I remember running everywhere as a youngster. I even preferred running to riding my bike. In grade school, I was always one of the last ones tagged during recess. As a 14-year-old high school freshman at a private boarding school, I entered my first organized competition, a two-mile cross country run for freshman only. I won the race in 0:12:01, breaking the old school record of 0:13:31, by a minute and a half. For the balance of the school year, I would “train” by running that course once or twice a day during my free time.
The following year, I competed in the same race, but only for sophomores and juniors. About halfway around the course, as I was overtaking the lead runner, I slipped and fell in a puddle left over from the previous night’s rain. I lost valuable seconds and almost caught him at the finish. He set a new school record of 0:10:30, with me in second place only a split second behind.
For my junior year, I transferred back to my hometown public high school. I competed in cross-country and track, as a half-miler, and earned my varsity letters. But, I did not win any races. In fact, I did not compete in either sport in my senior year. In college, I continued running for exercise, but did not compete on any school teams. After college, I increased my level of “recreational exercising” to 100 miles per week and started to compete in local 10 km and 10 mile races. No wins or podium finishes.
A year before the 1980 Summer Olympics, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, to see if I could make the team as a 10 km runner. I didn’t know if I was really good enough, but I had no family or financial obligations to worry about. Reality smacked me in the face the first time I entered a mile “fun” run at legendary Hayward Field, the site of the Olympics Trials. I finished a humiliating last place with a time just under five minutes. The winner finished under four minutes. That was the end of my competitive running career. I moved to San Francisco for a year, continuing to run for exercise. Then, I made a lifestyle change and joined the Army for five years.