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Larry Fertel:

The question I ask myself often is: “Am I a runner?” Do I have the right to call myself that? About five years ago, I read an article that claimed it could get people off the couch and running a distance of 5 kilometers in nine weeks. I was intrigued, because at that time I was a frequent visitor to the couch.

In my previous life (pre-kids), I did go to the gym with my wife on a semi-regular basis. We had what was known as “time on our hands.” Post-kids, however, was another story, as anyone with children can attest. Time, especially “me time” or “gym time,” became precious and almost non-existent. Gym time thus suffered, along with my muscle tone and cardio endurance.

The article I printed out was kept in a drawer for about a year, doing nothing but collecting dust – as was my health. At that time a gym opened locally and my wife suggested we join. I thought about the running plan, the goal of a 5K and made the decision to begin.

So we joined the gym, I dusted off the plan and I started out on my journey (literally). I wasn’t sure how it would end. I ran a bit when I was in graduate school, but that was a number of decades ago. I didn’t know how well my body would hold up to running at my age (52 at the time).

The running plan started out slowly and gradually built up my endurance. There were a few setbacks – knee pain that kept me off the treadmill for a while and some foot pain, because I foolishly did not have a good pair of running shoes when I started.

It took me nearly three hard months, but finally I was able to run a full 5K on a treadmill and then, more importantly, on the road, which is much harder to do.

The day I was finally able to run 5 kilometers without stopping gave me a feeling of self-satisfaction that I have felt only a few times in my life.

It’s tough to put into words what this accomplishment has meant to me personally. Setting a challenging goal, developing a plan to achieve that goal and then actually reaching it is something that everyone should try to accomplish at least once.

I have since entered a number of 5K races. Although it would be nice to win a medal in my age group, I am a realist. It seems that a lot of guys my age have been running for a long time and are really fast. However, toward the end of most races I can usually pass someone half my age or less who has slowed down. That’s a win in my book!

I am now training with my running partner for a 10K on June 27 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Again, the key point: a plan is in place.

So if you see two guys running in and around the Village of Orchard Park huffing and puffing, give us a toot on your horn. We are working hard to accomplish our next goal.

So, back to my opening question: Am I a runner?

If I go more than a few days without running I feel guilty, fat and antsy. I am constantly checking my times and distances. Each day I look forward to the freedom I feel when I am out on the road. I love hearing the sound of my footsteps on the pavement. I guess I am a runner!