A running start

I know many runners who started running when they were young, but I also know quite a few who started when they were older. Those who started later usually have a story about how and why they got started.

I was 36 when I started running, almost exactly 5 years ago (May 2010). The story of how I started isn’t particularly interesting, but when I look back and see how my relationship to running has changed things are very different.

At the time I started running I was relatively active, but I wouldn’t have said I was particularly fit – I would cycle most weekends with a small group of people, and I would spend about half an hour at the gym a few days a week. I would have liked to cycle more, but cycling requires quite a bit of time to have any real benefit (and with 2 young kids time was limited), and I wasn’t a fan of the gym at all.

That was when I decided, on a whim, to run the Highland Park 5k – I couldn’t tell you the last time I had done any running of any kind, and I had always thought that running was boring. I’m still not sure what made me sign up other than the fact it was right on my doorstep, but I put on my (incredibly old) gym sneakers and went out and ran it. It should be noted that I didn’t go out and prepare for it, I just did it.

The one race I will always do each year (at least I hope)

The one race I will always do each year (at least I hope)

The race had a good atmosphere – in part because I knew others who were there – it definitely brings out a good contingent of Highland Park residents, as well as people from further afield (the last couple of years there have been around 420 finishers). I can’t say that I was hooked after the run, but it was good enough for me to decide that maybe running wasn’t as bad as I had previously thought it was, so the next month I decided to buy some new running shoes and start running.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to do the Highland Park 5k every year mostly to check on progress, but also because of the people. Now I am lucky enough to be one of the race directors. This was something that happened last year when the previous race director was unable to do it and there was a scramble to find someone to take it on. Not wanting to lose this race, I managed to drag a friend in from the Raritan Valley Road Runners, who had experience organizing races, to help out.

Last year, given the relatively limited time to get it organized, it was a case of just making it happen, and trying to make sure the previous success was continued. This year, we looked at how to make it easier for the runners and for us, and have tried to make changes that we hope people will see as improvements. For example, the start and finish were previously separated by several blocks meaning runners would have to choose where to park and then walk between locations at the start or end, and we also had the added complication of two areas to organize. The previous start location was also on a major through route which made it a more difficult job for the police and less safe for the runners. The course change also takes the runners up a different hill from River Road than previously, which seems to be a little easier too. You can read a bit more about it in this Highland Park Planet article.

I still want to make it a point to race, so I will hopefully be at the start line, although the Newport 10k the day before may impact my time this year.

What’s your running story?

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