ALLISON PATiLLO EXPLAINS WHAT VIEWERS CAN EXPECT TO SEE IN A FILM about the history of popular running in her article for Competitor.com, “ ‘Free to Run’ Documentary Explores the Evolution of Running”. The piece includes a link to the trailer, which as good trailers should, left me hoping to see the entire work after watching it. Unfortunately this may not be soon. According to Patillo the film, directed by Pierre Morath, debuted July 15 in New York City. Only a few other cities have been identified as sites of release in theaters. “Additional showings are planned around the U.S., including Santa Monica (July 22), San Diego (July 29), Denver (Aug. 5), Santa Fe (Aug. 5), Eugene, Ore. (Aug. 19), Portland, Ore. (Aug. 19) and Anchorage (Aug. 29)”. An ‘on-demand’ release is in the works she says, although the date was not provided on the page that was linked to her article.
The trailer brought back memories of my own history as a runner. It was not the 1960’s, when non-elite recreational runners were just beginning to get out on the roads and faced harassment, but in late 1975 that I started. However I was living in a small town in the Great Lakes region, Kalamazoo Michigan, and perhaps acceptance of popular running lagged there a bit, like other national movements that are born on the East and West coasts. I did not know anyone else who ran recreationally, either man or woman. I honestly cannot recall the specific inspiration that caused me to take up this activity, but being a newly-minted registered dietitian I wanted to look and feel more healthy. During my internship in Los Angeles the previous year I lived within sight of the UCLA track stadium (a portion of it is in the image above). There was a lot of running excitement in 1974-75, and i recall trying to get a glimpse of the famed New Zealand miler John Walker when he visited; in August 1975 he set the world record for that distance.
I lived in an apartment complex at the western edge of Kalamazoo a few miles from Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. There were no sidewalks and the gravel shoulder of the road into town was narrow. Early on I ran in men’s cotton gym shorts and t-shirts (there were no yoga capris or women’s active wear in that era), feeling unsure, awkward, and self-conscious. It was not fun. As passing cars would honk and swerve and their occupants would yell insults and sometimes throw light objects at me, I started running only in the dark hours, night and morning. This was less safe for many reasons, so next I began driving to the K-College track.
It was so much fun running there without carrying the concerns of safety and opinions of others that I finally was able to complete 2 miles without stopping, then 5 miles, then even more. I realized that in order to make it to the feeling-good stages of running, I only needed to get beyond those 2 miles (obviously I had no concept of warming up). Jim Fixx’s, “The Complete Book of Running” was published in 1977 and this red-color-covered book lit the fires for me.
In my experience it was not easy or convenient to find help with training in those early years; community-minded running stores as exist today did not open until the 1980’s and races did not commonly offer training programs. The computer/internet era expanded access to an amazing extent. My life for decades was centered on a medical career and family. None of my friends was interested. My one and only running buddy was Jan K, a fellow medical student. We ran at 5am before surgery rounds and looked like hell all day because of it. Jan moved out of state within a year to accomodate her husband’s job transfer.
My running history is not one of glory or ceiling-shattering bravery; at best it is one of perseverance. Annually I can extend the streak of continuous years running and competing by one count. But I am proud of this and cannot wait to learn, through Morath's documentary, about the sport's heroes who paved the way for me and millions of other runners.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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