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PAPERWORK: When life becomes a walk in the park … run!

I miss running.

Not jogging. Running.

Tearing up the turf, all out, lungs busting, the ache in the side, running.

This flash of memory, actually a sudden yearning, hits me as I’m standing on old legs in an open green space.

There are mowed trails around an open center and patches of taller, uncut grass, — all surrounded by a fence.

And zig-zagging across the whole area and leaping through the tall grass are lots of dogs.

It’s a dog park. For them it’s dog heaven. Freedom.

A place to run. Run free. Run fast.

And they do. In packs. Chasing. Being chased.

The dogs know what’s ahead before they leap from the car. Tails are whipping as they pass through the entry gate.

After the initial sniff and greet with other dogs, they tear off.

And when they rip off into full, stretching stride you can clearly see why they need this space. This moment.

And I stand there wishing I was part of the pack.

Like I used to be.

When I was a kid I was fast. (Said me to me.) I loved to run.

The best years were fifth and sixth grade. I had figured it out: I was the second fastest kid in the school.

One of my neighborhood friends had an older brother and we’d race all the time on a nearby road.

I could never beat him. (Hey, he was older.) But I can still remember his sprint.

He pumped his arms like a karate-chopping machine, his hands flat, blades cutting into the air.

I was involved in track and did OK. But not outstanding. In fact, my memories of those track days are not as vivid as recess.

Yeah, recess.

During recess everyone would line up for a running game. I think it was called “Run, rabbit run.” Something like that.

The rules were simple. One person stands in the middle. The rest of us line up to run from one side to the other, trying not to get tagged.

The person in the middle tags runners who must in turn tag others.

It gets down to a lot of blockers in the middle and a few runners. I was always one of the few left.

Dodge and weave, baby. I was good at it.

Funny I should be so proud of that still. After some 60 years.

My running “career” ended when those recesses ended. Moved to a new town, and was bussed to a bigger school full of strangers.

No more sports. My running was kept to neighborhood sprints.

That inner need for speed, though, never went away.

And I’m discovering it’s still there. Inside me … itching … as I’m standing among a pack of scampering dogs.

Yeah, I could still jog. But it’s not me. It’s not about endurance or distance. I did my time with cross-country and it’s not the same.

I respect those who run the distance. I’m proud of my wife who has always loved jogging and has done a marathon.

We have a friend who is in her 60s and her passion is marathons. She has done many and is not ready to quit.

Not for me, though. I’m pretty sure there are several parts of my body that would object to the steady hammering.

A quick jog online, of course, provides lots of web links that highlight the benefits of running.

Even a brief run at a slower, steady pace can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

Running decreases your resting heart rate.

When leg muscles are pumping so is your brain, pushing out endorphins and endocannabinoids, chemicals that make you feel good.

And some argue running makes your knee bones stronger. Even more beneficial than walking, spinning or swimming.

Running burns up calories.

Lots of muscles, beyond leg muscles, benefit from running.

Running is a break away from stress and lets the mind refocus.

There are also lots of warnings about running, but I won’t go there.

I can kind of sense them anyway. Usually when I’m running.

I will say this, though. I did have a jogging moment that was actually amazing.

Joggers know all about this. That moment when suddenly you are not fighting muscle fatigue or breathing patterns. You can run on and on forever. And you do.

I did. I ran and ran because I could. It was a natural “high.”

I experienced it only once. Because I did not stick with a daily routine.

Now I am much older. But I will add that moment to my longing for the days of running.

I am surrounded now by health advice that keeps telling me I should be walking.

At least a half hour per day. Good for the ticker, blood sugar levels and stuff like that.

It’s an age thing.

So I’ve done my duty — the proper thing. I bought a treadmill.

It’s a good one. I can up the hill or down the slope. I can push the speed past my maximum.

I admire it every time I am in my basement.

I don’t use it much. I just admire it. And think about how I should be on that treadmill more.

I even wonder sometimes how fast I could tread, as I stand in the dog park and watch my dog run.

When he’s speeding back to me at full throttle I actually can see him smiling.

And … I know why.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to lonnyjcain@gmail.com or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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