the day after my fifty six birthday. It was a suggestion made by my doctor that I thought was just plain crazy when he first told me.
I’m in generally good health. Except hypertension I’ve had for a number of years, which is controlled by medication — a little pill I take each morning. During my last visit, Doctor Siraj said that the only thing one could do about hypertension was prevent it from getting worse. Kinda sucks. Not being able to eliminate it. “But,” he said, “if you elevate your heart rate regularly, you have an advantage.” I told him that I walked regularly. He told me I needed to do more.
I remembered running as a teenager and enjoying it. At school, it seemed I could run forever without tiring or running out of breadth. But I had stopped, as soon as I started running after certain other things in life. Or away from them.
“Try it. If you don’t like it, you can always try a Zoomba class.” Said the doctor. He didn’t really say that. I made it up. It sounded like a funny thing he should’ve said.
So I checked with my friend Jerry, a lifetime runner who’s the fittest guy I know. I wanted to know some of the basics. “You need good running shoes,” he said. “And reflective gear if you’re running at night.” Jerry told me that running on the street — over asphalt — was preferable to running on the sidewalk. “Concrete,” he said, ” was ten times denser than asphalt.” I don’t really know if this is true, but it explained to me one of the possible reasons all those idiots run on the street, when there’s a perfectly safe sidewalk just a few feet away.
“You must do it three to four times a week,” said Gigi, my friend and masseuse, “if you are serious about it.” I think Gigi is fitter than Jerry. I think Jerry would agree.
“And you must break a sweat,” she added. “If you sweat, you’re doing it.”
It’s been about a month and a-half and — except for a stretch of a few cold low to mid-twenties days — I’ve kept up with it, breaking a sweat regularly and feeling pretty good about the whole endeavor. The music I listen to while I run makes it better. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager (about forty years) and I can’t run for more that quarter mile without slowing down to a walking pace until life re-enters my body and I can run for another stretch. But, hey, me likes it! Much to my surprise.
Yesterday, I invested in a decent pair of running shoes. The weather was warm enough to go out and break them in. I don’t even know if that’s the correct lingo, the breaking them in part, but I enjoyed running late at night, nice music playing in my ears and breaking a sweat. I especially enjoyed running past the liquor store where I bought the last pint of rum I drank almost twenty nine years ago, next month. I was a sober runner, I thought.
Next week I’m going out shopping for a pair of running tights. The kind with the reflective stripes running down the side. I’m no longer running away from something. Or after anything. I am just a runner, building stamina, clearing my head and strengthening my heart. And sweating.