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Run Your Way to a Memorable 2012

1/4/2012
The unpredictability of training runs can lead to stories that you will remember, and share, for a lifetime. Tim Catalano

How many running stories can you tell?

Memories and stories are how we keep track of our lives. When we are active and adventurous we live stories that we enjoy telling year after year. Both good and bad, these stories help define our lives and make us interesting to talk to at parties. Imagine going through an entire year without doing anything memorable. Would those 365 days even be worth living? Fortunately, runners never need to worry about such a fate.

Since this is the first week of 2012 and the dust has settled from the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it is time to get serious about putting together the best and most memorable year possible. As a runner you are probably already creating memories and living unpredictable adventures. It is hard to forget a new PR in the 5K or running a marathon in the rain. It is also impossible to forget those runs where things go wrong. If you are like us, some of your favorite stories happened when your runs didn’t go as planned.

Tim:

The run started like any other. I was running alone on a trail I had run many times before. Lost in personal thoughts and paying just enough attention to the trail not to trip and fall, I was busy creating a “to-do” list in my head. Moments later I was on the ground bleeding from my left knee. Did I trip? No. Did I run into something? No. The truth is almost too embarrassing to admit. Long before smart phones with silly game-apps, I found myself playing a real life version of “Angry Birds.” Apparently my running path took me a little too close to the nest of a Red-winged Blackbird who was looking for a fight. It swooped down so close to my face, I reflexively ducked for cover. But at the speed I was running I went down and rolled on the dusty ground. My adrenaline was pumping as I tried to make sense of what had just happened, but the bird was not done harassing me. Perhaps sensing it had the upper hand, (wing) it continued to dive-bomb me as I backed away in a crab-walk position. When I was far enough away, the bird landed on a tree branch and gave me a look that said: “I dare you to come over here again!” Free from the onslaught of attacks, I inspected my wounded knee and looked around to see if anybody had seen what just happened. I was relieved that no one was there to witness me getting beat up by a bird the size of a Gatorade bottle.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the run but the small scar on my knee reminds me of the last time I ran that trail and the story has been told many times.

Adam:

I was on a mini-vacation in Lake Powell with some friends. We were having a good time water-skiing and playing in the lake but I was still in training and needed to get in my daily workouts. One morning after eating some questionable campfire chili the night before, I took off for a run into the Arizona desert. The morning air was warm enough that I decided not to wear a shirt. About seven miles from our camp site, the leftover chili in my stomach began to disagree with me, causing intense cramps. I looked around for a tree or shrub or anything to hide behind but there was nothing but wide open space and sand. I had no choice but to stop right there and answer Nature’s call. I was angry all the way back to the campsite. I was upset at the chili and mad about having to go to the bathroom mid-run in the desert.

Still angry, I began to tell the story of what happened to my friends in graphic detail, “Of course I didn’t have any toilet paper and there were no leaves or bushes around,” I fumed. “So I had to rip up my underwear into strips!”

When I told them how I had sacrificed my favorite pair of running underwear to make strips of toilet paper, everyone was laughing so hard I forgot this was supposed to be a bad story. I even forgot I was mad and started to laugh myself. To this day that story gets funnier every time my friends and I get together and reminisce. Yes, it was a bad run. But the memory can still make me smile all these years later.

The point of these stories is to illustrate two points about running: First, running provides opportunities both good and bad to create memories that can last a lifetime. And secondly, even unfortunate events can create wonderful stories we will enjoy telling for years to come.

As a runner you no doubt remember many more days in a year than someone who spends all their free time watching television or surfing the web. You get to create memories, both good and bad, that will stick with you the rest of your life. Keep them in perspective and enjoy the adventures running brings. Twenty-twelve has just begun but if you keep running and racing you are sure to make it a year to remember.

What is your most memorable running story? Share with us in the comments below.

Tim Catalano and Adam Goucher are the authors of "Running the Edge." They can also be found at their website and would appreciate some new followers at facebook.com/runtheedge.