~A few Decades of Running in my Shoes~
It was late 1989 when my poor lifestyle was catching up with me in a dramatic way. I had gained a substantial amount of weight and feeling the effects of my bad choices. I ran in to my best childhood friend and he invited me to join him lifting weights. So, in January 1990 I began. I really enjoyed it and was losing weight along with improving my strength and fitness. He encouraged my progress along the way but also advised me to start running to improve my cardio, I declined. The only person in the world more hard-headed than me is my best buddy Steve, and he persisted. I got tired of the weekly harping and eventually told him: “Let’s get this straight, I not only hate running, but I hate people that run”. We were, and still are the best of friends so there has never been any holds barred in our conversations. In his truest form, at the conclusion of our next workout, he entered the weight room wearing a rain jacket and one on the tip of his extended middle finger. “Put this on and let’s go”. The rain was pouring down and I could not even make it around the block one time. This was June 18th 1990. I was very frustrated and It made me realize how out of shape I really was. After several attempts in the following days, I finally did make it around the block. Soon I incorporated running into my weight lifting workouts each week. In early September my brother David got me to enter my first 5K race and paced me through it. I was changed forever. I eventually stopped the weight lifting and focused my efforts on running with the anticipation of running more races. I completed two more events in 1990 and started 1991 with a new-found passion towards this sport of running and road races. On October 20th 1991 I completed the Louisville Marathon without walking one step, and under my goal of four hours. It was very emotional considering the transition I had made in a little over a year. Life lesson: take the word hate out of your vocabulary, especially on topics you know little about. It is a toxic term with no real value, and it may just prevent you from achieving things in life you never thought you could do. I went on to run well over two hundred races in the nineties. It was something about the preparation, hard work and comradery. I not only enjoyed it but I needed it at the time.
Above is my first log book (I have them all) and the hat from the Louisville Marathon in 1991
When the early two-thousands rolled around and I had over ten good years of running/racing behind me, but things were about to change. My high school sweetheart (and wife for nearly twenty years) and I would come into some challenging times. Our four children were growing like wildfire, along with their needs. Our parents’ health had begun to deteriorate pretty quickly. In what seemed like overnight, they were gone. All this combined with the demands of my work, took a toll on my running, and us. I attribute the life lessons I learned from the previous ten years to be one of the most valuable tools that would again help me during this period. My early forties were a trying time considering everything going on in our lives. Despite the emotionally charged level of activities, I tried to continue the running and racing. At age forty-five I re-directed my passion towards my career. It was a decade that I would later recall as a time of vision, discipline, and strength. Most of which I developed from my running/racing experiences. My first professional promotion consumed me with very long hours and extreme responsibility like I had never experienced. My wife stood behind me in every step of this venture also. It was during these years I realized she played a critical role in everything good in my short lifetime. As time flew by, I was blessed with several more promotions but something was gradually going stale. There was a black hole developing in a vital part of my life. The very thing that had given me a new perspective on life in the early nineties was absent: the running. Once again, I was handling a stressful lifestyle in all the wrong ways and my health was on the decline. I was my own worst enemy. I knew I had to correct this but was just not sure how to juggle all of my responsibilities and get back to running and a cleaner lifestyle.
While flying through life with your Loved Ones, there will be disappointments and heartache:
“When this happens, apply your oxygen mask first”
It sounds cold and heartless on the surface, but it is necessary and a standard operating procedure for the air-line industry. Essentially, you have to take care of yourself to be able to help your loved ones. To me this is a great metaphor for any parent, leader, or person responsible for the well being of others. So, in 2010 I found a way back to what gave me balance. This may be the most important period in my life when running had a much bigger meaning than the numbers, racing, or personal achievements. The goal was to resume a running/fitness plan that was appropriate for my current personal and professional responsibilities. I thought of it as “our other 401K plan”. This was necessary for me to regain a consistent, sustainable balance in my life. It would be my best opportunity to take care of everyone I cared about including myself.
~Setting Goals and Racing is relative to everything that is going on in your life~
It’s now December 2016 and a career that I loved was winding down after almost forty years. I had successfully achieved my goal of returning to a consistent running program for the last six years of my career, and achieved the balance I was after. I never really committed to when I actually would retire at this time. I did know that I wanted to return to competitive racing (or as competitive as I can be). I developed a two year plan that December and was determined to once again race at my highest personal level. My official retirement occurred in March of 2017. I now would have the opportunity to pursue this goal without compromising the other important aspects of my life, like my family or career. I always considered myself as a mid-packer in terms of talent and performance. Preparation, attention to detail, and achieving my goals is where I felt I had exceled through the years, and it gave me great satisfaction. My two-year plan was to get race fit and compete as a sixty-year old athlete. The underlying goal was to be as race fit as I was in my thirties relatively speaking. Of course, you have to subscribe to the USTAF age-grading system to understand this point. I developed a consistent routine of nutrition/weight-management, stretching, core exercises, and high intensity workouts. I also ran a couple of races per month on average. This would be my path to accomplish my goal. River City Races is a great venue for this. They offer quality races throughout the year with varying distances and a competition level appropriate for all types of runners. In addition, they provide access to a top-notch coach (Matt Eborsole), running/training groups and the latest equipment from Fleet Feet Sports. Few understand how much work goes into supporting the running community at this high level. They do a great job! Before this section returns to a paragraph on hard core training, numbers and personal accomplishments, it’s important to understand a few points. Managing a sixty-five-hour+ work week, your marriage and a family takes precedence over racing; if you are trying to compete at your personal highest level. It is also important to mention here that I have run at least a race or two in the final six years leading to my retirement. I always enjoyed the experience and at every fitness level. In conclusion: make sure your running/racing goals and expectations are relative to everything that is going on in your life. On October 20th 2018, I accomplished my two-year goal at the UBHM by a margin of .10%.
~Don’t sweat the numbers, racing or personal achievements; it’s bigger than that~
By the time I step on the starting line of the first leg of the 2019 Triple Crown, I will have turned sixty-two years old. Starting this journey in my early thirties has allowed me to see many changes in our sport. I have had the privilege of training and running with some really talented people in my early years. For that I will always be grateful. In addition, there are many talented runners today still working to break the tape, win their category, or set a new PR. When I think of all of my racing days, it makes me smile. However, through the years I have realized that the racing part (to me) is the recreational aspect of running. It is about goal setting, the numbers, personal achievements, and pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do. It ultimately represents the life lesson of failure and success fitting neatly into a package between the Start/Finish line. Both, the failure and success are beneficial to personal growth. For some it has a limited season, and that’s OK. Regardless if you’re the one who breaks the tape, competes in the middle, or brings up the rear, it is an experience and life lesson worth the effort. I am still passionate about racing and will be forever in debt to those who helped me along the way. But somewhere in my mid fifties, in my search of balance, I found what running means to me. It is the perfect maintenance program for the mind, body, and spirit. It is the constant in an inconsistent world. It is the one thing that has helped me find balance through the toughest years, and taught me to appreciate my simple blessings in life. Things such as: a good cup of coffee, a meal, a roof over my head, family, friends and good health. So where ever you are in life, work hard, live big, be passionate and grateful. Mostly, keep lacing those shoes up and run! It may just help you to accomplish things in life you never thought you could do.
Forever the Student
Mark Krauss 2019