M has great legs. She also has a great stride. Her feet spring from the dirt. Her knees leap like white-water rapids. Her steps are as cool as the mountain air. M can do six minute miles and just float down the trail. She's a natural. I've run behind her enough to know.
There are three ingredients that make a great runner: 1) the Madness. 2) the Stride. 3) And a whole lot of luck. M has two out of three. Unfortunately, she easily gets injured. And she has never had a quality coach. Still, the woman has talent. It oozes from her. She's what some people call an athlete. Her abilities can take on a mythic quality that make me go, Huh? No way! I hear snippets of these stories from her dad. Here are a few:
- M came from a poor family in west Texas, which gave her a mad determination to kick butt. In her teens, she never lost a race. She ran middle distances: 400K's and 800K's. M would show up to races in homemade clothes and thrift-store shoes. And she would leave everybody in the dust. When M was in junior high, she went to a track meet and beat all the older girls from the high school. After that, she was famous.
- It didn't matter what sport M was competing in, she won. One day M decided to try swimming. She never had a lesson. She couldn't dive. She didn't even know the name of the strokes. No problem. M's dad took her to a swim meet. She was not wearing a slick bathing suit and a head cap. Nope. She wore her favorite Coke-a-Cola bikini. When the race started, M jumped in the pool. The other girls dove. Already in last place, M took off like a torpedo. She splashed half the water out of the pool. She left everybody in her wake. And she won first place. The other girls cried.
- In high school, M started to hate running. She was tired of always needing to win (weird... huh?). She wanted to try drama instead. So M stopped showing up to track practice. The coaches were angry. They sent the cheerleaders and pep squad members to change her mind. But no luck. M was done. Then one day, M got busted for not wearing the proper attire. Her skirt was too short. The principal called her into his office. He made her a deal. Either she went back to track practice, or she got a month of detention.
To give you another perspective, let's focus on my stride. Have you ever read the book Frankenstein? Remember the scene where the monster is being chased by angry villagers with pitch forks and torches. Yeah. That's me. That limping, mush-brained monster. Me. Only worse. Here are a few things that give me a crappy stride:
- Genetics. As I may have mentioned before, I tend to under-pronate, which gives me a duck walk. I come from a long line of duck-walkers. If you ever see my family walking down the street, you may have an urge to make quacking noises.
- Bum Knees. When I was a kid, I had a growth spurt and my knees filled with cartilage. They are a constant source of pain. Also I had a bike wreck that made them even worse. Today they are not too bad, but any little bump will cause swelling.
- Poor circulation. In junior high, I went on a camping trip and my feet got frost bit. Ever since, the circulation in my toes has been awful. My feet easily get crimped. On cold days, I have to worry about getting frost bite again. This has happened a few times while running on the peaks. My toes will turn red and the pain is horrific.
- Tib Fib. When cycling in Boulder, I got whacked by a car. The impact snapped my tibia and fibula. The doctors had to shove a pin in my leg. Now they did an excellent job. My legs are pretty much the same length. And except for some IT-band pain, a little arthritis in my knee/ankle where the screws were, and the occasional aches when the barometer goes up, the leg does extremely well. But I did suffer nerve damage. My left foot often goes numb. Sometimes I completely forget the damn thing. And if I'm not careful, I tumble over rocks.
Enough excuses? Well gee. I can likely come up with more. I have spent many years honing my skill of sounding bitter and pathetic. Anyway . . . Me no runner.