Running has long been a passion of mine. My freshman year of high school, I ran cross country for the Panthers of Plymouth Comprehensive High School in Plymouth, Wisconsin. That may have been the beginning of my running career, but it wasn’t necessarily what excited me about the sport.
Cross country races were just over three miles and in practice, we typically ran three to five miles. All of which seemed to be a bit extreme to me. I remember my first race; it was at New Holstein High School. The starting gun sounded and everyone began to sprint. This was a complete surprise to me. After all, three miles seemed like an eternity and although I willingly joined the team, I could not understand why anyone would intentionally do something so painful. My perception of distance was obviously unsophisticated.
I did not go out for the cross country team my sophomore year. And I definitely did not run anything close to three miles or more until many years later. I was more likely to utter phrases like, “I don’t run unless I’m being chased.”
However, about five years after graduating from high school, the idea of running for fun grabbed my attention. I don’t recall why or where the interest came from, but it seemed like a good idea. Still living in Plymouth, a Midwestern town of roughly 8,000, I recall people asking me why I would do such a thing and even on occasion being heckled as I ran by folks in cars passing me by. This didn’t bother me, for I knew I very well could have been a heckler myself.
Initially I didn’t run very far, a couple of miles. This a distance that still seemed like quite a feat. But I kept doing it and over time, I ran longer and further.
Several pairs of sneakers and a few thousand miles later, I proudly declare myself a runner. In the 15 years or so since I first began to run for fun, my sense of distance has matured. Three miles no longer seems to be an eternity, but more an average or even a light workout.
Like my perception of distance, the sport of and culture surrounding running has come a long way. Running shoes have evolved tenfold, made from space age fabrics and are engineered to communicate with a smartphone to measure distance, calories burned, and even record the route. This also means if you want to listen to music while running, it does not involve something called a Walkman or a cassette tape. As for the culture of running, that too has changed considerably in the past 15 years. Running for fun and fitness is most certainly now in vogue. We all know someone who is training for a 5k, half marathon, or gasp, an ultra-marathon.
Now residing in Portland, I am living in one of the United States’ great cities for runners. My intent over the next few months is to use the forum that Oregon Sports News has so graciously extended to me to muse about running in Portland and Oregon. I encourage you to reach out and share with me your favorite routes, trails and running tips and tales. With that, it’s time to lace up my sneakers and go for a run! See you out there!
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdxsport