I began running in the fall of 1987, primarily to lose the “beer and junk-food” weight I accumulated in college. (Not sure why that phrase is in quotes since it was 100% due to beer and junk food, coupled with massive amounts of couch time).
But, as someone who’d always been an athlete, I was also looking for something active to do in my spare time to supplement things like rec basketball, slow-pitch softball and the occasional round of golf. So, one day, I lugged my overweight, out-of-shape ass out the door, wearing a pair of outdated, worn-out running shoes and set out for a two-mile slog.
When it was over, I felt terrible, no different than the half-dozen other times over the past four years I had looked in the mirror and told myself, “OK, it’s time to get back in shape, we’re gonna to start running.” My chest felt like it was going to explode, I had a headache, and every part of my body, from my back to my feet, hurt. The difference is this time, instead of throwing the shoes back in closet and saying to my “mirrored” self, “Thanks but no thanks, maybe next year,” I decided that if my body felt that bad after 20 minutes of relatively vigorous exercise, I needed to do it again the next day. And the day after that. And so on.
And I did, eventually creating a habit which led me to losing my college weight (and then some), participating in a bunch of fun races and events, and achieving some modest personal goals along the way.
Today, my running objectives are much different than they were 25 – or even five – years ago. These days, I run to feel good, to stay healthy and to clear my mind. And speaking of “mind,” when I run, I sometimes need games or diversions to pass the time to keep me going that final mile. In recent years, I’ve taken to running backward for short spurts during a normal run.
In the running “biz,” folks call it “retro-running,” but when I hear that term, it makes me think of the guys from Chariots of Fire, running in white shirts and matching cotton shorts, with nails pounded through the soles of their black leather shoes as precursors to modern-day track spikes.
Retro-running is good (if you’re good at it; it’s downright dangerous if you’re not, or if you’re not careful, so always know your limits and the terrain) because when I do it, it not only works different muscles than when I’m running forward, but the view and experience is different as well.
A bit of warning if you're thinking of trying it out: It also draws attention, and several people over the years have stopped me in the grocery store or other places to ask, “Hey, is it possible I saw you running backward the other day?”
What’s interesting to me is that when I’m running backward, the ground I’ve covered – my immediate past – seems to get smaller and distant much faster that what’s in front of me when I’m running forward. Although I know that’s not true, the perception is that I’m covering ground faster, and in essence, watching my past travel at a much quicker rate than my future.
And, that’s also the way I feel every day in my normal life. As I get older, it seems like time has moved faster when I look back on things, and that the future – and all my upcoming goals and objectives – is approaching at a much slower pace … and with more work.
Why is that? Why, in both running and in my life, does the past seem to, well, “pass” so much quicker than the future, even though I’m not moving any faster, or making things happen at a quicker pace?
I noticed it the first time I “retro-ran,” and every time I’ve done it – hundreds of times over the past few years – it still puzzles and intrigues me. Why does that which is behind us seem to move quicker than the future we are approaching?
Or does it? One day, I thought, “Maybe it’s just me, and no one else has the same experience.” But why would that be? Why would I have a unique experience to something relatively normal.
(I know what you’re thinking; running backward outdoors is not normal. If you don’t want to try it, you could easily substitute looking out the back window of a moving vehicle, preferably when you’re not in the driver’s seat.)
It’s interesting that as I get older, my sense of how long ago something occurred is often inaccurate because it seems to be more recent than it really is. In other words, I might suggest something happened three years ago, only to be corrected by someone saying, “Three years? We went Fort Wayne seven years ago!”
Happens to me all the time.
Sometimes, I’m glad when the past leaves quickly – like after a difficult time in my life (or the aforementioned (and hypothetical) trip to Fort Wayne -- and often I wish the future would show itself sooner, just so I can know that things will turn out OK. Other times, it’s flipped. As someone in his mid-50s, I relish the days ahead, but I don’t want them to come too quickly because I want to maximize my time here.
So, what’s the point? Maybe it’s this. We don’t know what our personal or collective future holds. So, maybe it’s time to turn around – just for a moment or two every once in a while – to acknowledge how far we’ve come to get to this point, and to understand that if we keep going, we’ll get through today and tomorrow. And the day after that. And so on.
Be healthy. Be safe. Be happy. And, every once in a while, turn around to see how far you’ve come. It might be worth the effort.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw