THE GHOST OF FITNESS PAST – WELCOME TO DECEMBER AND MEET ONE OF OUR NEW WRITERS. . . HE’S AN AMERICAN BAD ASS!

Meet George Thatcher.

George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt

THE GHOST OF FITNESS PAST

I was running laboriously along the trail. It was one of those cold, clammy December mornings not long ago; fog lying low in the woods and the occasional stinging spray of a passing shower.

My left Achilles’ tendon was too sore for this pounding. And of course there was the backache, a continuous dull pain in the lumbar area which had lately begun to spread down the legs. It wasn’t fun anymore. I thought morosely as I plodded compulsively onward. Getting old is a drag. Life isn’t’ an easier, I’m not a bit smarter, no respect, wet shoes, friends all gone. BOY, am I sorry for me!

My self-pitying reverie was suddenly interrupted by the sound of an approaching runner. Directly he appeared out of the mist, a sprite apparition in white, wearing an old undershirt and a pair of your standard high school gym shorts. His shoes — were those things actually Addidas Country’s? I hadn’t seen a pair of them in twenty years. Sure enough, there were the familiar three stripes of green against white leather uppers. He went by me at an enviable brisk pace., arms low and loose, longish dark hair flowing behind, the trace of a smile on his face. A good enough looking young man, I noted with some envy. He passed a friendly greeting and made some gratuitous remark about staying in shape so as to be able to run the width of your average DMZ. Where had I heard that before????

I had the momentary urge to do a one-eighty, catch him and talk with him. But as quickly as he had appeared he was gone again into the morning fog. Weird, I thought, the guy was so familiar looking, I shivered slightly as the damp whiteness enveloped us both.

As I followed the twisting trail through a swirling fog, the clammy cold became gradually more bearable. Warm, actually. I dimly heard the rasping call fo a rain forest bird. Tree branches became entwined by vines. The dim outline of a palm tree came into blurry focus, then a grove of banana plants, a rice field. I was back in that long-forgotten other era, a time of war when I was a lad of thirty, a trained terror of the skies, and scared to death every time I flew low over the hostile green jungles.

But I had just run my first five-miler around the compound, inspired by a friend who swore no Bad Guy would ever catch him in a sprint across the Demilitarized Zone – the DMZ. How my feet had hurt! My old white gym shorts were soaked and salt-encrusted. I decided right then to chuck the Keds and get a pair of those new Country’s like my friend had. I spite of the cramping quads, I was proud of this milestone. I had been the short, fat kid who could never run track in school. I would have bet we two were the only guys below the 17th parallel right then who could do a whole five miles!

Another cold shower passed and it was 1980. I was a veteran marathoner, routinely doing 10 to 15 mile training runs and feeling right on top of the game. The running boom was on the upsurge and I was totally caught up with it all, having come to the sport ‘way before running was cool. A forerunner, as it were… And by then I had graduated to New Balance, Sub-4, Runners World, and a whole new lexicon of fitness jargon. I remember writing that year in my journal, how I had just experienced that most rare and wonderful feeling; an eight-miler at 7:00 pace where I had actually floated most of the way. I had cried for the sheer joy of it, for the wonderment of having experienced my first “runner’s high.” I had felt like I was on the threshold of something like a new religion.

Where did it all go, the grace and fluidity, the ease of movement, the tireless durability of a young and flexible body? I guess that, like Vietnam and Watergate, it’s all history now. THe rings around the tree of my greening are metaphors for bygone eras of police actions and folks music, war and protest, beatniks and hippies, bull and bear markets.

But it’s all yesterday’s news. This the the new millennium, and the Ghost of Fitness Past is my fleeting remembrance of another day, as he glides silently by on these fog-shrouded mornings.

One of these days we’ll run the trails again together, he and I, youthful and tireless forever. . .

George Thatcher

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