An excerpt from the new paperback edition of To Be a Runner. . . . "Ever think of giving it a try?" It was a year since my knee surgery. Liam needed new running shoes, so we were back at our local shop, the same place where I decompensated after that morning at the symphony. My youngest son was now a senior captain on the JSerra cross country team, tall, independent, and fully versed in the ritual of purchasing trainers and flats.
I'm waiting for my wife to get her nails done. Thankfully, the Laguna Beach Brewing Company is just across the parking lot from the salon. So here I sit on a picnic table outside, "A Town Called Malice" — one of the great underrated 80s songs — playing on the outdoor speaker system. Today, it's an ironic term in that I feel anything but malice in this special town I call home. . . .
I am well aware of my introverted ways, of which solitude is a key component. When my oldest son was turning twelve and decided to skip his final year of Little League baseball, he agonized over the decision — not because he would miss baseball, but because he feared that I would no longer have any friends if I left the Little League coaching community. In time he came to understand that a lack of friends is not the issue, but the lack of a need for friends.
I have a complicated relationship with New Years resolutions. Like many people, I am filled with hope and a sense of rejuvenation as January 1 approaches, making a list of all the changes I'd like to make for a better me. I'm at something of a turning point in my life, making this year's annual resolutions something of a come-to-Jesus undertaking.
I took the team to Mammoth last month. We've gone every year since 2006 for a week of high altitude training. It's medieval the way I push the kids, running twice a day for a week on mountain trails that are never flat, and in fact always seem to go uphill. For the seniors it's a getaway they look forward to all year, second only to our Hawaii trip in terms of getting away from parental supervision and hanging out with friends. But it's not so easy for the freshmen.
. . . I had never given goats much thought, but I found myself wondering if maybe raising a few competitive goats would be a nice pastime. They looked cute enough, and it seemed like there wouldn't be much to it. But as with all new endeavors, you don't know what you don't know. What seemed simple on the surface would become an obsession. I like to win. I'm not embarrassed to say it. And all-consuming passion is very often what it takes to win.
It is only July, and yet I am already feeling the nerves of November. My cross country team just finished its fourth week of training. These summer workouts are when the championships of autumn are won. I normally coast through summer, cursing the twelve weeks between the first day of training and our first September meet. But this season is different.