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Running? Are you serious?

Running isn't as simple as it used to be.


When I was a boy, if we took a notion to run, it didn't matter what clothes we had on. Besides, there wasn't time — if somebody said "Go!" we went.


It did help if we'd already changed from our Sunday-go-to-meetin' garb. Sprinting in dress pants and patent leather shoes didn't exactly give you a leg up on the competition.


Back then we wore pretty much the same togs for baseball, football, basketball or just your run-of-the-mill generic play. Depending on the time of year, we wore bluejeans or shorts, T-shirts or long sleeves, and the ol' dependable pair of worn sneakers. Caps and jackets were optional in the winter.


Even as late as the 1970s, when I became a semi-serious runner, I was content to wear Converse All-Stars with their canvas uppers and flat soles. In warm weather — meaning about nine months of the year — I wore whatever shorts would fit and nothing else.


I had no qualms about going shirtless, even though as a boy I was self-conscious of my flat chest. By the time I was a young adult, I had hair on my chest and washboard abs, features I didn't mind showing off.


The thing is, I never had any problems with my sports attire — or lack of it. I could play basketball or run or do any other strenuous exercise without injury to joints or to my ever-thinning dome.


And my feet seemed indestructible, whether I wore an old pair of All-Stars or went barefooted. Clothes just weren't a problem.


At least not until things got, well, serious.


A few years ago and a number of pounds heavier than my young adulthood, I became self-conscious about going shirtless. I feared the viewing public would see my expanding middle, which had become somewhat jiggly.


At about the same time, I became ill-at-ease at running with my bald head for all to see, with folks wondering if that old man should be out exerting himself. My excuse for wearing a hat was that I needed protection from the sun.


And that was true. A couple of times, I’ve had what appeared to be pre-cancerous bumps on my head freeze-dried into oblivion.


For several years around my 60th decade when I was running with members of a club, it became clear that I needed a top-notch pair of running shoes. Problem is, which was best for my feet — ones for pronation or supination? It was plain that I needed a shoe counselor.


And those cotton T-shirts were just too heavy in hot weather. I needed the wicking polyester shirts that draw off my sweat and keep me cooler.


I even bought a light-weight running cap to protect my head while allowing my pate to breathe.


Of course, any serious runner needs liquid refreshment to rehydrate after a run. Not to mention high-caloric snacks to replace the glycogen lost while exercising.


Now I even carry my cell phone while running. After all, it's a dangerous world out there and runners need something to throw at potential ruffians.


At least I don't feel the need to tote what many of my female running friends do — a canister of pepper spray. Although there have been a couple of occasions when overly-excited dogs could have used a fusillade of peppery atomizer.


What I do need, for a particularly long run or walk, is a belt designed to carry a water bottle. The thing is, it tends to bounce with every step, making it necessary for me to put the bottle at my lower back. That just makes it more difficult to get to when I have a serious craving for liquid refreshment.


Running began as a sport for me when I was young and considered myself an athlete. The exercise ultimately has become a means to staying healthy and fit, no matter how long it takes to go the same distance.


Now, it seems, the most important statistic is no longer the minutes per mile but, instead, the calories burned. I’ve been known to say to younger runners as they sprinted by me, “Y’all go on. I’ll be there directly.”


You know, it used to take me about two minutes to get ready for a run. Now I have to complete a checklist before even thinking about going out.


Running is a lot more complicated when you take it seriously.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.