Monday, 15 September 2014

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (Well, Almost)


"Da-da-da" Is What They'll Say!

It's been a busy summer - settling budget requests for 2015, booking conferences and meetings for the fall, spending two weeks in Maui to wind down.

In all the excitement, I forgot to note that about two weeks ago, an important milestone has come and gone.  Important to me, in any case.

With apologies to Lennon and McCartney, it was twenty years ago today, more or less, that I decided that I needed a bit more movement in my life.  The Sunday before Labor Day, 1994, I went to Big Five Sports in Sunnyvale, California, bought a pair of Asics running shoes, and went for my first run.

As a kid, I hated running, largely because I found it boring and pointless, and also because for the various sports I had played in school (mostly baseball), if we were running laps, it meant we had mouthed off to the coach.  Running was literally a form of punishment, and I guess I rather internalised the lesson.

A lot happened in the summer of 1994.  I had decided that graduate school was not for me, and I left Stanford to enter the world of work, taking my first "real" job at UC-San Francisco.  I got my first "real" apartment in the Valley Green Apartments in Cupertino, the sort of 1980s-style mega complex that abounds in Silicon Valley.

And more to the point, my father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early spring, lost his battle in July.

When dad was diagnosed, the oncologists determined that he was not a good candidate for surgery, which is devastating to a cancer patient.  The odds are not terrific if you undergo surgery; they are horrendous without it.  The K-M curves for non-surgery lung cancer are, in a word, stark.

I decided that summer that, should the fates decide that cancer (or some other illness) was in my future, I wanted to give myself the best chances of survival I possibly could, and good cardio-vascular health is a key advantage.

I laced my Asics up that Sunday night and went for a jog around the neighbourhood.  My first course: out Valley Green Drive, right along DeAnza Blvd, down to Stevens Creek Blvd, left up Bandley Drive, and then home.  About a mile in total.

It was hell.

Neither Rome, nor Cupertino, was built in a day, so I stuck it out.  Gradually, I added a bit of distance to my loop.  Then I ran two.  Then three.  Then four.

It's 20 years later, and a lot has changed.

In 1994, Apple Computer (their world HQ was and remains just across DeAnza Blvd) was struggling then, as was much of the California economy.  This was before the first dot-com bubble, and Apple, who had owned most of the buildings up and down Bandley, Mariani, and other blocks in the area had gradually sold or leased the properties as they neared bankruptcy.  Apple is now the most valuable company (by market cap) in the world.

I moved from Cupertino, bought my first house in San Jose, got married, moved to the East Coast, changed jobs four times, had a son, and left the US.  I now live in Paris, France, nearly halfway around the world.  My son is now nine years old, and I have gone from being a young to a middle-aged man.

I am now less than 8 years away from the age dad was when he died.

In twenty years now, I have had the chance to run in the US, Canada, Mexico, France, the UK, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, China, and Japan.  I've run in rain, snow, heat, and cold.  I've participated many times in the (in)famous Bay to Breakers and Run to the Far Side events.  Some of the cities whose streets I have jogged on include San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.

I've now undergone two surgeries along the way - neither related to exercise.

Not sure how many pairs of shoes I've been through.

I used to run with a Walkman (ask anyone under the age of 30 what they are); over the years, that's gone to an MD player, a ZEN mp3 player, a portable iPod, and now an iPhone.  This latter device can entertain me with music and track my distance and pace.

Being a numbers guy, I keep track of every mile - every KM now that I live in France, and my phone app uses the metric system.  Still write down the data in the same spiral-bound notebook I've been using for 20 years.

According to my note-taking, yesterday (Sunday 14 September), I ran my 15,162 mile. That is a lot of water under the bridge.

That notebook began life as my phone list.  On the inside page are the telephone number and address for my grandfather on my dad's side, and my grandparents on my mom's.  All of the three are now gone.  My younger sister's and brother's addresses are from their days in college, as both were still students in fall 1994.  Some of the people have simply fallen off, and I have lost contact with them.

In 1994, I could scarcely think of being 45 years old, so I have no idea what life at 65 will be.  I hope I can still jog a mile or two then.

But I expect I may have to walk every now and then.


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