During a run through a shady cemetery in Painesville, Ohio when I was 19 years old, the sage Tom Quade tried to express to me the importance of stretching and the problems of aging. At the time I was probably busy hurdling headstones and sprinting off ahead to look good for some cute girl jogging....but the information wormed its way in there and clung somehow to the recesses of my brain. Yesterday after my run I sat on the stairs recovering from a nice, hot, 5 mile run full of excitement at how well I'd ran the last few days due to my new stretching routine. I called Tom while I stretched and it hit me...... I suppose people with kids have this hit them around my age. What I'm talking about here is this slow realization that they, in fact, have turned into their parents.
In my case I don't have those little bundles of joy or memories of passed down wisdom on how not to strangle them. My teenage years weren't filled with much in the way of parental advice since I basically made my own decisions and life choices since I was around 14. I mostly spent my teenage years trying to prove to everyone, including Tom, that I knew what I was doing, didn't need their advice, and I was going to do it my way. No matter what the consequences. Instead of the bits of wisdom gleaned from seeing how my parents did things, or positive input from others, I chose to learn from trial and error, and error, and error.
Finally when I went off to college, I may not have realized it yet, but I started to see the wisdom I'd absorbed during those long runs around town with Tom. Of course I still didn't embrace the knowledge, foolishly thinking that I was superhuman and that basic things like physics and entropy didn't apply to me. That biological adaptation, mitochondrial absorption, capillary development and all that mumbo jumbo were words that slow people learned to describe why things just didn't work for them.
Throughout my 20's when I was a running machine and adding weekly to a bix box of medals and trophies for my basement, I didn't think about that place, and that wonderful man as the sage encyclopedia of running knowledge that I've now come to realize. Back then I simply knew that they were my anchor. There's this line in the movie Forest Gump when Jenny is asking Forest all about what he saw when he ran across the Unites States. As he's describing the beauty he witnessed, she says that she wished she could have been there with him. It's a powerful scene to me. He turns to her and tells her. "You were Jenny". In his mind and in his heart she was always there. That was Painesville, St. Claire Street, that route through the cemetery, Strawberry hill, and Tom. They were my home, no matter where I went, who I met, what sort of crazy things I was doing. Those places were with me. He was with me.
Now, having pedaled through a good portion of my 30's and having not needed to access the treasure of running memories and advice, I'm slowly beginning to pull these memories from the recesses of my brain. Those runs where Tom dispensed advice and bemoaned his aging. There wasn't a single muscle twinge, inflammation, ache, or injury that I was feeling that Tom hadn't already experienced and could readily, and instantly, tell me the remedy, the probable time until it healed, and the cause. As I'm restarting my journey as a runner, I'm finding that those rules, that advice, and those pitfalls.....do apply to me. And somehow I'm still that silly guy running up the road to look good for the cuties, and learning by trial and error, and error, and error.
As I was stretching yesterday following a rather spectacular run I remembered an analogy Tom used to use about running and age. He compared good workouts to the perfect "PING" sound a golf club makes when you hit the perfect shot. That feeling that goes through your body as the ball soars in a perfect arc down the fairway. The often felt mystery of where that came from and how you could replicate it. I remember discussing this as we ran through that cemetery just starting one of our runs together. Him telling me how frustrating golfing was and how you'd be just about ready to quit and....PING.... you'd be hooked again for a few more futile hours. He described how as he aged that PING came less and less frequent, and that I should enjoy the fact that I could call upon my body to PING at will.
Yesterday during my run things just worked. The proverbial PING. Which led me to thinking about Tom. So there I was on the phone with him while stretching. Those same stretches he'd taught me 17 years ago that I thought were only for old slow people. It struck me.... Fuck....I've turned into Tom!!!! Then I smiled. NICE!!!