When I was in high school, I played football and did the pole vault during track season. As a pole vaulter, I would see the overly skinny cross country runners, who ran the mile, 800 and 400 events, and think they looked emaciated. At one point, I considered trying cross country, but saw the cross country runners over the summer wearing tee shirts that read 100 mile club. This meant that they were running 100 mile weeks over the summer to get ready for fall cross country season. I figured I carried too much weight to run competitively with these spaghetti armed waifs and stuck to my more gymnastic vaulting. These guys just did not look manly to me. Oh, I knew I could never get near them in a distance race, but who wanted to look like these guys?
I had an older brother, Jim, who had tried football as a freshman, quickly decided it wasn't for him and got involved in the local bicycle scene. He was so into bicycling that he and his riding buddies followed the exploits of Eddie Merckx before there was any televised coverage of the Tour de France. From there, he started into running and eventually triathlons were thrown into the mix. During my college years, my brother arraigned for me to buy his buddies road bike and took me occassionally on some mid-range rides. On my return to Clearwater after college, he got me to start running. I ran my first 10K race event in 1982, the St. Pete Times Turkey Trot. My brother and his buddies were competitive. I was happy just to complete the course.
Brother Jim running a faster 10K time than I could ever hope to achieve.
I recall the first time I ran for my first long run in the 10 mile range. It was my first of only a couple of times in my life that I really felt the runners high. I remember just cruising along feeling great. I felt like I could run forever. Unfortunately, this feeling of a true runners high comes about once a decade.
The winter, my brother convinced me to run a half marathon at Sand Key Park in St. Petersburg. I wasn't sure I could run a distance that long, but I'd give it a try. I have two strong memories of that event. The first was getting to the 10 mile marker and thinking, "Why am I doing this? No one is paying me to run this long. I'm not being forced to run this far. What exactly is the point of all this?"
The second memory was of approaching the finish line and a spectator off to the side was smoking a cigarette. I caught a whiff of his smoke. To my oxygen sensitive lungs that whiff of smoke felt like a room full of smoke. I felt great resentment towards this spectator for smoking next to the route. I'm sure he had no idea of the discomfort he was causing the runners going by him. After finishing the half marathon, I was proud of my achievement, but had no desire to run that far again.
After that I ran the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a 15K road race run along Bay Shore Drive in Tampa. That run was nice because it the route is an out and back route next to Tampa Bay. You can see the leaders coming back as you approach the turn around point. I also ran a midnight 4th of July 5K run.
After working a couple of years as a CPA in Tampa, I returned to UF in the fall of 1986 for law school. I ran the Homecoming 5K a race from UF down University Avenue west into downtown Gainesville. It was festive run since it was run on the course and right before the homecoming parade. In the Spring of my first year, a bunch of us turned out for the Law Day 5K, which a few professors who were runners would show up and run with/against the students. My Civil Procedure professor, Dennis Slobogan had been a college track runner and he smoke the lot of us. My Torts professor, Richard Pearson was a tall, lean, but grey marathon runner who gave us a run for our money. I don't recall who beat whom at the end, but I recall it was a close finish.
I had a roommate, Tip Tomberlin who was a somewhat overweight guy from Jacksonville, who had run the Gate River Run. That spring we ran several road races outside of Gainesville. I don't recall the distances, but remember they had nice country side courses that we ran. I seem to recall running an event before a strawberry festival once. During my Law School years, I would return to Clearwater and run the Times Turkey Trot.
After law school and marriage to my wife Salome, we settled in Fort Lauderdale. I fell away from the road running circuit and never really hooked into the races in the area. I would run for general fitness, but would go long periods of not running at all. When I was 28, we started to go skiing once or twice a season. Thus, I tended to slack off during the summer months and start running enough in the fall to get in shape for the Turkey Trot and ski season. Salome & I entered the Zakaria 10K Heart Run in the late 1990s and ran that a couple of years in a row. It was a race sponsored by a local heart surgeon. However, an older runner died of a heart attack on the course in 1998 and the race was cancelled after that incident. I again returned to fitness running, but always felt it was a shame the race was cancelled most likely because of liability concerns.