I was a runt as a kid. One kid smaller than me all through school. But Sam Anderson was one of 17 kids and was tough as nails. I’ll say up front that my remaining classmates from Atwood, IL are among my dearest and most cherished friends. But I grew up lower middle class with an abusive, alcoholic, promiscuous mother, dad working, working, always working. And when home out in the shop or gone fishing. I had a hell of a hard time, tales now only told in low tones over three fingers of Oban, Distillers Edition.
Graduated high school and off to the US Navy– better than the offered alternative given my constant run ins with the local constabulary. Did my service and moved to Texas. The late 70s spent at discos, making up for lost time as it were. December 31, 1979 I quit tobacco and started running along Red Bluff road in Pasadena. My transformation began. First with a honk, then with a wave, maybe a wolf whistle or two. For the first time in my life I was being recognized in a positive light.
I accepted the reinforcement and continued to Run with it. This was something that maybe I was good at. More importantly something that I could do without being told when, where, how or why to do it.
Man’s ultimate expression of freedom. Running was my solace and as it turns out my salvation.
My new found self confidence paralleled my fitness gains. I decided it was time to see where I stood among this cadre of lean, lanky, and snarling lone wolves. In the early 80s there was only one reason to enter a race and it was to eat or be eaten. It took balls to register and even bigger ones to line up at the front. But I did. I surveyed the gathering prior to the gun. “Look at that one!” “That guy will kick everybody’s ass!” And so forth down the line. Before I could turn and bow out the starter pistol fired and we were off. An out and back 10K.
The 180 at the turnaround changed my life forever. Of all those many seeming studs only three remained ahead. I had found my Joy. I would finish 4th overall and 4th in my age group. Still too insecure to attend the awards ceremony I picked up my award later at the Pasadena Fairgrounds. Put it on the dash of my Honda Accord, stared at it for what seemed an eternity.
The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, at a relatively quick pace had changed me forever. It can change you too. It starts with The First Step.