Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I get this Facebook notification the other day about my 20 year class reunion, and it made me think, "If I've been out of high school for 20 years, then I've been in Birmingham for 20 FRICKIN' YEARS!!" Actually, it's down to the week! This week in 1993, I loaded up the Maxima station wagon (yeah, I said it), and drove DIRECTLY, per my Mom's instructions, to 1600 9th Avenue South. How is this relevant to a running blog? Well, I remember my first run in Birmingham!

I'll start with a little background. While I had run track for 5 years and cross country for one season in my high school career, I was clueless! The majority of my running was actually on the track. It was mainly 400 meter repeats at practice, and at least 4 events at meets, twice a week. That led to a 3rd place finish at the state cross meet and a couple of 2nd's at the state track meet in the 800 and 1600, so I can't complain too much. There were a couple of calls from and visits to colleges, but by the end of the state track meet, I didn't know what I was going to do. I then received a call from a grad assistant coach at UAB, Mr. Scott Strand, who invited me for a visit. I liked UAB! It was close to home, the guys on the team seemed pretty cool, and quite frankly, UAB offered me more than the other schools.

I received a summer training schedule from my new head coach, Phil Schoensee, and it might as well have been Chinese! The easy 4 and 5 milers during the week, I understood, but there were tempos, Fartleks, HYF (How You Feel) runs, and lastly, in August, a couple of 10 milers. My longest run to this point, had been 6.2 miles in a couple of 10K road races I ran just for the heck of it, and they were races, not just head out the door for a run, type of runs! So, I did what any confused, invincible 18 year old would do! I tossed the training schedule and played 2 to 6 hours of outdoor, pick up basketball at the local outdoor court every day!

DUM, DUM, DUM! The day arrived when I had to report to school early, in my Maxima station wagon, to start training with my new team for the forthcoming cross country season! Phil told me he, Scott, and my new roommate, Bob, were going to pick me up at the dorm at 3 PM, and we were all going for a run. I unloaded the car and put on my brand new Pegasus Racers and Nike running shorts, purchased the week before at the Nike Outlet, went down stairs and nervously waited out front. Just to clarify, those guys I just mentioned, Phil - a member of 2 national champion cross country teams at Wisconsin, Scott - an All-American at Auburn in the steeplechase, and Bob - a state champ 2 miler from Michigan. Again, there I stood in my brand new pair of short shorts and running shoes!

Phil drove us to his house on Sterrett Street in Homewood. We got out, and he said, "I've got a nice 7 mile route."! Yep, my first run in Birmingham, with my new coaches and teammate, was going to be my longest, EVER! Luckily, 2 to 6 hours of pick up basketball translate to an 18 year old as at least a little fitness. We started out pretty easy, but as the pace increased, it started to hurt. I don't remember all the streets we were on, South Lakeshore maybe, but I DO remember taking a left on Ridge Road, the very same left we take on the Wednesday night 5 miler, and seeing that damned hill ahead! I was successful at faking it up until that point, but if we were going up that hill, I'm pretty sure they would have sent me packing back to Boaz! THANKFULLY, we took a right on Roseland and headed back to Phil's!

I made it through that run, learned what I could to be a better runner, and here I am, 20 years later, still making that left on Ridge, and definitely making a right on Roseland!! 


AL said...

Thanks Jeff for this trip down memory lane. Enjoyed your apparent nervousness at running "long distances" with the big boys. Obviously you've come a long way. Coach Scott must be proud of you.

Jeff said...

HA!! I think I may have incriminated myself a bit with that post!