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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

T-Shirt Tales: Fresno, CA, 1983, AAU Nationals

This t-shirt no longer fits me to a T. I physically no longer fit in it, but also, can barely run two miles in the time I once ran three. However, it carries with it fond memories when both were possible.

As you'll see, back in mid-December, 1983, I ran in Fresno. A strange collection of flukes sent me to run in what would later be understood as the biggest race I would ever run.

The process - in 1983, I was a high school junior at Shepard High School, running decently. While I'm no longer sure of my PR, I had a few 3 mile races in the low 16s, a bunch in the 16:40s, and the Crete-Monee Pow-Wow, then a short course, in 15:37.

A team of local runners, from Stagg, Richards and a few other high schools were gathered and raced against a few other teams at Conkey Woods in Crestwood, IL. All in all, it was a sparse showing in the cold of November. We stood between races warming up at a fire built in a trash can.

Atomic Balm muscle ointment filled the air with its medicinal stench, partly for aches, partly as insultation. Snow already was on the ground.

Willye White, five-time US Olympian, shot off the gun.

Maybe I was third or fourth. I still have the medal dashed into a box somewhere. Our team won, and off to Louisville, KY we went for the regional championships.

In KY, it rained hard, and I was up late the night before. The course was sloppy with mud, and so many runners who were within a minute of each other. Elbows knocked while I fought a headache. My inch-long spikes met the ground with no avail. I staggered through to 20th or 21st place with maybe a 16:43. Could have been 17:03? We won by one point, and wound up being sent to the National Championships in CA.

We flew to CA, but did not have enough to field a full team. I ran terribly. Part nerves, part exhaustion from travelling, and part inexperience. It was the first time I ran against such a great number of fast runners.

While I hardly won every race in high school - far from it, there usually weren't that many ahead or around me. Here, I was overwhelmed with solid runners, and summarily, had my butt kicked and handed to me. My time was basically the same as in Louisville, but should have been a PR. I think Joe Falcon won. I, on the other hand, finished in something like 150th place.

My coach was not a runner, and, as I learned later, would later be fired for child molestation or some variety of related abuse. I was never touched, or aware that this was going on, but my point is that he was neither serious nor qualified to train runners who were committed to excelling.

The race came and went. I missed a crucial driver's ed class, and wound up not getting my license until I was 19.


David Dane said...

Golly little jack rabbit, I can barely walk now, let alone get out there and run. How do you fix a bad knee? Go guy!

Resilient Hawk said...

Hey buddy, let's check out the Prairie Path sometime for a good long walk. Let's get Justice out there. We can walk the course I run - two mles there and back, ending up across from Wheaton Towers, then get breakfast. Let's find a day you aren't working.