I took up running as a practice fairly late in life, though I’ve always had an ability to jet on my feet. As a kid I played a lot of basketball, soccer, touch football, softball, kickball, etc.
Other than maybe basketball, I didn’t have much talent for sports: My hands may as well have been chopsticks. I could catch a ball about as well as trying to catch a brick. Speaking of bricks, even in basketball I could pass and cut well, but I laid more bricks than an urban refurb project, the rim might as well have been a snow globe during layups, and I dribbled about as well as a duck.
But I could run. Despite growing up with asthma, I ran outside with the other kids all the time, and shot hoops at my home after school and on weekends (spoiler: I’ve long since been able to breathe without problems, no inhaler or anything). I outran most kids in P.E. on runs around the yard. I would have medaled in the long run in my elementary school’s one field day where awards were given… had I not caught pneumonia the week before and had to miss it. And now and again I could out-sprint an angry dog in my less-than-safe neighborhood.
I got other interests as I grew older, and I knew anyway I couldn’t ball well enough to make a basketball or soccer team. However, my junior year in high school I found out the track team was holding open tryouts. This basically meant you showed up, ran as a group through campus for about a couple miles and as long as you didn’t puke and you remained interested you were on the team.
I showed up after school that day and ran. As we ran through the outdoor corridors, up the stairs and back down, I ran at a fairly brisk pace and even passed quite a few guys that I recognized as existing members of the track team.
It definitely felt like a workout, but I felt fairly good coming out of the run and headed home as usual. I figured I was good to go as a new member of the track team.
During the middle of that night I woke up with a lot of abdominal pain, like I needed to get sick. I went to the bathroom and nothing came out. But the pain was bad and getting worse. I woke up my parents and said take me to the hospital ASAP.
Off we went to the ER, and the pain was so bad that during our far-too-long wait in the waiting room I snuck into the restroom and laid on the floor just to find some relief, since I couldn’t even sit up.
They finally got me checked in and into an ER bed, pumped me full of enough painkillers to make life reasonable (but not before I vomited into a bag while still in pain), and ran some barium tests.
The doc came back and said, “You’ve got a kidney stone.” There was some sort of prescription or such to help it dissolve and dislodge, and they gave me a jar and paper cone to piss in just in case I could catch the actual stone as it came out someday, but otherwise said to wait it out and maybe fix my diet.
In any case, I felt a lot better walking out, and both my mother and I agreed that maybe track wasn’t a good idea… thinking that was the impetus for the stone to finally lodge in my tract and cause what happened. So that was the end of that.
Looking back, do I regret not going out for track again, knowing now that I can run for volume and that training at that age may have led to more?
- While the kidney stone was likely just a result of drinking the poorly filtered tap at home (an issue I fixed by switching to better filtered, and later distilled, water), I also didn’t eat the best diet at that age. I was skinny, and that means I probably wasn’t getting enough calories to withstand the daily ass kicking of track workouts. I wouldn’t have had the sense back then to make sure I loaded up on extra protein.
- I know a lot more now than I did then about proper form, cooling down, and recovery. Even if my nutrition was sound, I probably would have gotten myself injured or ended up with long term lower body injury problems from a high volume of faulty running. Coaches can only do so much to monitor your form. Not running track probably saved my legs and now allow me to run just fine as an older-something today.
- I also didn’t know how to pace myself. I would have run too hard to effectively develop my aerobic stamina. I probably had a better chance at over-running myself into another asthma attack (years removed from my last one).
- My shoes were fine for being a generally active high school guy, but probably weren’t up to the task of dozens of miles of running a week. And my folks did not have the budget to buy me $100 pairs of shoes/cleats just to run track. I probably didn’t either, even though by that point I was working part time at the library.
- I handled the 1-2 intro miles we ran that afternoon, but what could I have capably run if I did indeed join the team? And would I have had the endurance + speed to be competitive in those events? I did run fairly hard for my capabilities that afternoon. As much as I could run, I was only two years removed from struggling to finish the mile in freshman year P.E. class. I could run fast at shorter distances, but I don’t think I had the speed of other good Clark County sprinters. And sure, with regular aerobic training I might have been okay for cross country. But I wasn’t a great fit at the time for any event: I lacked the endurance to suitably do the 5K or 10K, and I didn’t have enough speed to excel at sprinting. Maybe I could have done the 800 or 1500. Big maybe.
So, looking back, it was probably for the best that whatever kidney stone I had manifested after that preliminary run. Sure it may have been cool to run track, and who knows what could have happened. But knowing what I know now, it may not have been great, and it might have screwed me out of all the much more rewarding running I get to do now.