It was a hot steamy Thursday evening in mid-June. I was lined up on the starting curve with 23 other runners, ranging in ages from 10 to 65, both men and women. The Delaware Running Club in conjunction with the Delaware Running Company had organized two summer all-comer tracks, including the one in which I was toeing the line. The gun sounded (or it might have been someone yelling “GO”) and we’re off!
During this Olympic season, racing on the track will be front and center as one of the highlights of the Games. It always is. Those Greeks really knew how to throw a party. Most runners will follow the track portion of the Games pretty closely and will most likely seek out a few races to watch, such as Usain Bolt versus everybody else. But how many of us will actually venture onto a track to race? My above mentioned 5,000 meter race was 12 1/2 laps. All in the same direction and no, there is no course map provided.
Racing on a track, running a cross country or trail race, an ultra-marathon, or a simple road 5k like the upcoming Peach Festival 5k in Middletown all take courage and some modicum of training to be successful. And that success is defined in whatever terms are acceptable to YOU, not me or anyone else.
But runners also have comfort zones. We train on the same courses, we run at the same paces, we compete in the same races. I was on a team that once ran the same relay race in Allentown, Pa. eight consecutive years. Every so often we’d switch up who ran which leg, but the routine was pretty predictable.
So when was the last time you got out of your zone and tried something new? In the winter of 2003-04, just after turning 40, I decided to try a full season of indoor track. Nothing shines a spotlight on your shortcomings (or your pending bald spot) faster than 10 laps to a mile. Seven meets, including the national meet (held in Boston) later, I was nationally ranked in three different distances. It was the most fun I’d had in years!
There are tons of options for variety in and around the Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania region. My bride attempted her first duathlon last year and had a ball both competing AND training for it. I know a bunch of friends from the Middletown Athletic Club who have gotten good and dirty in the growing number of mud run events. Then there’s that track racing thing.
Take a look around and get out of your comfort zone. Try an open cross country race this year. Gather up a few folks and enter a team marathon relay. I’ve already done two mud runs but I’m sure you can find three other nuts to join you. Variety is the spice of life… even in running.
Hey, let nothing intimidate you. If you recall, as recently as the 1990s, few women had ever pole vaulted and in the 1980s none did. At the 2004 indoor national meet in Boston, I watched a 60-year-old woman clear 8 feet. Now THERE’S some courage. I bet the Greeks would have approved.
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andy Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer. Shearer has been running since 1978. His column “runs” the first Monday of each month.