Sole Papa

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Somewhere out there – in Fall 1989 Rockland, MA – 17 year-old Eddie Humphries is sucking wind, still straining to finish the first race he ever signed up for.

That was me – a long time ago in a place a long ways away from where I am now. I was in a different “state” then. Sure, I haven’t strayed very far away from my birth state of Massachusetts – migrating a little westward to the central part of the state from my near-coastal beginnings – but in many phases of the game, I’m a different guy. For starters, Eddie Humphries managed to shed the “die” from his first name – at least where my friends and some family members are concerned. My Mom and sisters prove a difficult nut to crack in that regard so Eddie will likely live long in their lives – until I fake my own death.

But for me – parts of that little guy are long gone. The ‘defeatist I can’t do this attitude’ was shed a few years before my hair would follow suit.

OK – so I had a mild excuse back in the day. Diagnosed asthmatic around my 12th Birthday, I could barely run the length of my awesome L-Shaped neighborhood without gasping for breath. Maybe not year-round but once our bumper crop of ragweed bloomed, I was a complete wreck. That played havoc with those awesome early September days when gym class was always held outside. The temporary escape from our High School internment just saw me transferred to another prison – trading in my aging, asbestos laden-High School for a 45-minute stint in a great outdoors equally hazardous to my weakened respiratory system. Athletic ability of any kind was just not in my grasp. I would be picked last for my District’s Hunger Games every damn time.

In the Fall of 1989, I decided to try out for Winter Track. Why? Let’s just say mid-80’s John Hughes flicks made their mark on my impressionable younger self and I figured if I could just beat all odds and inexplicably win the Big State Meet for the school – I’d have more than the key to the city. I’d finally have a shot at securing a real girlfriend!!! That there happened to be a girl I was crushing on hard on the girl’s squad just added a little more fuel to my fire. It was a fool’s errand for sure.

For Winter Track, we’d run indoors on most practices. My school did not have it’s own indoor track so we made do with our school’s floor plan – a rectangular-shaped building that ringed a modest courtyard. We’d sprint down the hallways at our Coach’s direction – hall passes be damned.

I never made it to a single meet. I quit the team 2 weeks into practices as I just could not keep up with my friends. In retrospect, I realize that is a horrible, loser mentality. Believe me – if I ever stumble across the secret to time travel, I’m not heading back to set right what once went wrong. Not on a global scale, at least. Leave saving Kennedy to Stephen King fiction. Nope – Ed Humphries is tracking down 17 year-old Eddie and telling him to “nut up”. And if I don’t listen, I’m totally knocking myself down and stealing my lunch money. Hey – I remember that paunch I used to rock – one or two fewer Hostess Apple Pies would most certainly bear fruit.

I look at where I am now and I feel proud. Look – I’m not setting the world on fire. Nobody is demanding to see my Birth Certificate to disprove my American heritage and uncover some secret Kenyan lineage that has me as a lock for next year’s Boston Marathon.

But at the age of 42 – I’ve started in and completed 3 full races this year alone. Aside from the half-triathlon I entered and finished a few years ago (to apply a little stamp to some significant healthy lifestyle changes I had made) – up until this year, I had never entered and completed a traditional road race. That one time I did sign up for one – back in the Fall of 1989 – I quit halfway through a 5 K and walked my way back to the starting line. I mean, how dumb is that? I made it halfway and turned around and walked back. Had I just stopped running and walked forward, I would have actually finished the race. But there was something in me that didn’t see the finish line. I thought I had been passed over on that portion of the genetic lottery – with my talents sequestered squarely in my mind.

“Stupid, fat and lazy is no way to go through life, son.”

I woke to a picture perfect New England November morning today – knowing that a few hours later, I would be running in my first-ever 10K. I couldn’t care less where I would finish; what place nor time I would merit. All I knew was I was starting from Point A and I was finishing at Point B. That’s it. That’s the mission. How I got there – whether it was running, walking or crawling – none of that phased me. As long as I pointed my big nose forward and followed it ’til my feet beat their way to the ending – I was content.

The 10K was a result of my 2014 New Years Resolution. On December 31, 2013 – as the hours ticked ever closer to midnight, I realized for the first time in a long time that I had nothing I resolved to do in the coming new year. Over the last few years, I’ve placed my bets on some significant life moments. Losing weight. Getting in shape. Being more patient. Writing a play. Producing a play. For the most part, I hit my spots. Like I said – that old ‘young Eddie’ – he’s pretty much gone. The Ed I am today rips a page from my favorite movie – The Shawshank Redemption.

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living. Or get busy dying.”

I choose life – every time out.

So since turning 36, I have done so many interesting, varied things that I never thought to do in my earlier days. Heck, the fact that I’ve written and produced 2 plays to actual paying audiences sort of makes this life completely worth having lived it. Everything else feels like icing at this point.

But in the last few hours of the last day of last year, I was at a loss. I had no idea what I would resolve to do. And then inspiration hit.

Do something new. Do something I’ve never done before.

But not just ONE something. EIGHT NEW SOMETHINGS!!! Why Eight?!?!? I have no freakin’ clue. It’s not my favorite number (that’s 6). It’s not anything meaningful in any way. All I can think of is that perhaps 6 felt too few and 12 felt a little unattainable. 8 seemed like a good way of splitting the difference. One new thing every 6 weeks or so sounds totally manageable.

Today’s 10K marks my 7th new thing in 2014. I’m not going to write all about them today. Not when I have #8 still on deck for next Saturday. Once that’s completed, I’ll offer up a new post.

But the 10K – while being the 7th New Thing I did this year – was actually the first thing I settled on when I made that bold statement. Once I announced my resolution to my friends and family on Facebook (on the afternoon of January 1st), I opened the doors to suggestions. One of the first to come floating in was from my friend Sarah who simply suggested “Run a 10K with me”.

I read that and drove over to my local 24-hour-a-day gym and jumped on the treadmill. I ran 6.2 miles just to make sure I had the endurance (granted it was indoors BUT I wanted to know that I could at least do it under controlled circumstances before signing on). Then I snapped a pic of the time – and a second very sweaty selfie of myself – and responded, “I’m in. Can we do it now?”

It was icy & cold outside so the run would have to wait. We picked out a spot in April and began the wait through winter. April should have seen me checking the box BUT I ended up tweaking my back something major somewhere around the end of February and that was that. With 8 weeks of physical therapy on deck and seemingly no end to my agony, I thought it was done. I actually entertained thoughts that I would NEVER feel good again. That this was it. I was 42 and this what happens. Everything young gets old.

But I kept at it and kept stretching – doing everything the physical therapist told me to – and by Spring, I had finally worked things out.I got to experience a little of the metaphysical rebirth of the season.

As the year wound on and I continued accumulating new experiences, I had that 10K in mind. It was the FIRST THING I had slotted on my list. I HAD to do it!!!

In late August, I came down with a nasty viral-something that sent me to the hospital after 48-straight hours of dehydration. That was in the week leading to Labor Day. I didn’t eat an actual meal until Friday of Labor Day weekend – my appetite completely shattered; my body weakened. On Saturday morning, I noticed there was a 5-mile Road Race set up in nearby Charlton and on a whim, I signed up for it. I should market my new fitness program. “From Hospital Bed to 8K in 5 Days“. I ran that race and finished it – sweating out all those pricey liquids my insurance had just paid the hospital ER for. So that’s WHY co-pays are so outrageous these days.

In September – as I was in mid-production on my play, The Lost World – I discovered a local 5K (“Brady’s Mission“) which was named after a local little boy who had suffered from neuroblastoma. The race was taking place in the same venue as where we were having the play, so I signed up – knowing it was for such a great cause. I started and completed that race; one held on a picture perfect New England Autumn Day.

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I felt good. I started the year not having ever entered a true road race. A few months later, I thought I’d never enter a race again. And before the first leaves had fallen, I had started and finished two full, fairly significant contests – and for a good cause, no less.

But none were a 10K – and this isn’t a matter of semantics. I said I had never run a 10K. I intended to strike that phrase from my vocabulary. I’m a man of my word. It took me awhile to figure that out in life BUT I got there.

So about a month ago, my friends Sarah and Stacey asked me to run the The Gobble Gobble 10K run at Center of Hope in Southbridge, MA. Total no brainer. I signed up that very day and began a little light training.

Well – I’m here to report that I did it – running with friends Sarah, Stacey and Tovah (all of whom pledge allegiance to their own all-female running group – The Sole Mamas). We met up this morning facing a really beauty; a day where the sun shone down and the air warmed to late-40s by race time. It was absolutely perfect weather for this time of year. Starting and finishing with these fine women – and even better friends – was a memory I’m glad I made.

I finished at 57 m 07 s. That’s a little over 9 minutes-a-mile. I’ll take it.

I’ll take it because I started from Point A and ended at Point B and that’s something I can’t say about my young slacker self. That dude – he’s a lost cause. He’s gone now.

All that remains is this Sole Papa – and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.

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