I am a child of the 80’s. Have ya’ll seen that “I love the 80’s” on VH-1? The 80’s ruled; I lived it as a teenager and it was a blast. So, much different than today. As teenagers, we didn’t have as much on our plate as kids do today. We seemed more carefree and had more time to enjoy things. When I first started running in 1986, track (and weight training for that matter) was not mainstream for the typical teenager in my area, much less actual “training” for such things. For those few of us who actually knew anything about track, Carl Lewis was king and we started hearing about this guy named Ben Johnson, who was fast coming on the scene. For those of us who played sports, baseball in my case, the belief was that too much extra training, running and weights, would hinder performance. The only folks who lifted were some football players, however, some of us baseballers were sneaking in the weight room.
Even though I was pretty skinny back then, it didn’t take long for me to put on some solid muscle. Not the big bulk as we call it now, partly because we just didn’t eat much around my house, and most folks didn’t eat as much as they do today. There was no such thing as “super-size” meals. I was strong but in a wiry kind of way. I was considered kind of strange since hardly any of the average kids my age lifted. I worked out, running and lifting with a few guys named Charlie, Scott, and Troy. We benched, curled, pressed, and squeezed those store-bought grippers.
We would go to Troy’s house and drag some weights outside and would workout and run four or five days per week. We knew nothing about rest days, which seem to be so important nowadays, and we still made great progress. We would do push-ups, sit ups, weights, sprints, then we would run 2 or 3 miles after we worked out, it’s just the way we did things because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t know that running distance would hinder our sprinting ability! There were hardly any resources available to us; and there was no such thing as the internet. I know it’s a shock to some of you to know I made it through high school and most of college with no internet.
Anyway, I went on long trip, across the country to California, and while on the trip, my cousin said he heard about this 10k race on the 4th of July and he challeged me to run in it with him. The only running I had ever done up to that point was running wind sprints for baseball and challenging kids to races in PE class at school. I was always one of the strongest, fastest, and best coordinated, so naturally, I thought a 10k would be easy. While out in California that summer, my cousin and I “trained” for that race. Our silly teenage-lack-of-resources/information on running–logic was to be able to run 6 miles, so that’s what we did every day for a month leading up to the race when we got back home. In those days, I was back and forth between KY. and Florida, where most of my family is from. The searing summer heat/humidity in the deep south didn’t matter to us, so what if it was 92 degrees and humid, screw it, let’s go out and run! We would run on the side of an old country road in the grassy shoulder–three miles out, three miles back in. We finally came to race day and both of us staggered and stumbled our way to the finish line in 53:03 and that was my introduction to running.
Troy, Charlie, myself, and Scott continued to lift and run. When it came to running, sprints or distance, I was the man among my circle of friends. I didn’t know that distance runners weren’t supposed to be sprinters and vice-versa. Looking back now, I should have just ditched the distance running!! I was natuarlly strong, fast, and could always jump and I would later get up to 36" vertical. Troy lived in the ghetto part of town, and we had these two friends, Antonio and Willie who would use me for bets, since white boys weren’t supposed t be fast or be able to jump. He would set me up in a basketball pick up game, give the guys a taste of my jumping, then make bets with others that I could dunk a ball. Of course, a 5’8" white guy who could jump that high was very rare, so he would alley oop the ball and I would jump up and slam it in. The black guys loved it and I got instant street cred and was welcome into their neighborhood from then on.
Often times, girls would come by to watch us lift, but we didn’t mind. We had our boomboxes blaring out some of the metal bands of the day–Def Leppard, Metallica, Van Halen, and our favorite country music songs since the girls liked that better. As we cranked out our reps and just talked, and shot the breeze between sets. We would have little contests and, with the girls there, we thought this would be an opportunity to show what we could do. We would go on forever, then do it again the next day. LOL, over training did not exist back then!
This was only the beginning and was before my track days, which would come soon, almost by accident. Scott dropped out of running and got into the bodybuilding scene and Troy would later be one of the best hurdlers in the state…to be continued, anyone?