Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Oct 26 2013 09:00 AM

HERB BENHAM: Despite creaks, groans, body is running again

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

I started running again. I quit 10 years ago. I waved goodbye to the people who I was never going to catch and those advancing on my left flank.

I was not Forrest Gump. When I stopped running, the news did not make the front page, Sports page or the Kern Track Association newsletter. My career was undistinguished. Two mid-pack marathon finishes, several lackluster 10ks and some painful Pie Runs.

I clocked my best time when chased by three hoodlums and a girl one early foggy morning in Yokuts Park. They were walking the opposite way and one of the gang stepped in front of me. I yelled, called them out and then reconsidered. They turned to chase and I sprinted. I could have used them to improve my standing in the Police Run.

At 50, my hip ached, back hurt and my neck was stiff. Walking was civilized. My brothers and friends had graduated to walking. Why not me?

Walking made thinking possible. Pleasureable. Problem-solvable.

I don't know if you solve problems walking, but slow helps and that's what walking is, slow.

I became curious on our recent trip to Greece. In Santorini, a man in black shorts was running up the 600 steps that linked the town and the Aegean Sea as I was walking down.

Could I do that? Run again? What would it feel like?

Three weeks ago, I ran 200 yards during my walk with the dogs on the other side of the river. Gennie, the black lab mix, stopped and looked at me, as if to say, "What are you doing?"

I made it about 160 yards and then toughed out the last 40. It did not feel good. I wasn't running so much as plowing. You could have planted winter rye in my tracks.

I went to Big 5. I started at the sale table because it looked promising. I stayed away from the pink shoes and the shoes mountaineers use in their assault on Everest.

I chose light, gray and under $50. I am a New Balance man because their shoes are wider than sleds. New Balance is to running shoes what a La-Z-Boy is to recliners.

Last weekend in Del Mar, I ran from 19th Street to Torrey Pines and back. The tide was low, the sand flat and hard and the weather overcast. In other words, the conditions were perfect for running -- or not running and napping.

The run is about six miles. It took a while. I didn't look at a watch because nothing good could come of it. It's like weighing yourself. You are always slower and heavier than you want to be.

I'm probably imagining things, but people looked at me as if to say, "You call that running?"

Some of the walkers acted as if I had betrayed the order of pedestrians: "You've joined the other team, traitor."

Yes, I have. I am no longer a member of your flat-footed nation.

I am a runner, gazelle-like, barely grazing the tops of the sand crabs.

I ran straight ahead, backwards, and then side to side. Who knows. I could have been training for a heavyweight bout or Leadville.

I felt like Leadville. Lead. Legs that used to belong to me but seemed impervious to modest commands.

I'm not sure where this is going. If a shuffle becomes less of a shuffle, injuries await. Achilles can snap like banjo strings, hamstrings tighten as if awaiting a colonoscopy and who knows about groin and calf muscles, which have a life of their own.

I'm an AA runner -- one day at a time, or every other day at a time. We'll see.

It's not getting easier. However, for now, I'm in. Two days from now, I could be solving problems again.

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