By Laurence Holmes —
(CBS) “I’m a man. I’m 40.” Those were the words once yelled by Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy that will forever live on in sports lore.
Gundy’s words never spoke so true than in my last trip out to the desert.
While I was out in Arizona recently, getting my last Cactus League look at the Cubs and White Sox, I walked the concourse at Camelback Ranch. Out near centerfield, they have a pitching speed cage. My wife coaxed me into throwing, and I popped 60 mph on the gun.
Granted, I was barefoot and haven’t thrown anything in forever, but it was still disappointing. Throwing a baseball was my one consistent athletic gift. I wasn’t a flamethrower, but in my 20s I could hit 80 mph consistently, make the throw from third to first look routine and obviously chuck it from behind the plate to second at a decent clip.
As we get older, finding a good outlet for your competitive spirit can be difficult. Some of mine is eaten up by challenging myself with work, but it doesn’t quite hit the same note as athletics. There’s an adult baseball league down the street from my house and on Sundays, I sometimes walk past the park and sigh because I’m not playing. Because of my show’s schedule, I abandoned playing softball in the radio league, which honestly brought out the worst in me. Thank goodness, I found running.
I was anti-running. It didn’t make sense to me. Why do it if you’re not trying score runs, or buckets or touchdowns? But then last August, I got hurt and needed a challenge to get through physical therapy, so I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 5K run, even though I’ve always been more tortoise than hare. I trained and finished the race (slowly). That being said, it was exactly the rush I was looking for.
Since November, I’ve cut that 5K time by 14 minutes, so I decided to up the stakes and sign up for the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8k endeavor.
Flash fact about me: I’m uncomfortable in crowds — whether that’s walking out of a ballpark after the last out of a game or checking out what’s happening at C2E2 or being in a corral before a race starts. Running can be social, but for me it’s solitary.
While I check on my friends’ times to see where they’re at, I’m competing against myself. That was the beauty of finishing Sunday’s race. I’d never run five miles consecutively before and honestly I wasn’t sure that I could do it, but I was disciplined in my training and relied on that to get me through. Standing and waiting for the race to start was just like game day in high school or college. The feeling of harnessing your emotions was very familiar.
There’s a ton of joy that sweeps through a big race, and the Shuffle is the biggest 8K in the world. You see people who are running for a loved one or part of a team for charity. My reasons are admittedly more selfish, but I get to be a part of the wave anyway.
Sunday morning, I figured out why I’ve gotten more immersed in the culture of running: There are no losers. I got a medal for finishing and sure, maybe it’s the adult equivalent of a participation ribbon, but as soon as I got home, I started thinking about how I could improve on my time and what the next race could be. That inertia has begun and it’s hard to stop.
I am a man. I am 40, but I’ve finally found the outlet for my competitive streak and to running, I’m very grateful.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.