I ran the New York City Marathon in 1980.
I'm not a tattoo wearer, but if I were, I'd have that inked onto my arm. At the time I was pretty pleased with my performance, and as the years go by, and I run slower and slower, my time in that race seems -- at least to me -- that much more impressive. This in spite of Dougy V's memorable reaction to it.
Doug, a friend of my oldest son Matt, was a fantastic all-around athlete who would eventually play baseball professionally. When the boys were around 10, Doug heard I'd run the NYC Marathon, and asked if I'd won -- a logical question from a kid who won everything he tried. I told him, no, I came in around 5,000th. (There were about 18,000 runners that year.) He just looked at me, bummed. "Then why'd you run?" he asked.
Actually, at the time of that marathon, my wife was pregnant with Matt. I remember thinking, at some point shortly after Matt was born: Wouldn't it be cool to run the New York Marathon together? I was eyeballing the 2000 event: Matt would be a teenager, and I'd be 50. Perfect.
You've heard the adage, Man plans, God laughs? Well, He/She was in hysterics over that one. Not long before turning 40, I developed a herniated disk at L5/L6. After I rehabbed, the doc said I could still run, but -- no more fast paces, no more long distances. And definitely no more races.
Translation: No more marathons.
Fast forward 20-plus years. New Year's 2013. A time for reflection. A time for resolutions. I find myself still running. Kind of slow. No more than four or five miles, max. Haven't run a race in a long, long time. But still running. And it occurs to me: That herniated disk has behaved quite nicely. The knees -- knock wood! -- are still working fine. There's got to be a statute of limitations on that "no more races" edict. I still love being out on the road. I still love setting goals for myself. So why not another marathon? I couldn't match the time I did in 1980, couldn't even come close. But Mick and Keith don't exactly look like they did on the cover of "Black and Blue," and the Stones are still getting together and rocking, aren't they?
So in February, I started up a training program. The target was the Austin Marathon, February 2014. I kept everything hush-hush. Didn't even tell my wife. Kept a daily journal. (Don't ask me why, but I chose a spiral notebook with Taylor Swift on the cover that my wife had given me for Christmas as a joke.) A couple of sample entries from my first week:
2/5/13: Miserable run. Did it only to make my 15 miles for the week. Just before a dinner date, just before dark, in a raging snowstorm, on only two hours sleep. Still, no excuse for a pace that's barely better than a walk.
2/6/13: Holy _ _ _ _! What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, with that abysmal pace, had thoughts of throwing in the towel. Today, ran four miles easily, at my fastest pace in years!
2/7/13: Bit of a bummer. Mis-measured yesterday. Wasn't really four miles. Hence my pace wasn't as good as I thought. Hence my euphoria and optimism weren't warranted.
Just two weeks into my training program, raging back spasms sent me hobbling -- almost crawling -- to the orthopedist. The diagnosis was a severely herniated disk at L3/L4. Obviously, had to put my running program on the back burner.
Three months of epidural steroid injections and physical therapy to rehab the back. And then back on the road again. For one week. Until I was sidelined by a painful case of plantar fasciitis in the right foot.
Is somebody trying to tell me something? Is God still laughing? (More likely thinking, what kind of an idiot ...)
At this point, I'd have to say that next marathon is on hold -- indefinitely. I find myself doing a lot more biking these days.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com.