Apr 10, 2010

The Day I Became a Runner

I hadn’t been in the sport long. A year prior, I borrowed and laced up an old pair of my roommates Asics for the first time. Life was more complicated then, but it was still love at first stride. I had been working late nights at the pizza shop for some time. The late shift was a tough one. I’d knock out my evening run with enough time to shower and walk up Coventry to Guys Pizza. Most nights we worked until 3am… Our product was a commodity. Crappy pizza laced with sugar for the drunken college students stumbling home. I was also a college student at the time; however, I happened to be less drunk and much busier than most people my age.

My urge to run was growing by the day, but I wasn’t a runner… My place in the world was not yet established. There are many opinions on what makes a person a “real” runner. I’ve heard people say that you aren’t a real runner until you qualify for Boston. Everyone has an opinion. Most “real” runners will share there opinion in a heart beat. It’s all bullshit. Every person that runs remembers the day that they became a runner. Chances are it wasn’t the first time you laced up those shoes, but I bet you remember it as the day that changed your life for good… I remember that day.

It had been months since I sold an $8 pizza. I had been working at Second Sole on the east side of Cleveland. In October, I had run the Columbus Marathon in well under 3 hours. That was a special day, but it wasn’t the day I became a runner.

It was a cool, dark Friday evening in early November. The last customer was slowly wandering out of the shop. Scott Gill, an older, well respected local runner, was putting away a few pairs of shoes that had been disregarded during the evening rush. I had just finished vacuuming under the shoe wall. He turned to me and asked me the question I had been waiting months to here. “You got your running gear with you tonight.” It took a sub 3 hour effort in Columbus to finally be invited to the Friday evening run.

Prior to that night, I had heard many stories about the Friday night loop. It was a Second Sole tradition for many years. That night I ran out the front door alongside Eddy Hoffmeier and Scott Gill. I looked up to those guys a lot back then. They were strong runners, accomplished runners. Their daily stories about running and life had shaped me as a young athlete.

We took a quick left out of the parking lot. My stride was strong and my step was bouncy. It was easy to find a rhythm. As we ran through the dark, we chatted as if the 6:30 pace wasn’t the least bit tiring. I had heard about this run enough to know when I should be concerned about pushing myself. I sat back behind them, took a deep breath, and tried to enjoy the evening.

The road tilts upward a quarter mile before Cedar Road. We leaned into the hill and ran as if the steeper grade was imaginary. Our pace never changed. A hard left on Cedar and a slight downhill was the cure for my labored breathing. I knew Scott was testing me. We had talked enough about running in the last few months. He wanted to see what I had in me. I didn’t realize it until 3 miles into the 5 mile loop. This was my rite of passage.

We made another left. We ran towards a dark neighborhood, the pace dropped. Scott pulled to the front and started to push. A quick turn of the head noticed Eddy fade back into the night. This was between the two of us. For the first time in my entire life, I experienced what it was like to stick to someone. My eyes fixed between his shoulder blades. I imagined that we were connected. He dragged me through the dark neighborhood as if we were one.

I could see the glow of Mayfield Road in the distance. The road was tilting upwards once again; however, it was the last hill. I knew once we made that left on Mayfield, it was one hard downhill mile until the finish. For the first time all night, I ran alongside Scott as if to say “Tonight, you’re my equal.” I leaned forward and pushed into the hill. I wanted to break him. I noticed Scott pull in behind me. I felt the adrenaline fly into my body. It was finally my turn.

As Scott hung on my feet, I exploded down the street. Each step pushed him farther back. He popped and I exploded down the sidewalk pushing myself to my anaerobic limit. The memory of this run is a special one. In my memory, my feet are barely bouncing off the ground. I feel as if I could run hard for an eternity. Flying through the night as free as I’ll ever be… Not a care in the world… My perfect run. The memory of this run will never fade. It was the day I became a runner.


  1. >I happened to be less drunk ... than most people my age.


  2. 以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告........................................

  3. I like that crappy sugar pizza. You must know Greg and Ben then who I went to high school with !

  4. Great post! I went to Case Western Reserve and ran there for 5yrs on the XC team. I know your route all too well haha.