Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 16 Oct 2001 08:49:26 -0400

Happy New Year


No, my 2001 calendar didn't lose its last four pages. I like to think of the new year beginning the day after Labor Day, not the week after Christmas.

Vacation season, whether actual or mental, is over. Offices are back to full staff, classrooms are up to capacity. We're back to business.

The volume of my mail and phone calls suddenly doubled this past week. The "new year" was less than a week old when the contract for my next book (an update of Fitness Running with Dick Brown) came through after languishing at the publisher's office most of the summer.

September is a happy time for borderline workaholics, of which I'm one (who sometimes slips over that border). We're the type who shout as the new work week begins, "Thank God it's Monday!" We say as the summer ends, "Oh boy, now I can go back to work!"

Summer isn't meant for hard work, especially in running. It's the sweaty season, when results rarely live up to the efforts put into training and racing. By August we're tired of summer because we're tired FROM it.

Jack Bacheler, one of America's best runners a generation ago, lived then in the humid-heat capital of Gainesville, Florida. His summers there were so unproductive that he took six weeks away from running before starting a new training cycle in the fall.

September brings better runs for all of us, even without a Bacheler-like vacation. Cooler weather helps, as does the general sense that it's time to get busy again.

More Americans run marathons in the fall than any other season. Some 80,000 marathoners have entered just three races -- Chicago, Marine Corps and New York City. With those and many more marathons a month or two away, the training now gets serious.

Running was once an almost entirely school-based sport in the U.S., and many students still become runners there. They start with the school year, with cross-country season in September. Those runners who become lifers will come to reflect happily on this month as anniversary time.

My first high school didn't offer cross-country, so I missed starting to run in September. I played football instead, in a season I'd like to forget (but can't because of arthritic shoulders and thumbs from old collision dislocations).

But I did become a true distance runner in a later fall. A new school fielded a cross-country team, which took me off the track and beyond a single mile. It gave me a first glimpse of all that running could become.

I still celebrate September as starting a new year for me. Now it's also a new beginning for my kids.

I've missed them all summer. Not my own three children -- I've seen or talked with one or more of them almost daily -- but my adopted ones.

These are the students in my running class at the University of Oregon. I started missing the two-weekly sessions with 30 of them as soon as the last class ended three months ago.

Soon 30 more will show up at our first class. They'll start out mostly as strangers -- to me, to each other and to running. We'll end up as a team of friends. I can hardly wait to see the new year become a new career for some of them.

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