Running has become, pun unintended, a stop and start venture for me – a troublesome discovery.

I was a highly athletic youngster – soccer turned into basketball turned into softball turned into summer league softball, all the while peppered with pitching on fields during warm weather, in (I kid you not) school hallways during cold. The common denominator, regardless of the season? I ran.

My favorite memory from high school athletics wasn’t winning the state softball title, instead beating my soccer coach in a long distance race during my senior year.

Once a season, during some otherwise typical practice session, Barney would turn to us, grin wickedly and say, “Hey, let’s go for a jog.” By which he of course meant, “Let’s listen to you groan and beg me to let you stop running all over the neighborhood around the school – and ask me to forget the hill sprints I work into it.” When we did complain, his response was always the same, “I’m an old guy with a pot belly and I can outrun a team of in-shape high school girls? I should be the one whining, not you.”

So senior year rolls around and I’m one of the captains of our team. I’m in my fourth season and, at this point, I’ve never even been taken out of a game for a breather, so I’m used to running non-stop for a 80 minutes most days a week. When Barney sets of, I’m closely behind him, keeping a good pace and nipping at his heels.

We run. We hill sprint. We run more. And as we near the soccer field, where we know that we’re going to be expected to sprint the length before we can collapse, I move up next to him. He looks at me, cackles and sets off flying at the endline.

I edge out the win. He tips his hat and I, along with my teammates, pretty much keel over.

I didn’t run much in college and then went a bit overboard with it in the year following. Ever since, I’ll start running, then stop, then start again. I wind up frustrated, wondering how I did this every day for a good solid six years of my life and then let the muscles grow lax again before I resume.

The weather was perfect for a run yesterday, so I cued up the iPod, tightened the laces and set out. LCD Soundsystem moved me along the path to Shoe Pond, and I realized that I didn’t feel great during the run, but I hadn’t expected to feel even remotely this good.

Not a long run by any stretch, but a good walk around the pond and then a run/walk trip back home followed by some cardio courtesy of Comcast OnDemand. Felt great. Felt fit.

Woke up today with the aches and muscle tightness that takes me back to the two-a-days of August in small town Vermont. And as I stretched out my muscles and anticipated my run tomorrow, I realized that I was loving this pain.

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