17 April 2012

Running - 10 Years Later

It was a wet April Saturday in Boston in 2002.  The preceding 12 months had been the worst year of my life.  My father died suddenly in 2001, my job as Sales Engineer for a telecom company was eliminated when the telecom industry imploded.  My life was spiraling and I was at a point, lower than even my dark mind could've imagined.

I had taken up long walks and this particular Saturday found me wandering clear across Boston where I came upon a running store, so I walked in.  I gazed at the few dozen race brochures and flyers and one caught my eye.  The James Joyce Ramble 10k.  Being an English major and nostalgic by nature, I read that brochure.  I had never run before and the race was the following weekend but something told me I wanted to run this particular event.  So, I folded and tucked it into my back pocket and walked home.  I filled out the entry and mailed it with my check on Monday.  I ended up having to go back to the running store to buy a pair of running shoes (I think they were New Balance but not certain) for the race.  I laced them up for the first time on race morning and headed to Dedham, MA.

The race is a big one, very competitive with the top 10 typically running upper 4 min paces and usually all from Kenya but I had no way to know that or have any reference to which I could compare it.  The weather was damp but not too chilly.  I lined up with the other 2,500 runners and we took off.  I ran as hard as I felt necessary, which turned out to be about a 5:30 pace.  That lasted all of two miles, when I realized my lungs were burning with a fierceness I hadn't experienced since solo breakaways in bike racing and I knew lactic acid would turn my legs to mushy logs.  The pace slowed consistently through the hilly course.  Groups of actors were reading from Joyce's work along the course.  The rest was a blur until I crossed the finish line and realized it was the first time I felt alive since my dad died.  I finished in 272nd place in 40:05 for a 6:27 avg pace.

I won't say that running changed my life and made it great in some way but it was a bridge to get me over the chasm of darkness I was otherwise falling into.  Nothing mattered and I was doing careless things with my life, from pushing the envelope carelessly in scuba diving to darker thoughts of not wanting to face another day.  Running and racing and the people I met through it provided enough for me to look forward to that it kept me interested in existing just one more day.
Carl Long
Ten years later, I clearly see how running has formed my current life.  A $3k watch or shiny sports car used to spin me when I was younger.  Things are simpler now due in large part to the simple activity of running.

Early race directing 2004



  1. Loved this! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Crazy resemblance there. Except he has bit more to those arms.

  3. 5:30 x 2 is pretty impressive for almost no training.
    I suspect that my complete lack of interest in owning an expensive car or watch (and failure to be impressed by these items) is reinforced by my running.
    Sorry about your father.

  4. Thanks Mark. Well, you can figure the slowing splits over the next four miles was pretty dismal. I cranked out a 4:55 at the track just a month later. All jacked up on that new runner high, I guess.

  5. I thinks it's safe to say that running changed your life, like that of a lot of other's. Besides, aren't people the exercise on a regular bases superior to everyone else :)

  6. Thanks for sharing your story. Wasn't your background in cycling? Was there something especially compelling about running, or was it just time for a change in life?

  7. Hey Nicole.
    Yeah, I cycled (still do). I just quit heavy racing after a gnarly crash during the Tour de Michigan.

  8. Sounds like a familiar story, sans 5:30 miles (mine were 8's that first race out of the blue). Good post.