Remembering my introduction to running

Patrick Newell

About 12 1/2 years ago, in early 2000, I decided to renounce my sedentary home and work lifestyle, and get back in shape. At first I tried the stationary bike, then I moved on to an elliptical cross trainer, and finally, my albatross, running.
All through high school, except my freshman year, I cagily avoided the dreaded “one-mile” run during our track and field unit in gym class. From the time I graduated from high school until my early 30s, I could probably count on my hands the number of times I went for a run – just for exercise. For me, running was only useful as a means to chase a ball, and nothing else.
It took an eye-opening moment to change my view on exercise.
My third child, Arielle, was due in about two months, and I resolved to drop some weight. I was aghast the last time I stepped on a doctor’s scale, and I kept pushing the sliding weight farther to the right than ever before. When it comes to weighing yourself, right is definitely wrong.
Back in 2000, my sister Kate was the fitness director at the Norwich YMCA, and she gave me the nickel tour of the Nautilus center. In over 20 years as a Y member, I had never set foot in the hallowed Nautilus room. That was another level up on the membership purchase, and my lone interest at the Y, to that point, was honing my marginal basketball skills.
Kate took me through the nautilus lifting stations, and the rest was up to me and my motivation. After a week on the bike, I decided I needed something else. I didn’t have music to listen to at that point (I really could have used Internet radio), so my workout was me, my machine, and my meandering thoughts. Getting me to stay in one spot for more than 20 minutes at a time is difficult enough, especially when I am willingly doling out sweat in buckets. Sweaty shirts? What the heck were those?
Sitting on a bike was boring, and the elliptical kept my interest for only 20 minutes at a time. I sure as heck wasn’t getting on the Nordic skiing track, so my logical move was my bane for years.
I remember clear as day my first run outdoors. I had pre-measured a one-mile loop from my house on Francis Ave., and made my trek mid-evening in February. With the temperature approximately in the high 20s, I equipped myself with sweatpants, two undershirts, and a sweatshirt. Not familiar with how much the body heats up during a run, I made darn sure I wasn’t freezing my hind end.
That one mile was the longest 5,280 feet I ever covered on my own. Despite running at a musical pace best defined as “largo,” I was starched by run’s end. I think I coughed up every bit of mucus my body had produced the last 10 years, then I wheezed and hacked myself into the belief that running was actually beneficial to my health.
Just like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. I gradually added tenths of miles to my runs. Literally, I progressed from 1.0, to 1.2, to 1.4 miles, and eventually up to nearly two miles. Did I ever get the running bug? Heck no! I still would rather chase a ball, but with age, you have to make some concessions. Within a few years, I was running five-kilometer races, and to my surprise, I didn’t embarrass myself.
I recount my foray into running as a segue into our selections this week as Athlete of the Week, Norwich juniors Robert Jeffrey and Matt Murray.
As a some-time runner – and competitively a few times – I have great admiration for those who attain times I can only dream about. Matt and Robert are standouts on the NHS cross country team, and neither ran distance races competitively as recently as two years ago. Matt has long been known as an outstanding sprinter and middle distance runner, and Robert was still on the soccer team at the start of fall practices this August. Matt has a leg up on Robert – by one year – and the two are setting a brisk pace that should take them to the state cross country meet next month.
As talented as these young men are, I can safely assume neither one has worn three layers of clothes while running or nearly died after the first mile.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat