Yes, a picture is still worth a thousand words, but please don’t assume the following words with the following pictures:
Agony. Regret. Insanity.
Try words like Healing. Victory. Fun.
Jog along with me for a bit and I’ll explain.
Running does not run in my family. I took it up in college when my first journalism boss, Athens Daily News sports editor Billy Harper, encouraged me to sign up for the Peachtree Road Race. That was in 1982. My roommate Mark Karwisch and I drove to Atlanta, crashed at our friend Lou Barnett’s house off LaVista, and made it to the starting line on time, one of 25,000 runners back then who struggled into Piedmont Park July 4. I wore the t-shirt for a year and then used it as a rag to wash my car. Yeah, yeah, no car is worth that much.
I quit running once I got my diploma and moved away from Athens. It took eleven more years before I would run my second Peachtree, and only after some life-altering news.
In 1991, WAGA assigned me to cover the soldiers returning to Fort Stewart after Desert Storm. We worked long hours, doing live reports from morning until late at night. I was tired, but for some reason I also couldn’t quench my thirst. No matter how much water I drank, I still needed more. It also meant making constant trips to the nearest bathroom. Once I even poured two Cokes into the Holiday Inn ice bucket and walked around drinking out of that while we edited our stories. It became ridiculous. The next week I went to my doctor and learned the reason: Type 1 Diabetes.
Like running, diabetes also does not run in my family. We think it came from a virus that weakened my immune system, slowly killing my pancreas. At 29 years old, this was a stunner. It meant changing my diet, learning how to inject myself with insulin multiple times a day, and figuring out the crazy see-saw world of high and low blood sugars. I found a great endocrinologist, Dr. David Arkin, who casually mentioned regular exercise could help control diabetes. Exercise. As in running. Motivation can come in the strangest of ways.
The doctor was right. Running in my neighborhood was painful at first, but slowly I managed to again go one mile without stopping, then two miles, then five miles. My schedule changed at work and I was able to take the day off July 4, 1993, finishing my second Peachtree. It was a blast. It got even better when my wife asked, “how can I get a t-shirt?” Well, honey, you have to run the race.
Not only has she finished 21 Peachtrees, she’s made it a true party. We invite our running friends to get hotel rooms with us at Embassy Suites near the starting line. We have a party the night before the race, feast on Maggiano’s after the race, and stay for more food and fireworks in the Lenox Mall parking lot. I tell people we have an eating marathon with a 10K in the middle. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution even profiled our merry group a few years ago.
This year we expect at least 100 people with 45 hotel rooms reserved. Every year I tell my wife it’s gotten too big. Every year it always works out. And none of this fun would likely have happened without that terrible news I got in 1991. We didn’t just turn lemons into lemonade. We turned them into a celebration.
These days, my wife and I also run marathons. We’ve run in Paris and Scotland, New York and Chicago. Running gave us one more thing to enjoy together, especially now that our girls have grown up and moved away. Twenty-five years after getting some terrible news, my disease is under control. It’s never perfect, but when they run their tests my doctors shake their heads and smile. Running has truly been a blessing. And trust me, despite the pictures you see here, it really is fun.
My wife’s running pictures always look like she’s the grand marshal of some parade, always so happy.
My running pictures always look like the Agony of Defeat. I figure if you’re going to run a race, run it as hard as I can. That philosophy doesn’t just apply to running. It works with anything you set out to do.
This year, the Atlanta Track Club has invited the local TV stations and newspapers to compete in a Peachtree Road Race Media Challenge. Eight of us will line up between the B and C groups and run our own little race. I can’t make any predictions on who will win, but I can predict this fact: when the photographers snap those official race pictures, you will not see me smiling. At least, not on the outside.