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The Last Windrow: This body isn't built for running

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A memorial fundraising 5K run/2K walk was just held in our community. Around 300 souls took part, young to not-so-young pulled on their running suits and sneakers and headed down the trail.

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From what I could see, it was rousing success and for a very worthy cause. These types of events seem to be in vogue around the country and draw an enormous amount of attention.

One of the participants asked me if I was going to run in the race. I know this guy and I know he knows that I don’t run. He also knows I just had a total hip replacement. It was just a kind-hearted prod and I took it in good humor.

I’ve never been a long distance runner. My body was not designed to run much more than 50 yards at high speed. And I use the words “high speed” with a bit of salt added to them.

My running abilities stop at about the distance between homeplate and first base, and even when I made that mad dash after crushing a fastball, I could hear the coach yelling at me from the sidelines telling me to “Get it in gear, Wetrosky!”

Long distance speed was not normally called for on that farm I grew up on. Sudden starts and stops were what we were graded on. How fast could you get to the gate before the steers got loose, or what speed could you generate after forgetting to set the brakes on a tractor and wagon facing downhill?

Being able to go from a standing start to 50 miles-an-hour came in handy at times like that.

I had a classmate, Jim Hansen, who prided himself in running long distances. I remember his endless training rituals in the spring of the school year. He was a cross country legend among my classmates.

Jim invited me to trot alongside him one day saying that he’d just “dog it” so as not to wear me out short of a mile. I could see after about a quarter of a mile that I was taxing his stride and told him to just keep going and I’d see him on the return trip.

I walked back to the starting line.

We were required to take a class in physical education during my first year in college. Most of those who were required to pass this class really didn’t want to be there. In order to get our final grade and pass, we had to run four laps around the track.

At the shot of the gun I spurted to the front of the pack and could feel the wind passing through my hair as I tore around the track leaving most in my dust.

The second lap they caught up to me, the third lap they passed me and the only guy I managed to beat was a muscle bound wrestler who had no business running a race. He was like me.

My daughter could run like a deer. I was always amazed at how she could finish a cross country race and be barely winded.

I made the mistake of challenging her to a race one day as we were walking back to our house. I was in the lead, but she was gaining when I heard a popping sound at the back of my knee. I still walk with a slight limp.

No, I was built for tugging a bale of hay from the baler to the back of the rack. I was built to follow trail hounds over the hills of western Iowa, through the gullies, but usually at not more than an occasional trot.

I was great at the 25-yard sprint it took to catch up to a pig that needed to be vaccinated. I was a running back, not a wide receiver, when it came to herding a load of feeder calves up the chute into the waiting stock truck.

I had what those tasks took.

I admired the runners the other day as they loped effortlessly down the trail of the 5K race. And, I was even more impressed when some of them came back across the finish line barely wheezing.

There is a good reason, I guess, that the organizers include a 2K walk for folks like me whose legs look more like tree trunks than gazelle limbs.

I’ll not be running in the Boston Marathon anytime soon.

See you next time. Okay?

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