A 41-minute 5K – Beside the Point

Harvest time allergies racked me for the past three weeks, but Saturday I got up and said I’m getting to the track today.

I put on a shirt with no sleeves, a ball cap and some shorts, and linked my ear buds to my phone for some music to run to. You know most songs you can set a pace to and then adjust to the beat of the next tune. Mine is usually 80s hairband stuff.

I hit the track and had to stretch. I wasn’t setting out to break any land speed records, I just wanted to set a benchmark for a 5K by a 53-year-old.

Starting with a regular walk, I worked my way up to a 4.3 mile pace before I hit the back side of the track at Fort Madison High School where I run the 100 meter lines and then walk again at a quick pace.

Now I know you probably don’t give two shakes to read about a run I took Saturday morning, but there was something special about it.

First, I was able to get in the full 5K. Now, that right there is special. I felt like I was dragging a WM Johnson semi around the track. My legs felt heavy the whole way and it seemed like my feet were three feet long, slapping the track as I ran… or walked.

But something else caught my attention in circling Jim Youel Field. I saw a couple youngsters, who were either underclassmen at FMHS or FMMS, working out.

One of the boys sat at the Bark and Bite by himself at about 8 a.m. I thought about asking if he was okay, but on the next lap three others joined in and they did some pre-workout stretching. That woulda been stranger danger anyway.

There was no adult there. These were kids on a not-so-cool Saturday morning getting ready for a run. I passed them a couple times as they stretched just off the west endzone. The girl had her hair in a ponytail. There’s something markedly determined about girls with their hair in a pony tail getting ready to work out.

It takes me back to the movie What Girls Want with Mel Gibson. They come up with a fictitious Nike tagline. “No Games, Just Sports”.

Here I was at my age, not even close to having the stamina of a Matt Mohrfeld or Matt Hellige or Keokuk’s Mark Smidt, nor does my first name start with an “M”. But Wes Holtkamp can run forever and his name doesn’t start with “M”, so that can’t be it.

But out there trudging around the three-year old track, I’m just trying to set a benchmark for future runs/walks.

As I make turn four on my fifth or sixth lap, I see these kids take off down the steps into the southeast parking lot and then out onto the recently completed P.O.R.T trail. They head north on 18th Street with the girl’s pony tail whipping as she established her gait – about four steps ahead of the boys. I smiled.

As I walked into turn 2 and the back stretch where I run 100 to 150 yards, depending on how much I hate my legs and feet. “Ugghhh….again?” Having not been out there for close to a month… you can really feel it. I was extremely heavy running and hated it.

I made another lap and came back to the east endzone and someone else was coming west on Avenue B, pony tail whipping in time with her stride.

I think it was FMHS cross country stalwart Paetyn Weigand. I smiled again. Cross country running is something else. These kids out here on their own, getting in the work – putting in the time.

As Fort Madison Head Football Coach Derek Doherty likes to say, they’re out their building in the dark – even though it’s not dark. Well not for them, but running for me seems dark. I just can’t shake the icky feeling that comes with not being able to breathe through the run.

Those that run say it happens, you just have to get through to that point. I think I’ll stick with 5Ks and chipping away at the time.

But seeing these kids out here taking full advantage of the new trail that’s being completed gives me hope. We hear so much about how kids are not out any more and they just spend time on their phones.

These kids were getting it done. The boy didn’t even have a phone while he waited for his running group.

Another thing made me smile Saturday and it wasn’t the Hawks win. That wasn’t a pretty 3 vs. 4 national matchup, but what was great was there was a black woman on the umpiring crew. I don’t get a lot of time to watch college football, and maybe it’s just an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment for me and not everyone else, but what a great step for all of us.

And then the 1st quarter wave to those kids in the hospital. It took me back to when Kelsey was there and I wept just a little. No one saw, I was seated on the floor against the window with my plate of Cuban sliders, Hawaiian BBQ sliders, potato salad, and chicken lip dip my brother and niece had made.

There was some happy birthday cake and vanilla softserve to follow it up. There’s goes the calories I just burned off, but, HEY, maybe at least I broke even.

I’ll keep running and walking because the doc says it’s good for me and it helps me sort out random thoughts that blow through my mind. I file them away and sometimes I can’t find that file later, but sometimes my recall button works.

One of those random thoughts was of the parents at Friday’s Senior Night football game. I’ve been at several senior nights this fall with volleyball and football, and I’ve seen many sad faces.

I sent a note to one couple Saturday morning who just seemed to have something in their eyes Friday after the Bloodhounds’ loss to Iowa City Liberty.

I wrote that I have a unique clarity on watching our children reach the end of high school. My only counsel is that it’s not about sadness, although we are inevitably sad. And it’s extremely against the grain, but it’s a time to celebrate what you’ve done as parents.

You did that! Sadness is a valuable emotion. Life is tough as hell and when you are faced with the encounter of your child finishing high school and all that comes with it, celebrate that. You’ve done something almost miraculous in getting them to that point. Smile and take a breath. In the grand scheme of things it’s the end of nothing, but the beginning of everything.

Bank the sadness and hope you never need it, but if and when you do, it’s an emotion with value and it has meaning. Use it wisely and conservatively, in the meantime – you could smile a bit in anticipation of the next great moment – but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at charles.v@pencitycurrent.com.

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