My dad wrote this guest post a long time ago. Before I got sick in the fall and my training got derailed. And before my back injury, which has forced me to (hopefully temporarily) stop running altogether. He talks about wanting to run a race with me someday, and I sure hope we can make that happen! Enjoy. xo, Sharon
In 1972, on my first date with Paula, I told her that she would have to share me with my other girlfriend, my running. Despite that dire warning she continued to date me (who knows why) and eventually we got married. Along the way she went with me to many Saturday morning races, some of which were in very cold and/or rainy weather.
Before I continue this story I need to go back about 10 years to when I first discovered running.
Like many young boys growing up in Queens (which is part of New York City for those non-New Yorkers) I played stickball in the spring and summer and touch football in the fall and winter. Both games were played in the street, between the rows of parked cars. I was not very good at stickball – my strength was that I could run after the ball (usually after I misplayed it) faster than most of the other kids with whom I was playing. In touch football I was a decent pass receiver and defender, mostly again because I could run faster than the other kids. In Junior High School (grades 7 to 9) I joined the track team. As a seventh grader the longest race I was allowed to run was the 100 yard dash (which at the time seemed like a long distance). The 8th and 9th graders could also run the 220 yard dash. I discovered that I was not as fast as I thought. I was on the team for two years (grades 7 and 9 since I skipped the 8th grade). I have never considered those two years as part of my running career.
In the summer between 9th grade and the start of 10th grade I went to Boy Scout Camp. One of the things I did at camp was work on the Physical Fitness merit badge. One of the requirements was to complete a 600 yard run (I assume there was a time limit, but I do not remember what that time was). I completed the run well under the qualifying time and was quite proud of myself. A few weeks after high school began I walked into the track coach’s office and introduced myself. I told him about my 600 yard time from the summer and I could tell that he was not impressed. He suggested that I run in the intramural cross-country race that was to be held in a few weeks. I ran in that race and I think I did okay. A week or so later I was invited to join the cross-country team. I thought it was because I ran a good time. Later on I found out everyone who ran was invited to join.
Over the next three years I slowly became a runner. In the beginning I was not very good (compared to the others I was competing against). By the time I graduated high school my best mile was around 4:54 and my best two-mile was just over 10 minutes. My junior and senior years I was running twice a day – distance runs in the morning and speed work in the afternoon. I took a break from running the summer between my sophomore and junior years. When school started I found out how far out of shape I had gotten and realized I could not do that again if I wanted to be competitive. I think the biggest lesson from my high school years was the runner’s work ethic I developed. The coach worked us very hard (harder than either of my college coaches), but I enjoyed the workouts. In the summers I also worked out with a local running club. We met a few days a week and went for runs of 10 miles or more.
When college started my first roommate was not a runner. I was working out in the morning (long runs) before classes and again in the afternoon (with my team) after classes ended. I became friendly with another freshman (and fellow engineering student) runner and we started running together in the morning. His roommate was a soccer player, not a runner. After a few weeks we swapped roommates so that my running buddy became my new roommate. We lived and ran together for the next two years. I was slowly getting faster, but still nothing very spectacular.
I ran my fastest mile (4:26) as a junior on an indoor track. This was a dual meet, in which I won the mile race and helped lead our team to its first dual meet victory in over two years.
After graduation I continued running. I usually ran in the evening when I got home from work. I think this is when I started to mature as a runner. I was running on my own a few nights a week and with my club team a few nights a week. About 8 weeks after graduation I competed in a 6-mile track race. This race was part of an AAU championship meet that was only open to runners who had not previously won a championship race. I took the lead around the second lap (1/2 mile) and led the race up until the final turn to the finish. At that point I was passed by a runner who had just graduated from high school. He beat me by about 10 seconds. While I was disappointed to not have won, I was very happy with my time of 33:00 minutes (an average of 5:30 per mile for the 6 miles). I also ran some very fast times in longer races and qualified to run in the 1972 Boston Marathon.
My first date with Paula was about 2 months before Boston. I traveled to Boston with several of my club teammates, who were experienced marathon runners. The weather the day of the race was unseasonably warm and that combined with my lack of marathon experience (this would be my first) resulted in a disappointing finish time of 3:36:38. This time is unofficial since the official clock was stopped at 3:30:00. This was the first time I walked during a race. The next day my legs were very sore. By this time Paula and I were traveling home from work together and she let me have her seat on the subway since I was in too much pain to stand. I proposed to her a few months later. When we decided on the date for the wedding I asked that it be far enough after the Boston Marathon to give me time to recover. (As an aside, I did not run in Boston that year, so this turned out to be an unnecessary request.)
My next attempt at running a marathon was the New York City Marathon in 1979. While I was training Paula was pregnant with our second daughter, Brianne. The due date was a few weeks before the marathon so this seemed to be a workable plan. During the third trimester Paula developed some complications and was confined to the house by her doctor. I eased up somewhat on my training, not wanting to leave her alone for extended periods of time when she could not reach me (remember this was in the days before cell phones existed). In the end Brianne cooperated and was borne about two weeks before the marathon. The day of the race I left Paula, Sharon, and Brianne along with a baby nurse and went to run the race. It was cold (late October in New York City) and drizzling during the race. By about 18 miles I was feeling miserable and mentally down, having recognized my time would not be anywhere close to my Boston time. I dropped out around the 19 mile mark. That was my last attempt at running a marathon. I think that after I retire I may try again to tackle this beast.
I continued running 7 days a week after we got married. Over the years my workout schedule has changed back and forth between evenings and mornings depending upon what worked best for the family. A few months after we got married I realized that running 7 days a week conflicted too much with my family’s needs. I tried to adjust my schedule somewhat by not running Friday nights and then only either Saturday (usually a race) or Sunday morning.
In the early 1980s I co-founded with another colleague my company’s running club. Our major goal was to compete in the Corporate Challenge 5K races held each summer in Central Park in Manhattan. I was the only regular runner when we started the team. We managed to do reasonably well in the two years I was part of the team (I moved out of state after that time). More important to me was that I introduced running to a group of men and women who had either never run before or not since graduating from college. Some of them continued to run for many years after that start.
In our 40+ years of marriage we have lived in 5 separate states (New York – twice, Florida – twice, Tennessee, Georgia, and Louisiana). We have moved 17 times, 8 times across state lines. Sharon went to two elementary schools and two high schools. Brianne went to two middle schools and two high schools. The one constant in all this was that I kept running, no matter where we lived. Over the years I have done a fair amount of traveling for business. Usually if the trip was for more than overnight I took my running stuff with me. I have had the opportunity to run in high altitude locations (Denver and Santa Fe [which is actually higher than Denver]). When we moved to a new city I used my running to help me explore our new location. Some have said that I’ve placed my running over the needs of my family. As I have said in some previous postings, I could have done a better job of balancing family and running. To me my running partially defines who I am. It is not my times that matter, just that I run. When someone asks me to tell them a little about myself, aside from family info I tell them I am an engineer and a runner.
(quote by Alberto Salazar)
While running is still my passion, it has transitioned from a demanding girlfriend to a comfortable old friend with whom I enjoy spending time. Right now I am on a bit of a hiatus from running due to the time demands of my job. I am looking forward to getting reacquainted with my old friend. I am envious every time I see someone running. I am also envious of Sharon’s passion and success as she matures as a runner. Right now I think she is running as fast, if not faster, than I can at this moment. Hopefully someday I will get to run in a race with her and we will help each other get to the finish line. Run on Sharon!!
If you want to hear more from my dad, you can find his other posts HERE.
Albert is the proud father of Mommy Runs It’s owner Sharon Wilhelm. He has degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida and is also certified as a Project Management Professional. He started running as a sophomore in high school (Oct 1964), and never stopped. In high school and college he was a middle of the pack runner. He hit his peak as a runner in the first 10 years after graduating college. Though never achieving a champion performance, he ran some decent times (5K – 16:58, 5 mi – 27:07, 6 mi – 33:00, 10K – 34:58, 13.1 mi – 1:36, 20 mi – 2:20:51, marathon – 3:37:48). Currently he runs primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. He hopes that when he retires in a few years he will be able to increase his training and return to competitive running. His secret (not so secret any more) ambition is to be a high school track coach; not to produce champion runners, but to instill the love of running in these young people and pass on his experience.
Robin F. says
Really nice blog post. Thanks for sharing.