I come home from a run with mud spatters covering my running tights from the ankles to the ass. Drinking a glass of water, steam rises from my shoulders, sweat freezes in my hair.  I should be stripping for the shower, but instead I sit on the porch stretch out my legs and stink the stink of polypropylene, endorphins, and happiness.

In the last few weeks, after a short break for ski touring and winter steelheading, I’ve been climbing back on the running wagon. Putting in few miles here, a few there. I’ve been running hills on Tuesdays, mid distance Wednesday, long on the weekend. I have a couple races and events on the horizon, nothing major, but enough to remind me that running a bit  might be a good idea.

I first read this piece by Roger Hart back in the winter of 2002 or 2003 when I was working in a small newsroom. Outside it had been raining for 30 days straight and motivation to do much besides huddle in a rain coat was lacking. It was published in Runners World, and came to my desk by way of a runner with a photography problem. Back then, it inspired me to suck it up, put on a jacket, and get out the door. Today, ten years after I first read it, it still gets me excited to get out there. For the full essay, visit Runners by Roger Hart.

Runners by Roger Hart

We ran through blizzards, thunderstorms, freezing rain, covered bridges, creeks, campgrounds, cemeteries, city parks, parking lots, a nuclear power plant, county fairs, and, once, a church service. We were chased by goats, geese, a crazed ground hog, guards (the nuclear power plant), a motorcycle gang, an armed man in a pickup, a sheriff’s deputy, and dogs both fierce and friendly. We ran when two feet of snow covered the roads and when the wind-chill was thirty below. We ran when it was eighty degrees at seven in the morning. We ran on streets, sidewalks, highways, cinder tracks, dirt roads, golf courses, Lake Erie beaches, bike trails, across yards and along old railroad beds. Seven days a week, twelve months a year, year after year.

During the hot days of July and August, Ed ran without shirt or socks; I always wore both. Norm ran with a screw in his ankle and joked that it was coming loose. Ed was faster going downhill; I was better going up. The three of us met at a race and became training partners, competitors, best friends. We ran together on Saturday mornings, usually a twenty-mile run along the shore of Lake Erie or a twenty-two-mile route over hilly country roads near Ashtabula. We ran thousands of miles and more than a dozen marathons together, but most of the time we ran alone.

We gave directions to lost drivers, pushed cars out of snowbanks, called the electric company about downed lines and the police about drunks. We saved a burlap bag full of kittens about to be tossed off a bridge, carried turtles from the middle of the road, returned lost wallets, and were the first on the scene of a flipped pickup truck.
We ran the Boston Marathon before women were allowed to enter and before the Kenyans won. We were runners before Frank Shorter took the Olympic gold at Munich, before the running boom, nylon shorts, sports drinks, Gortex suits, heart monitors, running watches, and Nikes.