I’ve walked a lot of miles in my shoes

Some people are made to run.

Some people are made to run.

Some people are made to run, I thought to myself again on Sunday morning as I watched 1,600 or so of those type of folks file past my Syracuse city home during the second Syracuse Half Marathon.

Not me.

I am a walker.

I knew that way, way, way back in my life.

The determined racers of all speeds made my think back to my running past, and the moment I decided it was not for me.

I was in elementary school, a kid who always was trying to round up others in the neighborhood to play sandlot whatever in the park that our house in the Long Island suburb of Levittown, N.Y., backed up to.

Baseball and football in the grass. Basketball on the paved court.

You name it, I loved to play it, running up and down in short spurts.

Then a neighbor, Mr. Greene, thought that I might come along to run in a CYO track meet with his kids, my friends Kevin and Timmy and Susan.

There must have been some talk between he and my parents, I’d guess, because off I went on a Saturday morning to the track outside the local Catholic high school.

Mr. Greene told me that I’d be running in the half-mile. He asked me if I’d ever run that far before.

I asked how many laps that would be around the track, an oval that looked like it’d stretch to New York City if you straightened it out.

Twice, he said.

I lined up with a couple dozen other elementary school kids. Either somebody yelled, “on your mark, get set, go,” or somebody shot off a starter’s pistol.

In any case, off went the pack.

Some of the kids were running like I did from home plate to first base. Some of the kids were running like I did from the basketball court to our house when my mom called me for dinner.

I was running slow. I knew that because everybody else was immediately in front of me.

I hated it. I couldn’t breath. My legs felt like lead. My breakfast of cereal threatened a cameo reappearance. I was a full half-lap behind when I saw the commotion of the winner crossing the finish line on the other side of the track.

I trudged on.

Mr. Greene came up to me from the inside of the track. He walked beside me as I ran on. (He was a tall, athletic guy, a gym teacher by trade who had played minor-league baseball in the Boston Red Sox organization and officiated college basketball at night and on weekends.) He told me I could stop if I wanted to. I loped on until I crossed the finish line last.

I saw Mr. Greene smile when I did.

Now in a perfect world, this Rocky-like tale would have motivated me to become a four-minute-miler, or at least inspire me to run laps around the blocks of Levittown until I got faster.

It did not.

I decided that I would limit my running to the spaces inside the games I so dearly loved.

Otherwise, I’d be the one walking.

I loved to walk. My grandpa on mom’s side walked every day in Brooklyn. I used to hear the neighborhood kids call him “The Walking Man” when I’d join my Pop Pop around those streets of Brooklyn every time I visited. It was in my blood.

When I lived in Maryland, one of my rented-house roommates knew I liked to walk around the path that circled Greenbelt Lake. He showed me how to power walk. We’d heel-toe around that path together at speeds that rivaled folks out for a casual jog.

Yet if I raised my feet a couple inches higher to jog, I’d pant and lose my breath and have to stop with a stitch in my side almost immediately.

Go figure.

When I covered music for the big daily in Syracuse, every summer I’d be assigned concert duty at the New York State Fair. For two decades, I’d park my car in the dusty lot, walk to an afternoon show at the free admission court, walk to the media building, write my review, walk to the paid-admission grandstand night show, watch the concert, walk back to the media building, and write my second review. Then I could walk back to my car and drive home. For 12 days straight.

The deadlines made me walk fast. And the New York State Fairgrounds outside of Syracuse is very large.

My dear wife Karen would accompany me sometimes, and she’s be wary of what she called my “state fair walk.” I learned to slow down and she learned to speed up.

When I turned 50, we joined Gold’s Gym. I loved the indoor track. I’d put on my state fair walk and book around that thing for an hour straight. Other walkers would admire my speed and endurance to me out loud.

Nowadays I walk the neighborhood with Ellie B, aka Dogamous Pyle, or I walk the mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA, aiming for every day and at least a half-hour.

I still love walking.

But when I watched those people run with a purpose, with 13.1 miles on their mind Sunday, I wondered, just a tiny, little bit:

Why not me?

What do you prefer, running or walking? Do you have a memory of a race you ran?

51 thoughts on “I’ve walked a lot of miles in my shoes

  1. I convinced myself early on that running was bad for you. Soon studies backed up my theory. Running on pavement is hard on the legs. Like you, Mark, I do prefer walking. You get to see and enjoy so much more at a leisurely pace. 😉

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  2. Love this…I am with you Mark…none of that silly running for me….ever. So sorry about ‘Cuse loss. We were pulling for them waiting , waiting for the UVA game. See, I told you not to bracket UNC!! Now it is all on UVA’s shoulders. I am amazed at how disciplined that team is! Lots of other teams in the tournament could learn from them. No sure if they have the offense to play with the big boys they are heading into …but we shall see. Listen, I have a question for you of sports guru. . . . I was noticing how many teams let the players wear different sneakers, socks, tee shirt or just jersey…it doesn’t look good. Remember when the teams were dressed identically? I think it started when tee shirts were allowed if desired under the jersey.

    And the leggings take the cake! What is going on? What do you think? Smiles. . . Anne

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    • Yes, Ann, I will be pulling for Virginia to uphold the honor of the ACC now. And, about what the players wear … yes, they used to be identical. That’s why they call the UNIFORMS. Now everybody is allowed to express individuality. New wave. Leggings, thoough?!

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      • LOL….love the spot-on analogy of uniforms. . I guess I am just getting to be an old fuddy duddy….cause I am not a fan of all the tats either! Not that anyone asked me or cares what I think!

        I loved the story about Coach B. . . . When someone was asked if he ever smiled the response was “No, but I have only been here for 9 years! ” Can you remember a smile?

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  3. I used to have on going dreams about running. I would wake up and be convinced I could run. Every time I started to run I would injure something. I took up biking. Martial arts. Kayaking. Still dreampt about running. Started again. Ran for a black belt qualification. Injured myself. Healed. Ran again. Injured again. Got a treadmill. Ran on it. Injured. My feet and knees can take martial arts, hiking, biking, etc….but running just does them in. It’s been about two years since I’ve dreamed about running. I hope they don’t start again!

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  4. I was a walker, and someday will be again, even if I do have to use a walker to do it. Running? Never. Even with a bear behind me and remembering that you only have to be faster than the slowest person, I would know I’m lunch. But then, that could be my attempt at altruism Mark. Letting my friends get away while I sacrifice myself for them. We’ll never know, will we?

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  5. At least while walking, you are doing the dog a favor, you do us a favor by finding cool stuff to write about (a bad person not pooper scooping and big piles of snow….) and you don’t ever get ‘stitches’ in your sides! Smiles, Robin

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  6. Always been a huge fan of walking even though i no longer get paid to do it .
    Retired mail carrier that pounded the streets of Eastwood for 20 yrs. Now i try to walk the roads and hills south of Onondaga Hill for at least 5 miles a day but have done 15 – 20 many times . Anyone can do this if they work up to it .
    I joke that i have not run since i used to get paid for that too ……………. in the U.S. Army . :>) Worked in orthopedics for all 3 yrs. of that and like a lot of people , not a fan of the wear and tear on the joints from running .

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  7. When I was still at primary School I loved running – and I would never give up even if i was feeling light headed! But I am a happy walker now. It is better for your knees, by miles. Last week i ran from my car, down the road to my house (no parking space) and I couldn’t speak a word when I got home.
    So very glad your breakfast didn’t make a cameo reappearance and good for you for keeping going to the end.

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  8. I’ve always loved walking… maybe because as a kid we always walked everywhere, or rode our bikes, not having a car… for decades as an adult running was my favorite form of exercise… but now I am back to walking… when I see younger people running through the streets I always think they are going to be sorry one of these days with all kinds of joint problems, like me… but you can’t tell other people what to do… or not to do… so I hope they enjoy themselves while they can!

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  9. Like you, I enjoy walking (not running). In school, we would walk whereever we wanted to go (except at night). Most of us didn’t have cars back then, so we walked. We walked to downtown to shop, we walked to the swimming pool, and we walked to school. Finally, in my senior year of high school, I bought my own car. It was a cute little baby blue and white car that served me well until it puttered out on me. I didn’t know you were suppose to change the oil every once in a while. All I knew was you put gasoline in it to make it go. LOL!

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  10. Great topic, Mark and I enjoyed your reflections–in the end, walking is just as good for one’s health as running, and easier on the knees!

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  11. One of my favorite Steven Wright one-liners: “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”

    Exercise is exercise whether walking or running. You still generate endorphins, and you still feel good about yourself. I love a good walk, which I did daily and on lunch while working for… The State.

    Regardless what you do, you’re making strides. 🙂

    (Yes, I just said that.)

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  12. Great post, Mark …. walking, running, as long as you’re moving and getting exercise, that’s what matters. I’m a firm believer in the existence of endorphins, the feel-good chemical produced by the body by exercising. I’ll keep running until I can’t (time wounds all heels), and by then I’d be happy to walk for hours on end.

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  13. I wasn’t a runner until my 20s, when I lived alone and began jogging every day to keep a trim figure. It does a number on the back and knees, but it kept me fit until I got older, when it didn’t help at all. I can jog 1-1.5 hrs per day, pouring sweat in 100 degrees, and don’t lose one pound. Anyway, the physical therapist and the chiropractor have all told me walking is better than jogging. Jogging compresses your spine each time you “pound the pavement.” My problem is as I’m walking, I always think, “If I just go faster, I’ll burn more calories.” Plus, music makes me want to do more than just walk. So while my son is at soccer practice, I jog that track. At church, we’ve been talking about keeping active and fit and how Jesus walked everywhere, from city to city. I guess our bodies were meant to walk, not sit and stare, which is what we’re doing right now. I wonder if that James Taylor song was about your granddad? “The Walking Man walks…”

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    • Interesting, Kerbey, how jogging now does nothing for your weight goals. I thought calories out would have to help. I do have the urge to go fast, but only by walking because that mental switch flips into something horrible if I cross the line into a jog. Maybe James Taylor had a version of The Walking Man in his neighborhood!

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  14. I’m in your corner, Mark. I don’t understand running. The breathlessness, the impact on the joints, bla! I prefer walking, biking and baking. Those are my sports.

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  15. i’m glad you did, and runners do not always understand the way we enjoy covering a distance. and now, you’ve inspired me to write a post, about a funny thing that happened while training for a very long walk. that’s part of the joy of blogging, the reminders and inspirations and things they lead us to write and the stories to tell, all by reading and interacting with others.

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  16. exactly like you, mark, i am clearly a walker, not a runner. once, in middle school i tried to full out run like the others girls on our track and quickly skidded out, skinning both of my knees and ended up bloody and with giant scabs for months. i’ve accepted and am happy with the fact that it’s not my thing. i love to walk everyday too whenever it’s not arctic and love what i see along the way.

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    • Your comment on my half marathon post on Sunday helped convince me that I had to write about my aversion to running, Beth. The skidding out and scabby knees were a good reason for you to be among our world of walk-not-run, for sure. And yes, us walkers usually do like to admire the great outdoors.

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