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(Older) man on the run

“Baby we were born to run” — Bruce Springsteen

“What a drag it is getting old” — Mick Jagger
So, I have recently taken up running again. Or, at least, something like it. If you’ve seen me out there on Salisbury’s streets and greenways, you might have wondered what that soaked and apparently injured man was trying — very slowly — to escape.
If you haven’t seen me, you should. It’s probably hilarious.
Now, I’m not technically new at this. I ran some in high school, and after graduating, I joined the U.S. Army Reserve, which sent me to basic and advanced training at Fort Jackson outside Columbia, S.C.
If you know anything about Army training, you know that recruits run. A lot. At Fort Jackson, they liked to run us up an incline called Tank Hill. I’m pretty sure every military training base has a Tank Hill, but I’m equally sure I hated ours the most.
The other thing to note about running during military training is that it’s almost always done in formation, usually while singing to your mama about what the Army’s done to you or about what some guy named Jody might doing with the girl you left back home.
I understand the concept of unit cohesiveness and that there were about 30 of us to one or two drill sergeants, but I never fully got the point of running in formation so darn much. If you ever found yourself being shot at to the point you had to retreat on your feet, it’s not like you were going to dress right and sing a cadence.
Maybe that’s why I really got into running after returning home. I was free from the bonds of formation and could go as fast as I wanted. And I did. As hard as it is to believe looking at me now, I left running buddies in my dust then, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.
As I got older, finished up my military commitment, graduated from college, got a job as a reporter with crazy hours, my runs became fewer and farther between. Finally, they stopped altogether.
That was nearly two decades and 30-plus pounds ago.
Late last year, I started walking. I wanted to lose the weight, but that wasn’t the only reason. My son and I like to be active together, and I hope to stay active. And my mother died several years ago after suffering with a lung disease. Doctors advised exercise, but by that point, she just couldn’t. If there’s a chance that’s in my future, I want to get ahead of it.
So, there I was, walking and planning eventually to get back into running. A couple of months ago, I got a push when friend Susan Shinn, a freelance writer and frequent Salisbury Post contributor, invited me to start running with her. Susan ran a 10K in Charleston, S.C., this spring and is training for a half marathon in Myrtle Beach in the fall. Compared to me, she’s a professional runner, but she was willing to take on a project.
Getting out on the road again, I’m relearning things I hadn’t thought about in a while, like how nice it is to run in the quiet early morning and how good it feels to complete a run, especially when you have to push yourself to do it. And I’ve had to push myself plenty. Still, most of my body seems to think this was a good decision, although my knees frequently beg to differ.
I’ve also learned things I never really knew, like the difference between over-pronation and supination, and the reason there are running shoes for both. To learn more about that, read Susan’s story in tomorrow’s People section about how to choose the right running shoes. And for inspiration, read her story Monday on Martin Thorne, who in a few years has gone from having trouble walking to the mailbox to running ultra races.
As for me, I’ll keep slogging along, looking, no doubt, like a wounded ostrich and leaving absolutely no one in my dust but enjoying the run. You might even hear me singing one of those old Army cadences:
“One, two, three, four, hey;
Run me, run me, run me some more, hey!”
But not a word about Jody.

Scott Jenkins is news editor of the Salisbury Post.

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