Column: “Fun” running

On April 27, dedicated runners hit the streets to compete in the Rye Derby. Sports Editor Mike Smith much preferred his spot on the sidelines. Photo/Mike Smith

On April 27, dedicated runners hit the streets to compete in the Rye Derby. Sports Editor Mike Smith much preferred his spot on the sidelines. Photo/Mike Smith

On a sunny, brisk Sunday afternoon, I watched a throng of dedicated runners take to the streets of Rye to compete in the annual Rye Derby. As these people streamed across the finish line, caked in sweat, with varying looks of weariness and elation on their faces, I couldn’t help but think, boy, do I hate running.

Now, I understand that some people are just into running. At some level, I get that. I grew up as an athlete and I still lace-up the cleats to play baseball once a weekend for the thrill of competition. For me, competition is less about the team on the other side of the field and more about my own internal struggles each time I step in the batters box. So I get the allure of running.

I completely understand a runner’s dedication to his or her craft, the constant work to improve a time and the sense of accomplishment of finishing a race. I just don’t know how they do it.

Back in my school days, I certainly put time and thought into our yearly timed mile in gym class. But, while other kids were out there training, regulating their breathing, hoping to gain a precious few seconds on our run, my preparation took a different form entirely. I was doing my best to perfect finishing the mile with the least amount of effort possible.

I struck gold sometime in my sophomore year when I realized the paddle tennis courts around Scarsdale High School’s track provided a fantastic hiding spot. I’d set off on our first lap of the mile, duck behind the courts—out of view of our phys-ed teacher—let the rest of the class continue the run and then join back up for the last lap, right in the middle of the pack so as not to attract attention.

It was the perfect plan.

As a college pitcher, my practices consisted of throwing a bullpen, shagging some fly balls and extensive cardio. How I loathed running endless poles in the outfield. But when our coach sent us on long, timed runs through the neighborhood around the field with no supervision, I quickly reverted back to my old ways, mapping out shortcuts through the winding streets with the rest of the relievers, trying to minimize the agony—and tedium—of those wind-building jaunts through Carlisle, Pa.

So, when I watch runners now, either while covering a road race or just by checking the Facebook status updates of my friends training for marathons, I can’t help but feel equal parts admiration and bewilderment. One of my friends, after completing the New York City Marathon last year, took a selfie after the race, that showed her, in full running gear, medal around her neck, laying prostrate in a bathtub full of ice.

If that’s the effects of pushing your body to the limit, I think I’ll pass.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll catch the running bug. Maybe I’ll compete in the Rye Derby next year. If I get in good enough shape, maybe I’ll even try my hand at a marathon one of these days.

But they already caught the woman who tried to game the system by taking the Subway. So maybe I’ll have to
rethink that.

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.