In 2007 my wife talked me into writing a story for an Albuquerque Journal contest. The winner would get a free membership to Albuquerque Fit, a 14 week run-walk program. Winning the contest was a life changer. I had been overtraining for years. My injuries and a progressive disk disorder had prevented me from getting to a marathon start line. Now in my late 50’s I was injury free and ready to try again. Here is the story.
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Why I Want To Run a Marathon by Andy Winnegar

I am 57 years old. I was born and raised in Albuquerque. I have been running sixteen to twenty miles a week for at least 20 years.

Most recently I have been running with my Britney Spaniel—Tommy. Tommy provides me with companionship and I provide him with the opportunity to scent the neighborhood. One day I was running on the Santa Fe Rail Trail near my house and tripped on a tree root. It was one of those slow motion falls where you watch yourself going down. When I looked up Tommy was standing over me protecting me from any predators that might come my way. What a dog!

Tommy also helps me with interval or fartlek (speed play) training. This occurs whenever a person or dog is within his sight, smell or hearing distance. Although, I am not able to determine when or where this will happen, I have been able to take advantage of these unique training opportunities. He just takes off and pulls me with him.

I have discovered a new technique for running with a dog, which might help other dog owners. I use a thin luggage strap around my waist secured to the leash. I position the strap a little above my hips. Rather than being jerked by the arm, my hands are free to provide balance and energy. I am pulled from the center of my body, and my hips are directly under my upper body.

My wife Judy and I have been runners since 1980. We taught our kids to run starting around age 2. We have even taken running vacations many times to places like Stanley Park, in Vancouver BC, just to run the 8 mile seawall.

Interestingly and accidentally, we have run with the senior President George H.W Bush twice. Once in Portland Oregon, when he was Vice President we noticed around the track we were ending our run on there were men in suits standing as we passed. I said, “What’s going on?” No response. Then here comes the Vice President with a young pretty runner by his side. Later we learned it was the Mayor of Portland’s daughter.

A few years later we were running in Kennebunkport, Maine and we passed one another again and going in opposite directions. At the time, I was running bent over at the waist due to a back injury. He said “Are you alright?” as we passed. I admired his commitment to running. He was an inspiration to me really.

I love to run. I like to train and I want to run a marathon.

Postscript

I talked my friend Kurt Steinhaus into also joining ABQ Fit and traveling with me to Albuquerque at 5 AM on Saturdays for the 14 weeks of training. I ran the Humboldt Redwood Marathon in October, 2007 with wife Judy who ran the half marathon. Surprisingly I placed 3rd in my age group with a 4:01. I have run in 15 marathons since then finishing 10. I PR’ d twice with the same time of 3:38 at age 61 and 62 at the California International Marathon. Tommy died at age 12 in 2012.

I was riding the ski lift in Taos on February 15, 2016 with a 60-year-old ski instructor, and a couple from Ontario who were 67 and 65. The couple had slept in their RV parked at the ski basin and were sharing with us how cold it was during the night. They were wondering why they had slept up at the parking lot at the basin, as it was very similar to the temperatures and conditions they were trying to escape from in Canada. The RV was lacking the conveniences of home and the comfort of sleeping in their own beds.

The conversation moved on to various recreational activities, mountain biking, running and aggressive skiing and why each of us continue to torture ourselves. The ski instructor who works fulltime running his own business in town said he only comes up to the basin to instruct on holidays. He said it is a shame how many folks come up to the mountain to ski and end up sitting in the bar, because they are so out of shape from sitting at work. He said most don’t have the time or motivation to get in shape and cannot reach their skiing goals during their short vacations. I shared that since I started running marathons I have been so afraid I might get injured skiing that I don’t take enough chances, although I am in better shape now at 66 than when I was younger.

The instructor said he gave up 20 years of marathon running for just that reason. He didn’t think his knees would hold up. He said, he misses the excitement of getting ready for the marathon and the training, but now he uses his biking and skiing to replace the running. He said he still has to continue to work on core training, as his hamstring and quads get tight from skiing just as they did from running. Something that I have long known is that I have signed up for marathons as a motivational ploy, to stay in shape yet, I don’t really like going to races.

Although I like competition, I am not thrilled with paying the race-entry fees, travel costs and everything else. It even bothers me trying to pin my bib on straight. Getting ready for a race, for me, always involves a lot of worrying-everything from catching a cold, making flights, picking up the rental car, getting lost in a new city and getting to the starting line in the early morning on time.

In my last race, I seemed to have even lost the drive to win my age group, although that was why I was there in the first place. Although the two old guys in front of me were within my reach, I knew once I passed them I would have to race the last mile in. I no longer cared if I was first or third.

There are many runners I know and admire that have a great time at marathons or other races­competition or not. They seem to sign up once a month for something. They are happy to complete 26.2 miles, adding another race to their list of race accomplishments. They share their race bling on Facebook and seem to enjoy all aspects of participating: picking up race packets and adding new shirts to their collections. Some are competitors and some just like the social activity that goes with a running event.

Once I am running in at race, and if it is at my preferred pace and only after a few miles, I will start enjoying the race too. It is relaxing and meditative and I drift off not thinking at all or thinking how I might trick myself out of a slump to get going again. On the other hand, if I am in a race, I am generally focused on my time and speed and unless I am distracted by a friend or someone engaging me in conversation, I won’t talk to anyone at all. So as of today I am training just to train. I will see how I feel continuing to run and train, but without the race as a goal. As a first step I canceled my Mt. Charleston Half Marathon planned for this May.

training to train

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