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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM HAZEL

Celebrating A Running Anniversary

I knew my life had changed when the young man in the turkey suit onesie whooshed past. I was excited to be running in my very first road race. I had a bib with a number. And a chip. There was a little computer chip, or whatever it was, that was recording my historic first race achievement. Amazing.

I had trained hard the weeks prior. My over half century old ass working up to running an entire five miles. And on this, my Thanksgiving Day 10K, I would explore taking my fitness to new heights, or distances, I suppose to run an entire six miles and another two tenths.

And as the man ran past in his sartorial Turkey Trot splendor, I realized I was, perhaps, taking it all way too seriously. And then the two chaps in the Pilgrim get ups blew by. And the sinuous woman in some sort of Pocahontas mini skirt thing smothered the scene in an extra helping humble gravy.

This first race experience came on Thanksgiving morning of 2015. Recently, I crossed the starting beam of the same Tidewater Striders Turkey Trot for 2021. I am happy to report I also, a scant six years after the first time, had the good fortune of crossing the finish line again.

I didn't see myself as a runner back then. Funny thing is, I saw the characters in their costumes as runners, but not myself. On my sixth year running anniversary, I still don't think of myself as a runner. The voice in my head always goes back to just being a pretty normal guy running. A guy running is different, in my appreciation at least, than a runner.

I'm always a little taken back when someone calls me a runner. In the early minutes of gathering for a recent yoga class, the instructor spoke to my wife and I directly, “So you are both runners?” I hesitated with my yes. Sometimes I will respond in that annoyingly deflective manor.

“I guess some would call me that.”

After six years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know some runners. I know the man who almost won this year's Turkey Trot by running the distance in 5-minute mile pace. Not long ago he won the massive Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in my hometown of Virginia Beach. I know the woman who recently qualified for the US Olympic Trials. I know a man who finished a 100 miler. And got a PR. That means he bettered his last 100 miler. These amazing, talented, committed athletes are runners. And I do not look or sound like them in any way.

So, I ran across the finish arch some 2,190 days after the first time, I was thinking the same thoughts about myself as not really being a runner. And only the week before I had run a marathon. My second marathon. Marathons are hard. So difficult that only 1% of all the folks living in this grand US of A have done it. The odd thing is that I do think of myself as a Marathoner. I'm comfortable with this self-assessment. And I'm equally acceptive of the Half Marathoner description. I have already signed my name for the Shamrock Half Marathon for 2022. I actually forget how many half marathons I've finished. I know I'm supposed know. I'm supposed to have it posted on my social media bio, along with my fastest finishing time.

But I don't. Runners... runners have these things memorized.

As always, my wife looks way better than me in the race photos. Happy Running Anniversary to us. Photo courtesy of Tidewater Striders.

Although my mindset hasn't much evolved much, what has changed in these past six years is my health. Running has transformed my health. The benefit of this simple activity can never be overstated.

I'm not referring to having a perfect body, being able to hold a plank a given amount of time, getting a faster time each time, I cross a finish line. Our good health comes in the form of the very mundane. It comes in normal sleep patterns. It comes from hardly ever catching a cold or getting sick. It comes from not being on any type of pharmaceuticals. From being able to move freely up and down large flights of stairs. I don't struggle on a ladder. Running brings all these healthy, boring to talk about benefits to everyday life.

And it has also offered me the privilege of sharing this health with my wife. This running thing in our lives is all her doing, since she's the one who got me started. We've been running together ever since. We ran the 2015 Turkey Trot side by side and did the same in 2021. We'll be sharing the road the same way for the Shamrock race in March. I always encourage others to discover the fun of running a distance race with someone you love, without any worry of time or pace. We enjoy the crowds, and the scene, and sharing company with other friends on the run.

I spent my first couple of years running worrying about the stuff that didn't matter. I worried about my time. I worried about how many races I was entering. I worried about monthly mileage and yearly averages. I worried about making nonstop social media posts every time I put on running shoes.

As I begin my seventh year on the run, I've come to only focus on my health. Therefore, I run. I sign up for races to have fun. Since being away from racing during the pandemic, the recent events have been an absolute blast. I have slowed down, spend most of my miles without my phone, and humbly accept this gift of everyday health the sport has brought to my body and mind.

I am so lucky to be able to go for a run. And I am so lucky to be able to go for a run with someone I love. These are good days, indeed.

So Happy Anniversary to us. And to me. Still just a pretty normal guy going for a run.

© Copyright William Hazel, 2021

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