So, I decided to create this blog to share stories about my running adventures over the past 35 years or so. My only hope is that these stories will inspire people to run, or for those already running, to keep on running.
Family and running have been a positive thread throughout my life, I am lucky in that way. After being born in Florida to a Cuban-American father, and a Mohawk mother, our family moved back to the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory (Quebec) when I was a baby, and that is where I grew up. Like most children we ran around all day during childhood; back then life in the community was almost Tom Sawyer-ish, good memories for me are of fishing most of the summer, and skating outside in winter, and being outside almost all of the time.
Like most little boys in this area, I played a couple of seasons of hockey as a kid, outdoors believe it or not, and at best threw a few tosses of the lacrosse ball; and not with any particular talent to mention in either of those sports. But, I come from a family of highly skilled lacrosse players, more about them in later posts. In high school, I only ran for fun, or as part of gym class. My competitive energies were on sports like volleyball, canoe racing, a little bit of basketball, and even organized touch football; all very enjoyable for me.
Every summer during the mid-1970s, our family went to the Newport Vermont area for a week on Lake Memphremagog. It was during our last trip there in 1977 that the idea of running, just for the sake of running, entered into my mind. I had no particular reason, it was just get out the door and go for a run. The mid-1970’s was a time of political upheaval in Quebec, and at the end of that summer my Dad hauled the family backed down to Florida; but by then it was just my little sister, me, and my Mom. My older sisters had already left home, and my older brother was already in the Navy.
Florida, the state of my birth, was actually a completely new experience for me. I noticed that it is basically as flat as a pancake, surprisingly it is not as green as the north, and of course and I didn’t know anybody. So, I ran pretty much every day, but with no plan at all. I just bolted out the door, ran up the road about a mile or so, turned around and ran back home, no clue what my actual distance or pace was, I just ran for the sake of doing something to tire myself out.
One year down in Florida was enough for my Mom I guess, because by the time the spring of 1978 came around, we were making plans to head back to Canada. But I was not, because that’s when I decided to follow the path of my older brother and enlist in the United States Navy. So, off to Orlando I went to spend some time at the Recruit Training Center, more commonly referred to as boot camp.
Well, running and boot camp go together quite well as I found out soon enough, along with push-ups, jumping jacks, and plenty of getting yelled at by your Drill Instructors, old grizzled sea dogs who I now realize were likely younger than I am today, much younger. In boot camp, you are either marching in formation or running, there is no such thing as a casual stroll.
After boot camp I was stationed on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) for 2 years and 8 months, my entire time on active duty. It was home ported in Norfolk Virginia back then. When tied up to pier 12 or pier 7 in Norfolk we had a good amount of free time so I always managed to get some running in. While at sea it was impossible to run. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is a very dangerous place while at sea, and no one is allowed up there during flight ops for obvious reasons.
While in the Navy, I actually competed in my first organized race back in the summer of 1979 when we were in Portsmouth Virginia for some maintenance. It was part of our summer barbecue, and the ship organized a race for the crew, I have no specifics about the distance or my time, but I was competitive in the event, and felt pretty good afterwards.
The ship went to the Mediterranean Sea for an 8 month deployment from August 1980 to March 1981; and that period really sets the foundation for my life long appreciation for running. You see, being deployed on an aircraft carrier is not particularly easy; it is not quite the love boat cruise kind of thing. The noise alone is mind numbing, F-14 Tomcats and A-6 Intruders launching and landing overhead makes it difficult to sleep, and physically my body just got more stressed as the months wore on. Alcohol can only do so much to calm the nerves, and that was only available when we stopped in a port, our most frequent stop being Naples Italy, which I am sure, is a nice place and one I would like to see through my eyes of today. The cramped living quarters on ship are difficult to describe to anyone who has not actually lived in them. So while the adventure was fun, other stops included France, Spain, Greece, Israel, and Egypt; it’s the pace that wears you down over time; “haze grey and underway” as we use to say, back in the day.
The ship returned to Norfolk sometime in late March, and that is when I really began to run. I remember going to the Military Circle mall, and going to the running store specifically to buy a pair of running shoes, a new pair of shoes, intended just for the purpose of running.
And it was one day sometime during that spring of 1981 that I just started to run every day, and run, every day. I ran simply to move my body, simply to feel the air brush against my face, simply to look at the sky and see what was around me, simply to breathe, simply to be. It’s been a long run since the spring of 1981, and I am happy to say I plan to keep on running, forever.