Bolstered by a play list including Alice Cooper's "School's Out," Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and a few other songs with themes related to pain or fun, last month I revived my passion for pounding the pavement.
The first seven minutes of every run still are grueling for me, even if I'm only jogging. After that warmup, however, a rush overcomes me and I can't stop until my face is a brighter shade of pink than the Dri-Fit cap I recently bought at Fleet Feet Pleasanton.
Initially, my purpose for getting back into running was to augment my fitness routine with a low-cost, accessible aerobic activity and some fresh air. After a couple of weeks, however, I needed a greater reason to run. While the return to the starting point after running too far in the first stretch of each run provided necessary motivation, I sought a loftier goal.
The last time I ran an organized 5K was during the "Jingle Bell Run" in snowy Boston in 1989 when I joined a team formed by employees of the agency where I worked as an intern. It was a slippery, slushy, jingly run, and I finished without stopping. But I was a college student. Could I do that again now? I wondered.
Then I remembered Pleasanton Rotary's annual Spirit Run, which includes a 5K or 10K walk/run plus a Kids' Challenge. I quickly sought advice from residents who have participated in the event over the past 18 years.
The event benefits Pleasanton Rotary's scholarship fund for college-bound youth. College tuition is a subject many friends are discussing as of late, given recent indications that public universities in California will accept fewer students beginning in the Spring 2013 semester due to budget and resource cuts. The cuts may force otherwise qualified California students to apply to higher-cost, out-of-state or private schools.
If we can't directly impact the state's budget cuts, how, I wondered, can we help Rotarians raise more money than in past years so that more Pleasanton students can receive scholarships for education?
One way is to encourage more residents to enter the Fathers Day (June 17, 2012) Spirit Run. This week I learned that many Pleasanton families make it an annual tradition.
With about three months to train, here is some motivation, shared by Pleasanton residents:
Janice and Joss Flanzbaum plus their two children (one now in college, the other in high school) have been through a few cycles of participation in the Spirit Run, said Janice.
"This coming from a family where both parents are runners," she said.
One year the Flanzbaums' two kids ran the one-block fun run to "the Giant Cookie Person at the end handing out the cookies," said Janice. "I secretly wished for a leftover cookie for myself."
"As the kids got older, I recall letting Joss run out the 10K while I ran/walked with at least one kid. It did become a family tradition for all four of us to participate."
Of course, as the kids grew, they also became more aggressive on the course.
"Our son, Isaac, never trained and would take off as fast as he could at the start line wearing basketball shoes," said Janice.
"One year he placed and I remember Mayor Tom Pico handing him his medal. Another year, the finish line picture showed me chasing Isaac across the finish line because I couldn't catch him when he decided to bolt towards the end."
Janice's training advice is for runners to enter in Pleasanton's first-ever half marathon on April 29. Event organizers recently announced the PPIE giving fund as the event's beneficiary.
"Then you'll be ready for the Spirit Run," she joked.
Good one, Janice. Lucky for runners like me, the half-marathon event includes a 5K run.
Lindy Curtis is an avid runner who regularly participates in triathlons. For her, the Spirit Run is a walk in the park.
"I love watching families start the run together with parents trying to rein in their kids who have taken off like a bullet," said Lindy.
"Half a mile later, the kids are walking, heads down, holding their sides!"
Don Hogue has run the Spirit Run several times and is fairly certain that his daughter, Meghan, who is almost 12, will officially enter the race this year.
For training motivation, he said, it helps to have a running partner.
"You're held accountable to someone else, and they are to you," he said.
"I have someone I run with at least twice a week early in the morning, rain or shine."
Don, who is currently pursuing his Masters degree in occupational therapy at Samuel Merritt University, recommends easing into a workout program with realistic goals.
"Find ways to make excuses to include running (or fitness) in your daily routine," Don added.
"If you're on vacation, make it a point to go out for 20-30 minutes in the morning, and you can see the sights from a new vantage point. Or, you can run to mail your letters, or go exploring on the many trails around town."
My friend Sabina Carter was both flattered and amused that I included her in my request for Spirit Run advice from runners. She showed up on my doorstep decked out in a fashionable running suit to answer my question.
"I'm really more of a walker," she joked.
"With my husband shattering his knee a few years back, maybe we'll just send Josie (their fourth grade daughter) as the family rep for the Spirit Run this year!"
The best part of the Spirit Run, I've heard, is the built-in destination of community camaraderie and gathering for a good cause. This is likely to be the case with the April 29 event for PPIE as well.