Running here, there, bare and everywhere by Steve Lang �I�ve decided to actually go through with my crazy plan of running across the Grand Canyon.� � Tom Ring
�Avoid running at all times.� � Satchel Paige
Sometime in the next few days, I probably will receive a phone call from Tom Ring, who earlier announced his intentions to run across the Grand Canyon.
Until I became associated with distance runners I assumed that wrestling was the sport reserved for the truly crazy. (I deliberately exclude football and hockey from this category due to the use of padding, timeouts, line changes, offensive and defensive units, period intermissions, halftime and the two-minute warning.)
Tom, like me, found his way to Texas from Vermillion. Unlike me, he found his way out of Texas as well, and will be enrolling in the University of Chicago School of Medicine in the fall. During the year after his graduation from Rice University he did time at Northwestern University, where he earned a master�s degree in a type of engineering which may or may not include prefixes and suffixes of bio, monic, medical, pneu, phonic, cillin and manic.
�Take my word, it�s not a household topic,� Tom said. �You won�t need this type of engineering expertise unless some seldom-used body part malfunctions, falls off or dislocates.�
I unconsciously tapped my temple, then patted my backside.
�Well, my brain and backside seem to be in the proper place, although levels of usage may vary,� I said, �but maybe I could
recommend your services to some other folks I know.�
Tom and my son Zeb have used several modes of transportation in their young lives, but both return to foot travel for the same unexplained reasons water buffaloes may dream of sky diving, with one possible exception: if a coach wants to yell encouragement or criticism, he/she had better keep pace.
As a former left-handed baseball pitcher � which belongs in a separate but equal category of crazy � I thrived on the advice of a right-handed pitcher named Johnny Sain: �Nobody ever ran the ball across home plate.�
Another philosophy maintained that a pitcher was no better than his legs. After glancing at my scarred, bony, bruised wheels, I can easily understand why I never received professional offers for either pitching or modeling.
Tom and Zeb both ran cross country and competed in distance events at their respective institutions, a term I deem fitting for people whose post-baccalaureate work includes 80 miles of weekly road work. Zeb mentioned the other day that he competed in a 15 kilometer road race (9.3 miles) in upstate New York, placing 126th out of 8,833 finishers.
I visualized a jaunt from Sul Ross down 118 to a finish line past Double Diamond with the Railroad Blues happy hour crowd ahead of me and the rest of Brewster County�s populace bringing up the rear. Then I saw myself stumbling and vicariously experienced the sensation of the luckless or slow who are annually photographed soaring awkwardly toward a serape stand during the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
�I was averaging about 5:51 per mile,� he said, and I reckoned I would average that many water breaks.
�I�m not racing anything too hard at this point of the season as I�m aiming to peak in November, but the race was very encouraging for me.�
Encouraging for me, too, especially since I wasn�t in it ? nor plan to be in the marathons that will be next on Zeb�s schedule. As far as peaking is concerned, I�m content to peek at Mitre or the Mule Ears.
By this fall, Tom�s med school rigors will likely limit his running to light six-to-10-mile jogs, but I still find his upcoming run down one side of the Grand Canyon and up another difficult to fathom.
I once slept on the rim of the Grand Canyon � in February � and swam after a downed duck in Minnesota in November weather, but this running seems downright crazy.
I�m not sure where my son inherited the running genes, but I will note that his high school regimen included monthly night jaunts along the Missouri River. One year, he jumped into the water at least once per month at the end of a run, including those months that end in icicles.
Twice, I chauffeured/accompanied Zeb and Tom on 11-hour road trips to Kenosha, WI during Thanksgiving weekends so they could compete in national high school cross country races.
My suggestion that they could step outside the house and lope through the snow of South Dakota instead of Wisconsin white stuff fell on deaf ears.
And only a long distance runner will stride toward the starting mark � manned by a shivering starter bundled in snowmobile suit, fur hat and Gore-tex mitts � remove his sweatshirt and insulated running tights, toss them to his father who is bravely trying not to shiver and say, �hold these ?til I get back.�
Crazy as running seems, runners do have time to think sane thoughts, though. Somewhere on those trails, Zeb figured out how to graduate from an Ivy League university incurring less debt than an average new car purchase, and how to start a full-time job two days after graduation.
I hope Tom thinks about making house calls, but if he ever sets up practice in my neighborhood, he�d probably think twice.
Former Vermillion resident Steve Lang drives, not runs, to Marathon (TX).