COLUMN: Appreciation for running grows – but slowly

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever met me, but I am not a runner.

Never have been. In fact, I’ve always been of the mind that unless you are playing a sport that requires it, or are running away from something – a bear, a knife-wielding maniac, an ex-wife, whatever – then it’s just more prudent to walk.

I mean, why waste energy, right?

I see the benefit of running, sure. I have friends who love it.

It’s an escape, they insist.

It’s just nice to get outside, they say.

It’s good for you.

I don’t doubt any of those claims.

And I have, through the years, made attempts – as feeble as they may be – to become a runner myself. But whatever the reason – a lack of focus, a lack of energy, something good on TV – I have always quit before I got into any kind of real routine.

But I wish I liked it more. I wish I was good at it, because for whatever reason, I am fascinated by those who run.

Some of my favourite stories – and most interesting interviews – have been with runners, be they of the track-and-field variety, or ultra-marathoners like Ferg Hawke, who runs distances that simply make me shake my head.

In fact, a story I wrote on Hawke, back when I first started at the Peace Arch News, is among my most memorable.

He had just returned home from the Badwater Ultramarathon – a 135-mile run through California’s scorching hot, and aptly named, Death Valley – and we were sitting in the backyard of his South Surrey home.

To our right was a glassed-in room in the middle of which sat a treadmill, which itself was surrounded by four space heaters, each designed to blast Hawke with hot air as he trained, in an attempt to replicate the Badwater conditions.

Lying in front of us was a box of shoes, many with melted soles – Death Valley asphalt gets hot after all. There were also a few pairs with the toes cut off because, as Hawke explained to me, by the last few miles of the run, your feet are so swollen that they no longer fit in your shoes.

It was at that moment that I realized maybe running was not for me.

It was also at that moment that I wondered if I was sitting on the patio of a crazy person, but the feeling soon waned.

Since then, I’ve written plenty of stories about runners. The latest came Monday, when I sat at my desk and whipped up a few hundred words on the Sandcastle City Classic 10K race, which was won by Kenyan Solomon Rotich.

He ran 10 km in just over 31 minutes.

As a non-runner, the obvious joke, of course, is to point out that sometimes it takes me that long to drive 10 km. But that’s not entirely true.

Sometimes it takes me that long just to find my keys.

But it’s because of all these stories that I decided this week to give running one last try.

If nothing else, it’ll get me off the couch for awhile, I figured.

The fresh air will be nice, I insisted.

Maybe I’ll lose a couple pounds.

Somewhere, I’d heard all that before.

So, I laced up my shoes, turned on my iPod and headed out on a nice, easy four-km loop around my neighbourhood.

It wasn’t a particularly difficult route – it starts downhill, which helps – and I found myself chugging along just fine for a kilometre or two.

And then a strange thing happened.

I didn’t exactly hate it.

I didn’t love it, mind you.

I didn’t race home and sign up for a 10K run. And I didn’t dig through the hall closet and start cutting off the toes of all my shoes.

But I hated it less.

Maybe that’s a start.

Nick Greenizan is the sports reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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