Sunday, February 22, 2009

Phoenix Rising, Part One

These sort of things seldom happen overnight. In retrospect, I suppose there just came a time in my life where other interests claimed my passions. Not all of my passions in the Nineties were necessarily productive, either. While I did focus a fair amount of energy working overtime at my law enforcement assignments, and an increasing amount of energy in the latter half of the decade working at a variety of radio stations, I must confess to you that I also exchanged an enormous amount of time contrasting the 'last call' routines of many a barroom in Greater Boston and beyond. I still ran some during these days, but for the time being I was finished with training. No track workouts. No hill workouts. Very few long runs, and very few races for me in the nineties. No PR's.

It was a revelation, therefore, when I discovered the cathartic teachings of Larry "Bud" Melman.
His soul purification ... err ... oh .. no! Ah, we miss you, Larry, but ... no.

No saga, either. I scarcely drank enough to embarrass myself (okay, there was that one night in Waltham, but I never touched Jack Daniels again!) Looking back, I think I drank just enough to stay out late just enough to get functional, just enough, three hours later to work just hard enough to get to the end of the day. No running that day. A few years later, I drank much less, but slept even less than that, moonlighting between jobs to the extent that I spent a lot of downtime on the weekends catching what few hours sleep I got in my Chevy before sometimes driving upwards of 90 miles to the next gig. No run that day, either.

The months turned into years and the lost miles on the road inversely remodeled their way onto my waistline, to the point where, by the end of 2003, I knew that if I did not make some wholesale changes to my daily routine, that I would soon reach an apex remanding me to a 'fat and 40' point of no return. A foundational influence upon me at this juncture was the woman who would become my wife, the ever bewitching Barbara, whose poise and guidance underlined her Thoreau-ian pleas for me to "simplify, simplify!"

So, I did. By the start of 2004, I had shifted my work hours to a more orderly daytime schedule, and we both joined a local gym. I invested considerable time with a nutritionist, and after the superficial pretense of New Years' resolutions had passed, on February 13th, 2004, I finally stopped dismissing my divine spark, and sought to reclaim my own initiative through the most direct means I knew towards rekindling my own honor. I ran. I ran, not only because running taught me to excel on the roads and in the classroom before ... not only because the primal act of moving quickly unlocked the doors to many of my most treasured friendships ... not only because running fast proved to me that heights were within reach with drive over drama ... but I ran, because I liked how I felt in flight, and running could be so much fun!

Not so much fun on that first run, however. Mind you, I had been going to my gym for a few weeks by then, and I had gone for some runs over the previous year - I even remained on staff every few weeks or so at the Bill Rodgers Running Center - so the mere act of running was not entirely foreign to me. However, this run was different, because it was not just a jog around a few blocks. It was the first day of training: for what I did not know, but I was back in training. I knew I wanted to race.

I didn't make the 5 miles. I was a bloated 287 pounds on my 6'3" frame, and 'flight' had nothing to do with this run. It wasn't even running, at least by my former standards. I walked across a bridge over the Mass. Pike about a half mile from home and, cold from the falling wet snow and swirling wind, I ran the final minutes of this run as fast as I humanly could. It hurt. A LOT. I didn't care, though. Dismayed but not frustrated, I promised myself, even bent at the waist while involuntarily clearing the weeze from my head, that I would STAY CONSISTENT.

I will never forget that moment - it was my personal epiphany. I was dedicating 2004 to the changeling, and I knew it would take time to lose weight, gain strength, and get to the point where I could even consider running quickly again. Through every temptation to concede to age, I kept my mantra born on that run: STAY CONSISTENT.

NEXT TIME: the next part: Get Your Wings.


  1. I guess me and you and you do have somethings in common. I know exactly how you feel about being a Phoenix. Been there, doing that......

  2. Hey SJ Tony!

    I look forward to more of YOUR story!

    -- John E.