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Run, Forrest, Run: Actually, For Me, More Like A Jog
A runner heads down the Tidewater Bikeway in Manteca. 209 Living photo

I am not a runner.

But virtually every day unless I’m hiking I go for what passes as a run even if it is raining or if the only time I can squeeze a run in is at 2 o’clock in the afternoon as the mercury inches past 100 degrees.

This has caused more than a few people to make the wild-eyed assumption that I am a runner. I get people who tell me they me they would like to run but can’t get into running like I do.

I need to correct the record.

I am not into running per se.

I am into running because of how it makes me feel.

There is a big difference.

It’s also a stretch to call what I’ve been doing for the past 30 or so years running. It’s closer to a jog.

I know this because runners that have the body for it have reminded me in none too subtle ways.

There was the local doctor out for a run on his lunch that came up alongside me 15 years ago as I was heading down Cottage Avenue on my way to Lathrop Road.

After saying a few words while matching my pace that speed walkers could probably top with ease, he told me, “Don’t feel bad about your pace. Everyone has got to start some time.” And then he kicked it up and left me behind.

Nice words of encouragement if I hadn’t been “running” for about 14 years at that point.

A few years later as I was jogging/running to the InShape gym for a step class, a van of cross country runners from a Bay Area community on the way back or to a meet had stopped at the old McDonald’s that was next to Manteca Bowl.

As I plodded by, one of the young ladies said rather loudly with a snicker, “Run, Forrest, run.”

That prompted her teammates to start laughing.

And, yes, I did turn my head and in my best Forrest Gump voice that is about as good as my Frank Sinatra voice which means it was pretty bad, I shouted out “why, it’s Jenny” as I plastered a fairly large fake smile on my face.

My favorite example of a runner putting me in my place for not being a runner on their level was when I passed a woman in her late 20s who was definitely outfitted like a real runner right down to the specialty shoes — I exclusively wear Air Monarch training shoes because nothing else can fit on my feet that sport large bunions and hammertoes — who was clearly in jog mode as she took her small dog out for exercise down the Wellington Avenue bike path.

I guess having a 60-year-old (at the time) wannabe runner pass a real runner must be an affront as about 40 seconds later she passed me by literally dragging her dog.


The term ‘fun run’

is truly an oxymoron

I’ve never picked up a copy of “Runners’ World” although I do admit to dropping a few bills at Fleet Feet stores for running and compression shorts. The old adage is you get what you pay for but the reality is that Fleet Feet carries running gear that if you sweat like you’re in a sauna even on a 50 degree day you won’t have shorts that act like a sponge instead of wicking sweat away. I learned the hard way that when the sweat starts pouring keeping cheap “running shorts” from slipping can be a bit tricky.

I prefer to say I jog but more than a few runners claim I’m closer to a runner. Either they are delusional or they’re simply saying that because the fact they pass me up would mean they are a better runner which they are but using me as your yardstick puts the bar so low you’d trip over it.

The idea of running with someone else let alone in a fun run — now there’s an oxymoron — appeals to me as much as a full scale IRS audit.

Do not get me wrong. I like running/jogging for how it helps make me feel. In a typical year I cover over 1,000 miles. I also admire runners, especially trail runners who easily cover 1,000 miles in three months or less.

I’ve come cross them on hikes up Mt. Whitney, over passes at 10,000 feet and on rocky, narrow trails along ledges with 200 foot drops. My feet are killing me in hardcore hiking boots while they’re wearing softer soled trail running shoes. They are barely working up a sweat and their only water is in an 8-ounce bottle while I’m packing three liters. I do not know if they are human gods, insane, driven or all three.


You won’t catch me

eating peanut butter

sandwiches when I run

Given my late cousin Larry Wyatt ran four Western States 100 Mile endurance runs and turned in qualifying times in 50-mile ultra-endurance marathons in order to apply to run the little jaunt from Squaw Valley to Auburn, I’d go with insane and driven.

The foot race started after a rider in the Tevis Cup — a 100-mile horse race between Squaw Valley and Auburn — was unable to ride his horse. So he decided to run the route and managed to beat all of the riders. As insane as that sounds, if you realize the terrain proved tricky for horses you’d understand that running the course is only borderline certifiable.

If you completed the run in 24 hours you qualified for a belt buckle. If you finished it between 24 and 30 hours as Larry did several times you got half a belt buckle.

Keep in mind you are running between 24 and 30 hours without sleeping.

Larry would train for the race with 10 to 20 mile runs starting in early June eating peanut butter sandwiches as he ran.

I cannot eat and then go running even an hour later. Yet the Squaw Valley to Auburn runners do so as they are moving because if at the various checkpoints they end up weighing 7 percent less than the weight they started at they are taken out of the race until they put pounds back on.

Now does that sound crazy or what? One of the reasons I started jogging/running was to keep weight off. As for eating peanut butter sandwiches while trying to run and breathe, that would be enough for me to choke.


I’m not about to do what

some hardcore runners do:

answer nature’s call on the go

As nuts as that sounds Larry would not do what others would do on the Western States 100 which is answer nature’s call without stopping while he was running the race. You’d have to be a pretty elite runner to do that given the time you save over the distance wouldn’t be worth it.

That said, as a former hardcore roadie who was never anywhere near the point of being a competitive bicycle road racer despite investing more in bicycles at one point in my life than I paid for the car I’m now driving when I bought it new almost three years ago at Manteca Ford as well as paying more for a set of 700cc racing tires than I did for the same number of tires for an S-10 Blazer I once owned, I have no room to talk.

While I never did it, when I was driving the “sag wagon” to pick up riders and their bicycles 25 years ago on a Category 2 race (the highest class short of being pro) over Altamont Pass I was stunned to see riders relieving themselves as they rode in a pack that was moving along at 20 to 27 miles per hour.

I actually didn’t take up the concept of running until such time getting a sufficient workout bicycling was not enough. For four years I rarely missed a day cycling even in rain and fog — as well as a few times in hail and snow. (How’s that for certifiable?) I managed to compile two back to back years of 10,000 miles plus riding. I would have had a third year but when I went out for a ride on Dec. 31 in 1989 when I still lived in Lincoln with just 32 miles left to reach the 10,000 mark for the third time, I turned around four miles from home. What brought me to my senses? I wish it was the fog that had visibility down to 60 feet. In reality it was the fact I had the flu and had thrown up an hour before setting out. It was then that I honestly thought I might be entering crazy land with the entire idea of chalking up 10,000 miles a year while riding bicycles with the old-fashioned hardcore Brooks leather saddles that are a little harder than concrete.

My transition into running didn’t start until I moved to Manteca and only then — at first — to run to and from InShape where I took step classes.

The reason why I was a reluctant convert to running was simple. I was embarrassed to have people see me run. I wasn’t that slow although rest assured I’d never be accused of having what passes for speed. It’s just I was self-conscious running through town. It was laughable in a way given I had been doing Jazzercise classes at the time as many as five or six times a week along with cycling. If you ever saw me — the contender for the world’s No. 1 Klutz — ever in a Jazzercise class, you’d understand.


I’m the guy that ran

into an almond tree

branch running with

the dog in a leash

What broke me of that embarrassment was when I lived in the country north of Ripon for nine months and ended up going for hour plus runs along the edge of orchards and down country roads. To be honest, it was the fact I never encountered another runner.

Ok, I admit it. It is a macho thing about not wanting to be upstaged knowing full well you are going to be upstaged.

When I started realizing how relaxed and energetic I had become after running steadily for a month I became hooked.

It was on one of those country runs that I reaffirmed that I was a klutz.

I was jogging with Zebra — my first Dalmatian that happened to be male but acted like a female answering nature’s call — on the south side of Highway 120 between North Ripon Road and Jack Tone Road along the edge of an almond orchard.

Someone honked zipping by at 55 mph. I turned my head. Just as I did Zebra decided he had to relieve himself.

Long story short I tripped over him, stumbled forward, and as I tried to right myself hit my head on an almond branch. Zebra, who ended up on top of me, unfortunately didn’t turn off the proverbial faucet.


That macho urge

can still be an issue

To be honest, to this day I still have to push myself at times to go running. Usually it is about 30 seconds after I start when something seems to hurt. But then 30 to 50 minutes later when I’m back at the driveway I feel like a million bucks — a million soaking bucks.

I’ve gotten over — mostly that is — the macho urge not to have someone pass you up. When that happens it tends to be people a significant number of years less than my 64 years as well as people who can never know what it was like at one point to have been 5-foot-11 and weigh 320 pounds.

Two incidents went a long way of curing me of that macho urge.

Once was when I passed a gentleman jogging down Austin Road who had headphones on. For the record I do not listen to music when I jog/run as I’m a firm believer in what you can’t hear can hit you or bite you. Also by that time I had adopted the approach to running that I would do an entire run at the same pace. “Runners” would judge me for that but I’m not into running to see how good I can run but to simply be healthy. Speed work as such is not on my radar so I can become faster.

Not being judgmental, the guy clearly weighed more than I did and appeared to be a tad older. As I neared Louise Avenue he passed me up. I did not pick up speed. After I turned the corner he was doubled over trying to catch his breath. I just kept on going.

The other was on my current preferred route that takes me down a stretch of Woodward Avenue and then onto Moffat.

It was in 2017 a week before Manteca High’s conditioning started for football. As I closed in on the runner ahead of me I did not change my pace. I also recognized him as a football player. I passed him without saying a word. Two minutes later he passed me. As luck would have it we took the same route down Moffat. Every once in a while he’d look back to make sure the old man wasn’t gaining on him. I ended up catching up with him bent over just before Industrial Park Drive.

By then I understood the only person I should be competing with is myself and the only thing I really had that might set me apart was definitely not anything that approached the concept of being fast and competitive but the ability to go day after day and to do so without failure even if I was dealing with pain.


Faster times aren’t the

numbers I’m interested in

Ok, so I am obviously related to my cousin but I’d no sooner run 100 miles in 30 hours than he would cycle 100 miles in 6 hours.

I am not a runner but I am someone who runs/jogs for health basically every day. It shows up in the numbers that count — not my time but in heart rates, blood pressure, and assorted numbers from when they poke you during physicals. It also clears your head.

Between the exercise classes, lifting relatively light weights compared with those with the DNA to go for the look and who can obviously work on building six packs while I’m still working on a one pack after 35 years, people make assumptions about me that aren’t correct. I’m not an athlete and I can’t believe anyone would make the wild assumption that what I do — klutziness aside — would qualify me as one.

Eight years ago when I walked into California Fitness for the first time — yes my high school gym teacher would have a massive coronary if he knew I belong to two gyms and went to them five to six days a week before the pandemic — I was once again misclassified.

The guy behind me said “you look like a runner.”

It may have been in reference to the fact I obviously don’t get too carried away with the free weights. Perhaps they don’t see very many real runners at the gym. That said, I took it as a compliment even though I know the truth which is I simply run.

To be honest if you looked at running that way and stopped worrying about having to “get into it” in order to do it, you will be surprised at what it does for you even if you are closer to tortoise speed than I am.

Let the hares run the races they were built for and what does the trick for their happiness.

As for me, I’ll gladly be the tortoise and use running as a way to get me where I want to go and not be a means unto itself.

I’m impressed with runners and respect runners but that’s not me.

I simply run to live healthier both physically and mentally.