- David Viscott
March 2010 I was sitting in a hotel room a few miles from downtown Greenville, SC wrapping up my first experience of the not-quite-AARP party known as “Mastodon Weekend”. It was not my first go around with these characters as for the last near decade people who prodded me to stop commenting and start writing for myself would meet up in random places such as Key West, Minneapolis, Chicago, Allentown, and of course Vegas for the annual WPBT.
During my last day there I would fire up my then non-infested Gateway laptop (DAMN YOU GOOGLE REDIRECT VIRUS!) and log on to the Rasmussen College online college screen for the first time.
It was scary.
I have not read a textbook in over 13 years at that point. All of my academic knowledge from getting an Associate’s degree was wiped from a mix of head injury, malaise, and an over excited worker from a back-alley strip joint after we compared inner thigh bruises. Needless to say, I was a true freshman again. No varsity letter, no multiple accelerated courses, no near perfect scores in Math and Science on the ACT test. Just a head full of rum and IPAs from Barley’s Taproom in Greenville checking out the new classes for which the next three years would take up nearly all of my free time.
In March 2012 there was another big change to my relatively straight-laced life as a married with children suburban warrior. People within the WPBT group had started running for fun/sport/competition as seen by the half-dozen brave souls that marched down Las Vegas Boulevard for the Rock and Roll half-marathon. As I stood on the curb in front of Mandalay Bay holding a six pack of Stellas for the runners, happy they attained their goals of not only finishing this grueling amount, but mostly surpassing their expectations.
Selfishly, I wanted that.
I miss competing in sports, which was given up for pursuit of academia. Nights were not spent coming home from a doubleheader at the softball field, instead my ass would make neat contours on the beige sectional with books showing titles such as “Business Ethics”, “American Literature”, and “How to speak like a doctor without knowing Latin”. Writing assignments, projects, mandatory discussion posts, accounting terms to learn for a CPA exam plus more. Add on kids activities, mending a marriage and meeting my wife for a second time and seeing her as my best friend instead of a source of stress and you got nothing but busy instead of living.
Then during a PokerStars tournament series I asked Otis about his running and how to start up. Which I did, and also tapped the running clean-up hitter of the WPBT group, Dan for tips on sticking with it as it was announced in the spring after a year layaway that Mastodon Weekend was coming back surrounding a 5K/Half-Marathon/Marathon run. I immediately, if not sooner, signed up. Academia be damned! The 5K looked to be a solid choice as I was slowly grinding upwards from barely looping a small half-mile pond to doing two miles without having to worry about holding in my Orange Chicken and beef fried rice lunch from the local Chinese joint where the part-owner knows me by name and order.
Soon, I was up at the cabin doing loops around the dusty grounds, usually dripping Captain Morgan sweat after drinking until 2am along the unpaved roads and being completely spent after a 5K. Usually running twice during the week and always once on the weekend, but no more than three miles as darkness and research papers piled on excuses. My goal was under 27 minutes for the Spinx Run with a further goal of under 26 minutes and beers going out to my coaches should I succeed.
Then, I started getting adventurous and adding a little bit of distance each time. A half-mile to the 5K, doing two two-mile runs during the week as I started to see a little reduction in my waistline despite having the nutritional palate of your average Harrah’s buffet patron. More time was carved out, more hills conquered as I started using MapMyRun.com for logging the runs because as a former/current stat geek, I loved seeing the numbers behind each hill and turn around where I played T-Ball over 30 years ago.
One day instead of turning right toward the Junior High, along of row houses that double in value versus my own, I went straight. Winding around, uphill, and along the border of the city. The path was nicely carved out but I didn’t know that until I passed a small box of sand with a jungle gym and slide. Further down a steep decline the path curved into a stretch that could only be described as a top five place to hide a body in Maple Grove. Beautiful, but secluded without much foot traffic. After not being weighed down by a cement block for skimming from the mob, I passed through the lake/swamp area only to be met by not one but two inclines that I akin to the curves on Scarlet Johansson
Not since I played hockey or baseball in high school had I felt this way about a sport because I worked my way up to this.
But, that run started something bigger. People prodded, if you can go that far, why not go a little bit more? And so in August, I started adding miles and pace because instead of running a 5K without much thought of time, I would cast into a group of runners for the half-marathon. After paying the sizable “upgrade” fee there was no backing out. A mile added to the long run each week. Pace added to shorter runs during the week.
Fast forward to this weekend’s Autumn Classic at Elm Creek. I signed up for a 10K to give me barometer of whether or not I have a chance to finish competitively in three weeks by breaking two hours in the half-marathon. I went with a goal of 52:45 in mind as this was a little bit faster than the goal (9:10/mile) for the half. It got crushed like a Vikings fan’s soul during the 1998 NFC Championship game. I finished in 98th place with a time of 50:31 (8:09/mile pace) .
Also in October I started my third to last quarter with the dreaded Advanced Tax Theory course that most accounting student spit in disgust when hearing its name called. Luckily the professor is armed with an understanding that tax is not the easy subject in the world and allows for questions of those seeing the other side of a tax preparation for the first time.
While getting that gold tassel seemed so far away back in that Hampton Inn hotel room, now the finish line with family and friends holding out a beer for me is just a few blocks away.