Long distance winner

Running the Pikes Peak Ascent
I remember when running came to Colorado Springs. Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running was published in the late seventies and preached running as the path to good health. The book spent 11 weeks at number one on the the bestsellers list and is credited for starting America’s fitness revolution.
I was part of that revolution. Not as a runner, but as a close observer. You see, I’m the sister of a running fanatic.

My brother’s friends opened a store called Runners Roost shortly after Fixx’s book hit the big time. Between his daily 15-mile runs, Jim worked there for years, while I worked for a bigger, more general sporting goods store at the Citadel. The two jobs hardly resembled each other.

I spent my days shoe-horning Air Jordans onto the feet of just-paid GIs, while Jim watched people run up and down Bijou so he could check their gaits, look for pronation or supination, and make sound footwear recommendations. I pulled Russell Athletic sweat shirts over the bellies of armchair quarterbacks, while Jim sold silky singlets and impossibly short running shorts to fat-free lunatics. Even when I was allowed to fit football helmets on 10-year-old pinheads, and wax the K2s of handsome ruddy-cheeked skiers, I still envied my brother’s life. To me, there was something enigmatic and appealing about a long-distance runner. I feel the same even now.

Today my 14-year-old son got up at 4 a.m. and ran to the top of Pikes Peak — a solitary 13-mile trek. I imagine he wouldn’t have mentioned his plan to anyone if he didn’t need a ride to the trailhead. Later he told me his finish time, and not much else.

After all these years, it looks like I may have another chance to unravel the mysterious runner’s mind.

2 thoughts on “Long distance winner

  1. Jim Fixx died at the age of 52 of a massive heart attack, while running. The cause of death was atherosclerosis, and the autopsy revealed that one of his arteries was blocked 95%, another 85%. So much for the benefits of long distance running.

  2. Of course you’re right about that, Michael, but Jim Fixx was a longtime smoker and was overweight when he started running. His heart disease was likely owed to earlier abuses and a big helping of bad genetics.

    Still, I’m not convinced that long distance running is good for the body. Recent studies have shown that regular intense cardiovascular exercise can cause cell damage. And it’s hard on the joints.

    As always, my philosophy about exercise is as it is for for most everything. If it’s unnatural, excessive, or artificial, it’s probably not good for you. People in ancient times likely weren’t couch potatoes, but I doubt they ran for fun.

    Still, I think runners are cool, because all the runners I know are cool. Except Matt Carpenter, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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