Dr. J on Running

Why We Run

2 November 2009

For the nth time this year, I woke up in Alabama after a restless night away from home. The outside temperature read 42F. The weather forecast predicted sunshine and 70 degrees at noon. The call of the road and my relentless schedule prevented me from postponing the run. Shorts and T-shirt complemented my yellow New Balance 903 for another journey along perimeter road.

I felt chilly for the first few minutes, but adjusted rapidly to the stillness of a new week. I ran effortlessly, cut the tangents on the road less traveled, and compared my splits to those of my infamous post-chicken-fried-steak indigestion run of two weeks ago. I felt my run evolving into something special. I pushed the pace, barely touching the pavement with my toes, and pumped my arms.

My faithful left illiotibial band interjected around mile three, so I countered by hopping onto the grassy shoulder. A mere dozen steps later, the cushioned bounce changed my gait enough to loosen my knee. The pain faded away as suddenly as it had appeared. I stayed on the grass while the footing permitted it. Four miles went by. Three-and-a-half miles remained.

Running along the flight line gave me the urge to fly. A hole in the grass obliged and sent me airborne. I felt too cold to land on my hands, so I tucked in my shoulder and tumbled over. I laid still for several seconds as I took mental stock of the damage. When the numbness subsided, I struggled back onto my feet and resumed running. I brushed off my muddy hands, and saw no blood, not even a scrape. I felt a sting in my right elbow and right calf as sweat seeped into my wounds.

I completed this 12K run in 68 minutes, two minutes faster than my indigestion run. I walked into my room sweaty and happy. The urge to sit at the keyboard and write a column overcame me. I remembered Dr, George Sheehan – he wrote his most inspired material after a boardwalk run along the Jersey Shore, sitting at this typewriter facing the ocean. Then it came clearly to me – today marked the 16th anniversary of the death of Dr. Sheehan. George would have been 91.

Eleven years ago today, I wrote a column remembering George Sheehan. I remembered him as the philosopher of running who wrote on the “why”, not the “how” of running. I remembered that racing was the reason for running – we run so we can race. I remembered that he ran an hour every day – the first half-hour for the body and the second half-hour for the soul.

As I contemplated this decision point in my running, George provided me clarity on the way forward. My recovery back to 30 miles per week proved uneventful. The way ahead promises focus, hills and intervals, long runs and races. This body may have another Marathon hidden deep inside it.

Dr Kamal Jabbour contemplates optimistically running a fall 2010 Marathon. Dr. J receives email at kamal@jabbour.org. His RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever the endorphines move him to write.

© 2009 Dr Kamal Jabbour