My Running Story
I caught the running bug very young, and then, again, as middle-aged adult. I guess I’ve been part of both the first and the second running booms. I started running around 15, when I completed my first 10K as a junior in high school and ran until 21 when I injured my knee in a freaky, non-running related accident. At 46 and with a bad knee, I started racewalking and at 50 I started running again. I am 53 now and haven’t looked back, since.
As an active teenager in Caracas, Venezuela, I always played baseball, soccer, tennis, practiced karate and was always up for whatever activity required some sweat. My dad was a runner and I sometimes ran with him. In 1981 I ran my first 10K, I remember I did it in 50 minutes. In 1982 he had the crazy idea of running the New York City Marathon. I knew exactly what a marathon was but didn’t know anyone crazy enough to try it. He finished in 4:36:37 and I got intrigued. In December of that year we went to see one of my dad’s running buddies at the 30th kilometer of the Caracas Marathon. I thought it was super cool and jumped in for the last 12K. Right there I realized I had to live this experience, at least once. My dad was planning to run the Orange Bowl Marathon in January 1983 and told me if I trained, he would take me. To make a long story short, at 17 I ran my first full marathon and I did so in 4:11:11.
I kept running and after bonking in New York in 1983 I decided to stop thinking youth alone would get me though the grind of a marathon and a I trained properly for the 1984 Caracas Marathon and at 19 was able to set up my PR with 3:32:08. The following year I clocked 3:35:04 in the same race. By 1986, at 21 I was already a veteran and was progressing very fast. I was training to go sub-3 in Caracas that December but six weeks prior I hit my left knee against a wall and after my first surgery I watched in crutches how my two training partners crossed the line in 2:56 and 3:04. Between the disappointment and life getting on the way, I stopped racing for 26 years.
Even though I didn’t run or race, I kept myself somehow active. I biked, swam, walked and ran after my son as he grew up. I always knew I still had another marathon in me but in 2004 after my 2nd left knee operation, the doctor was clear: “It is over, no more marathons for you. You have the knees of an old man. You have no cartilage and starting to develop arthritis”. But on Saturday morning in 2011 I was overwhelmed by life and told my wife I needed to go for a walk. I would call her to pick me up when my mind was clear. Over three hours later I asked her to measure with the car how long I’ve walked. I went above a half marathon.
So, I registered to walk the Miami Half Marathon in January 2012, my first race in 26 years. I finished in 3:02 and 3 weeks later I did the Fort Lauderdale A1A half in 2:52. Then I discovered racewalking and a month later lowered my PR to 2:45. I was hooked again. In November I racewalked the Philadelphia Marathon in 5:41:40, and then kept racewalking for 3 years, setting up PRs of 1:12:48 for 10K; 2:36:13 for the half and 5:33:31 for the full.
I loved racewalking, yet I knew that was second-best to running. But picking up my number for the 2015 Miami Half Marathon I bumped into a friend who was telling me he had the same issue I had on my knee, yet he would keep running until the knee held. Right there I realized I stopped running because the doctor said so, not because I tried and failed. So, after the season was over, I started a run/walk program until the “walk” part of it was unneeded. A couple of days after my 50th birthday I ran my first half marathon in 2:27:08 and finished the 2015-16 season with a PR of 2:11:17. In 2017 I ran the New York City Marathon again and despite the 32 years in between, I managed to finish just 12 seconds slower than the first time.
These days I am part of two great running clubs, I have a great group of running buddies, I’ve ran over 1000 miles a year the last two years (2017-18), I’ve participated in over 60 races in the last 8 years, including 36 half marathons, I’ve traveled to several countries to race, I am healthy and at 53 I feel better than when I was 40.
Running may not be for everybody, but it certainly is for me..