I remember it well. In February 1974, my three sisters, my brother, our dog, Cromwell and my parents, moved from the relative serenity of Bridgeton, Missouri to San Jose, California. We took the train from St. Louis to Kansas City, then from Kansas City to Los Angeles, where we saw the ocean for the first time. Our final train excursion was from LA to San Jose, California.
We had moved because the US was in a recession, and the Lincoln Mercury plant in Hazlewood, Missouri had sent 72 foreman and their families to Milpitas, California to retool a plant for smaller cars. The culture shock was dramatic. After a year, less than 12 of the families of the foreman remained in California.
Our family thrived. Much had to do with Mom insisting on good schools, a home for us and great friends.
Much of my survival was on my newfound passion-running. The first summer in California, I spent twelve weeks running over 120 miles a week. I ran to Lake Vasona each and every day…or, on days when I was sore, I would run twelve miles on the dirt track at Willow Glen in the morning and an easy six in the evenings.
Running kept me alive..
A few years later, I remember the classic ad from Nike, with the guy running in front of a gas station. It was about 1977, and there were lines for gas everywhere, and I would either run to school, or take my bike.
Running was for me then, as my walks are now, my daily electro shock therapy. It was and is one of the few things we can control in our lives, that one hour of sanity, and when times get tough, it becomes even more important.
When I stopped running, and gained over two hundred pounds, I was depressed, a grump to be around and constantly tired. When I started walking again, and lost 100 lbs, I started to feel like my old self. The old friend, aerobics, had not forgotten me.
So, how in this day and age, can running thrive?
Give me five minutes and I will try and answer those questions.
Running is something that requires a pair of shoes, at that, some loose fitting clothing, and can be done anywhere. I have run or walked in shopping centers, parking lots, around baseball fields, but the most fun is through trails and park like settings. The truth is, running and walking can be done anywhere.
Running requires a pair of good shoes, which can be found at one of 728 local running stores across the U.S. There are twenty to twenty five brands of running shoes and trail shoes and half of those are excellent product. The others are struggling. Competition in the running and trail categories is brutal and non stop. One either makes it or tries to hang on for the ride. The real laboratory is not in some university, but in any of those stores. As my dear friend, Gary Goettlemann says, ” The shoe wall does not lie.”
Running will thrive in the current economy. It will thrive because most runners, walkers and would be runners realize that their hour of zen is priceless. The $120 spent on a pair of running shoes pales in comparison to what one spends on the car, even with gas prices dropping. It is a cheap way of providing some solace when the stock portfolio continues to drop, and it is a good friend when you need to work something out, like looking for another job or deciding how to juggle finances for the month.
Travel to races, by that, I mean, air travel, should be down. Runner will drive to more races, and find more reasonable hotel accomodations, and quite frankly, stay shorter times. Accessories for running should see welcome increases in sales, as, again, they are priced reasonably and add to the running experience, which, for the most part, is pretty positive.
Running will thrive in this new global financial village, where one person’s fear is mulitplied by several million. Where unscrupulous and greedy financiers and investors have compromised a generation of retirement accounts and put into question the very thought of retirement for millions.
First we need to be honest again. Running is all about honesty. Some are fast, some are slow, some are in between. You will probably never see Bill Rodgers walking an eight hour marathon, but you will see three thousand marathon walkers going into local running stores for shoes. Running is a paradigm that allows the slower of us to appreciate the faster of us and vice versa.
Just think, what if we used the honesty learnt from running in regular life? Well, then we might say that owning a house is not a God given right. One must first be able to make the payments. One might say that having eight credit cards ( what the average American family has in 2008) is not a God given right. We might also suggest saving for a car, a house, an education. All those are tangible results of your relationship with the sport of running.
The late George Sheehan, long time writer and philosopher in our sport, was a generous man of uncommon intellect. In some of my travels, I would get a few minutes to share with him, after he had contracted cancer. He told me that running kept him alive, and his talks became more and more spiritual. Quoting Nietzche, Goethe, Aquinas were part of Sheehan’s columns from the earliest days. His running gave him life.
We are lucky enough to have this positive addiction to aerobic exercise, again, some more than others. A pair of shoes, in the assemblage of life, is a miniscule price to pay for something that is so life giving. That is why running will thrive in the modern economy.
With running, or walking, one becomes more sensate. Running in front of a gas station, or out the door of a local running store has real meaning in this modern age. Running will thrive.
Runblogrun.com encourages you to check out the sites of Shooting Star Media, inc. (www.shootingstarmediainc.com): American Track & Field (www.american-trackandfield.com), Athletes Only (www.atf-athlete.com), California Track & Running News (www.caltrack.com), MIssouri Runner & Triathlete (www.morunandtri.com), Latinos Corriendo(www.latinoscorriendo.com), Coaching
Athletics Quarterly (www.coachingathleticsq.com), and USATF Fast Forward (www.usatf.org). All of the above magazine websites can be found at RunningNetwork.com (www.runningnetwork.com).
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