Here’s an excuse to get in shape for summer

The funny thing about being a runner is how interested I am in other runners.

When I drive down the road and see someone out jogging, I immediately lock in. I gauge their pace. I note the condition they appear to be in. Particularly, if there are more than one, I fight the urge to pull over and join them.

It’s not that misery loves company, because running, though it can be tough sometimes, isn’t misery. You know that if you’ve ever experienced that little reward every runner gets after a good workout – the runner’s high.

I’ve been running off and on since I was 12, usually taking breaks only when I am (a) too busy to spend 45 minutes out on the road, or (b) my crochety knees fail to cooperate.

It’s great to see other folks out on the road now that the weather’s getting warmer. Plus, during track season, it’s really fun to see the kids out running and jumping and throwing.

Which brings me to my point: Why don’t you join us?

Billy Snow, the track coach at Sweet Home High School, and yours truly have been hatching the idea of having a fun run/race for this year’s Sportsman’s Holiday, on Saturday, right before the big parade. We’ve got most of the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, though we still need to nail down a few of the details. They’ll come later.

But I figured I’d mention it now to get you all moving in the right direction.

What we’re planning is a couple of mile runs. There are a some real benefits to a mile race.

If you’re not a runner, you still can jog a mile, particularly if you start training now. Training doesn’t necessarily mean going out and powering through a mile on the first day or even during the first couple of weeks. It may mean simply starting out by jogging half a block, walking for a while, then jogging again. It means getting out on your feet and getting some exercise that you’re not used to getting.

If you’re in some kind of shape (or can be by July 8), a mile gives you a chance to stretch it out and see what kind of shape you’re really in.

In this race, you’ll be running past folks sitting on the curbs waiting for the parade to start. It’s always fun running in front of a crowd. I’ve run several races prior to parades and they’re always fun because the crowds give you a little lift when fatigue’s setting in.

If the idea of running a little bit to get yourself in shape for summer, and to contribute to a good cause appeals to you, then join us.

Let me offer a few training tips:

• Start now. Don’t wait until a week before the race. The whole goal here is to get yourself in better shape than you are.

• Start slow. Don’t make the mistake many runners to of getting over-aggressive in their training. (Remember my knees? I know whereof I speak.) Be patient.

• Take along some company. Take some kids. Or, you might consider getting your dog involved. I’ve been running wtih my dogs for years. My current canine is getting a little old – he’s about the equivalent of a 65-year-old human – but he’s run hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, with me.

I usually keep my dog next to me on a short leash. They learn within a week or two how it’s done. I’ve rarely had any problems with too much attention from other dogs. If you’re concerned about that, carry a rolled-up newspaper.

One other hint: Carry a plastic bag so your pooch doesn’t leave a pile in somebody’s yard or, even more inconsiderately, on the sidewalk. If your dog takes a dump, bag it, stash it where you can retrieve it and pick it up on the way home. I hate piles left by other people’s dogs, which is why I pick up mine. But I refuse to carry a bag full of doggy doo-doo for miles, so I take the liberty of stashing and picking it up on the rebound. No one’s ever complained.

• Do it together. Find some friends and make a pact to get in shape. It’s easier to drag yourself off the couch if you’ve made a commitment to someone else to go with them. Hint: Find someone who’s in the same general condition you are, or someone who’s patient. Don’t run with an Olympian.

If you need someone to run with, e-mail me at scott@ and I’ll tell you where you might find some running company this summer.

Bottom line: Why not get off the old duff and get in shape? It hurts for the first week, but I guarantee you’ll start feeling better pretty quick. And for this race, it’ll be for a good cause.