding runs when I hung to dear life just to keep pace.

Marathon training brought about my first running injury, when I stepped in a pothole on a dark winter morning. A multiple fracture in my foot and a hard cast for six weeks atrophied my leg. My orthopedist prescribed walking. I gradually built up to a five-mile walk, six days a week. I ran on the seventh day, but I never told him.

I considered racewalking once, but was dissuaded by Bob Costas. Commenting on the Olympic racewalk, where athletes tried to walk as fast as possible without running, he likened the competition to seeing who could whisper loudest.

Today, ten years slower but none the wiser, I still turn to walking when running feels too painful. I walk to recover from injuries. I walk back from long runs when my appetite to run far exceeds my ability. I park my car off-campus, and walk to work. I even walk from the couch to the television instead of using the remote control. Not.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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