Maybe I’ll start running—tomorrow

By Mike Murphy

Lately I have found myself getting the urge to start running again. I figure after five years off I should be pretty rested and ready to go. In fact, I woke up early this morning to the sound of crows arguing over who gets first dibs on a discarded KitKat wrapper when I suddenly experienced that old urge to jump out of bed, chug a cup of coffee and head out the door on a long run. Or maybe I was just having a nightmare because I woke up again an hour later.

I first started running 35 years ago, around the time that the distance-running craze was really taking off. At that time everything was the 10 kilometer race — or 6.2 miles for those who suspect the metric movement was some sort of government conspiracy. Like the federal troops were going to stealthily move in and take over, while the rest of us were all distracted trying to convert mile times into meters and liters into quarts.

Back then, a runner’s only color choice for shoes was white with maybe a black swoosh if he wanted to get real snazzy. Now you see runners in neon green and pink shoes with sparkly laces — and those are the men! They have shoes with built-in computers that tell you how fast you’re going. The shoes will even signal when you’re going uphill, as if you couldn’t tell that by the fact your legs feel like they have Mama June and Honey Boo Boo clinging to them.

Runners once thought it was a big deal to wear a wrist watch with a timer. Now there is a Fitbit that records calories burned, displays caller ID, even produces a graph of your sleep activity. For me, with my numerous nighttime bathroom trips, that would look like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake graph.

At first, the road races only cost around $5 and for that everyone got a cotton T-shirt and medals for the winners. Runners brought their own water and snack. Nowadays they think nothing of charging $45, which includes energy drinks, fruit, bagels, etc. Heck, if I was a homeless guy I would just show up at the finish area wearing some shorts and pig out.

Over time, we got bored with 10Ks and became enamored with the marathon as world-class runners became household names. Runners like Bill Rodgers and, my favorite, the infamous Rosie Ruiz, who was initially declared the winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon. But later officials became suspicious when a taxi driver demanded she pay him his fare for the 26-mile trip.

Of course the problem with the marathon is that it is designed for people who can run 26.2 miles on just a banana and a glass of water and are able go to the bathroom without breaking stride, a very elite group indeed. Eventually they added the half-marathon for the rest of us, which worked out great because we got the same T-shirt as the full marathon runners, yet could make it from the finish line to the first-aid tent without help.

Even though there are still a number of road races that offer the 10K on up, it seems that the vast majority are now featuring the 5K or 3.1 miles. I’m not quite sure why this step back has taken place. Maybe young people today prefer high-tech health clubs where they can watch the “Oprah Winfrey Show” on elevated televisions while they work out. I tried that once while running on a treadmill on a cruise ship and lost my focus, which nearly sent me flying through a huge window and splashing into the ocean.

The median age for marathon runners has increased steadily since 1980. Perhaps this new generation of runners avoids the marathon distance because their cellphone batteries won’t last that long.

I admit I’m not qualified to point the finger at anyone because I quit running altogether a few years back and switched to walking. I think walking is great because I can take time to smell the flowers, but not during allergy season. Also, I can greet other people on the sidewalk without wheezing and grunting, sounding like I just got punched in the gut by Ronda Rousey.

Another drawback to running is there are numerous dangers that runners can encounter, like cars and potholes. I always thought the most dangerous thing was when a loose dog started barking and its owner would shout, “Don’t worry. He’s real friendly.” That was generally like a death sentence as the dog would proceed to go berserk and turn into Indominus Rex, chasing me down the street as I bounced off of cars and tripped into potholes.

If I do start running again, I’ll have to go in the morning or evening because, as Yogi Berra said, “I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.”

Pocatello columnist Mike Murphy’s awards include an Associated Press first-place award in column writing, and a first-place award in a national writing contest sponsored by Nissan Corp. His articles are syndicated by Senior Wire.